The human mind is capable of doing amazing things. At the same time it suffers from mind chatter or monkey mind— the constant stream of uncontrolled thoughts going on in the back of the mind.
With an untrained mind we spend much of our time worrying about things that may or may not happen. This depletes our energy, puts us in a bad mood, and keeps us up at night. It can lead to anxiety, depression and/or addiction.
A fundamental mindfulness practice is the ability to notice what we are thinking in a neutral way. We don’t block any thoughts.
If we wish to calm the racing mind we must learn how to allow thoughts to go through the mind one at a time. We don’t deny or cling to any particular thought.
We notice thoughts without labeling them as good or bad. They are just thoughts. They may or may not be the truth. We don’t need to believe everything we think.
In a meditation practice we notice a thought, let it go, and bring the attention back to breathing in and out. It’s okay to have the same thought 100 times. Just keep doing the process: acknowledge, release, come back to the breath.
This practice is simple but not easy. But it may just be worth your while if you wish to free yourself from habitual thinking, foster creativity, open your mind to new possibilities, and lower your stress level.
The first step in developing a mindfulness practice is awareness of breathing.
It’s important to understand we call this a “practice” because that is what it is, now and forever. We don’t aspire to perfection or mastery of anything. It’s about developing a willingness to stop and be.
We practice mindfulness to cultivate awareness and self-compassion in order to bring compassion and healing to others.
We begin by noticing that we are breathing. There is no correct way of breathing. There is no breathing technique. We notice what it feels like to breathe.
The simple act of following the breath in and out helps to calm the body and mind. This slows the rate at which stress hormones flow through the bloodstream. And helps us to think more clearly.
Studies have found that optimism appears to be good for your health and pessimism seems to be bad.
Optimism isn’t about being Pollyannaish. Practicing mindfulness means we acknowledge our feelings as they are without judgment. All feelings are acceptable.
At the same time we can choose to believe in the benevolence of life; the basic goodness in others, the world, and ourselves. At the core we believe that all will be well, even when we can’t see how.
When bad things happen, we remind ourselves that we have the resilience or the where-with-all to survive it.
We trust that whatever happens to us or in our relationships with others, that we can persevere.
Even when we make mistakes, we believe in our inherent self-worth. We can be authentic, accepting ourselves as we are and knowing our value.
Trust means that we take responsibility for our choices and ourselves. We trust that even if we make an unhealthy choice, we will learn from the experience and move forward with more wisdom.
This enables us to maintain an optimistic attitude.
We’re exposed to screens — TVs, cellphones, even G.P.S. devices — for about 8.5 hours on any given day.
On average we check our smart phones 150 times a day.
We have cable TV packages providing us access to thousands of shows and movies. We can even take our entertainment with us so we don’t miss out on anything. I’m with Bruce Springsteen. “There was fifty-seven channels and notin’ on.”
As for the news, we’re wired to seek out dramatic, negative events. We may not be chased by saber-toothed tigers, but our brains often think we are. Living in a state of chronic hyperarousal is taxing on the immune system.
Research shows the negative psychological impact of watching the news on TV. It makes us fearful and anxious.
I’m not saying we should unplug from technology completely. I’m inviting us to better manage it.
The first step in creating new healthy habits is awareness. We start by being more aware of how often and when we use our screens. We notice how this impacts our mood, thoughts, and conversations.
Then we set parameters. We can designate certain spaces in our lives where the use of screens is off limits such as: upon awakening, meals, driving, grooming, and bedtime.
Managing technology helps us to live more fully in the moment—the one we’re in right now.
There are many aspects to crafting a healthy, resilient life and physical wellness is just one of them. Here are some simple ways you can take better care of your body.
Move more during the day. Take the stairs. Choose the furthest parking space. Stand up every 15 minutes while at your desk.
Prepare healthy foods in advance for snacking. Think about what you like to eat. Get some nifty containers or a fun lunch bag. Schedule time to chop fruits and veggies.
Get ready to sleep. Don’t watch the evening news. Do some gentle stretches. Have a cup of herbal tea. Get lost in a book.
You can set a reminder in your smart phone for any of these behaviors.
The goal is to get back to body homeostasis. And notice the impact this has on your overall well-being.