'Practicing mindfulness' or 'being mindful' are definitely terms that have been popping up lately. But do we really take the time to dive into what that all means? To put it simply, It means you are purposefully present and in-the-moment with the goal of "achieving a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment."
Some key benefits of meditating or practicing mindfulness are:
- Increased focus
- Reduced stress
- Improved attention
- Increased self-awareness and acceptance
- Decreased anxiety and depression
- Improved mood
Meditation and mindfulness are also said to improve pain tolerance, sleep and age-related memory loss. Uhhh.. yes, please!? Who wouldn't want even just one or two of those things?
When I first moved to upstate New York I was still sort of reeling from leaving my 9-5 job as a project manager and designer in North Carolina, I was 3ish months into starting L. Rae, I was now working full time from home, I was navigating living with my boyfriend, Chris for the first time, I didn't know another single soul, or even how to get to the grocery store in this new place I was now calling home. Needless to say, I was SUPER overwhelmed, stressed and felt perpetually behind ALL. THE. TIME. I was at my breaking point and I had to find something fast.
I researched. I Googled. I read. I researched ways to reduce stress and stumbled upon meditation and mindfulness. I learned what it was, along with all of the benefits and decided to give it a try. This has been a complete game-changer, life-saver - this was GOLD. I immediately felt like I could mentally and logically tackle my work load, I was calmer and wouldn't crumble so easily at the sight of my to-do list, I was happier, more patient and could use what I learned to recenter myself when I felt my anxiety or stress level start to rise.
SO, to help you on your own mindfulness journey I've provided my current morning routine and the tools I've used that have helped turn my situation completely around, the practices that help me de-stress, be present, mindful and extend grace to not only myself, but everyone I come into contact with on a daily basis.
MY MORNING ROUTINE:
Alarm goes off - Depending on my stress level I may brush my teeth and wash my face but if I feel like my anxiety is extra high I'll immediately start a session.
I brew some coffee - because, caffeine and it is literally LIFE.
While the coffee is brewing I might tidy up my kitchen, I might throw together a load of laundry but I REFUSED to touch my phone, do an email check and I will absolutely ignore my laptop. This takes allows me to truly focus on myself. I'm not a selfish person, but when is the last time you've really set aside a few moments for yourself and cut out all distractions? When's the last time you've been alone with only your thoughts? This all helps tremendously with worrying, my stress level and it allows me to not get ahead of myself until I've had a chance to complete my complete morning routine.
I sip my coffee and immediately start a meditation session through the Calm app on my phone. This is sometimes done outside on my dock, on my yoga mat on my porch, on my couch or even sitting up in bed. Any where I can get comfortable, be by myself and know that I won't have any distractions.
I complete an entry in my Mindfulness Journal. See below for more on this gem!
Shower/Get ready/Breakfast (wash my face, brush my teeth, throw on some yogas... that type of thing)
I outline my to-do list and get to work!
*TIP: Don't be afraid to change your routine up based on your stress and anxiety or how you feel in the moment. Again, if I wake up feeling super anxious or stressed I will immediately start a meditation through my Calm app before I even start on coffee or do a single thing.
MORE TIPS + TRICKS
Additional Sessions - If I start to feel anxious again during the day, I'm not afraid to start a second Calm app session. I''ll even let you in on a little secret - not only can you do guided sessions, but Calm also allows you to do a timed solo session, so if you really need to refocus and you only have 2 minutes to spare, you can set the session and quickly get started.
Daily Reminders - And on an EXTRA stressful day, I also set 'Mindfulness Reminders' (again, through the ahmazing Calm app). These little alerts will pop up on your phone and remind you to take a moment, breathe, and just be throughout your day.
The 4-7-8 Method - 4-7-8 -- refer to the counts when breathing in, holding your breath and exhaling. This method brings attention to your breathing. It helps calm stress, reduce anxiety and even helps you sleep when you use the method before you go to sleep.
Start by sitting up straight in a comfortable position.
Next, place the tip of your tongue on the ridge of your gums, just behind your upper front teeth.
Expand your diaphragm and slowly inhale through your nose for a count of 4.
And hold your breath for a full count of 7.
Open your mouth slightly, keeping your tongue in place, and exhale for 8 counts.
Repeat this 4 times.
WHY I LOVE THE CALM APP AND GRATITUDE JOURNAL
CALM APP - I've tried many of these types of apps and Calm is by far my favorite. It's FREE. There are a variety of sessions you can complete based on your goals. The voice that guides you is soothing without being annoying or making you feel like it's a joke (very important in my book lol), the background sounds can be changed based on mood or personal preference and I find the messages of each session to be very insightful without sounding cookie-cutter or something I could just Google and find on my own.
THE GRATITUDE JOURNAL - I absolutely love this journal because it's more than just writing whatever comes to mind or a "brain dump"(even though it is all of those things as well). This journal prompts you with a variety of questions, quotes and advice to dive in a little deeper and really take the time to be present, think about how you feel or respond, and express what's truly there.
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