Spring Mindfulness

For this blog, we have called on the amazing Colleen Mizuki, a life coach and stress & mindfulness expert, to give you the best tips for spring mindfulness. Check out what Colleen had to say:

“When looking back at those self-promises from January 1st, you will likely realize you haven’t accomplished many (or any!) of them.  No worries. Most people don’t! So, this is a great time to engage in a practice that has been proven to increase our willpower—improve our stay-with-it capacity for new, healthier habits. I am talking about the effects that mindfulness can have on our self-discipline and self-control to support our growth in mind, body and spirit.

If you will allow me to geek out a little here, I can’t help but share the good news that mindfulness changes our brains in many ways. One way this happens is an increase in gray matter (that jelly-like stuff up there that runs the brain) in areas related to emotion regulation, impulse control, mood and decision making. Mindfulness is great at helping us become aware of urges to fall back into old habits. These old habits are like a comfortable pair of sweat pants that really should be tossed. They are comfortable because they are known, which is why we stay with old habits, even bad ones. They keep us eating those extra cookies, finding excuses to not work out, and leaning on that closet door to close it and hide the junk inside.

There are lots of mindfulness practices that give us that boost to move in the direction of our resolutions and goals. Here is one that you can try right now. It won’t take long and, with consistent practice, you will improve your ability to stick with the new habits that have eluded you for way too long.

Grounding and Settling

This practice is often used to help with stress, anxiety, conflict (and forgiveness of self or others), addictions or strong emotions. Give yourself 10-12 minutes for this exercise.

Find a comfortable place to sit, with your feet shoulder-width apart and flat on the ground. Rest your arms and hands on your lap. You may do this with eyes closed or open (if open, direct your gaze softly at the ground in front of you). See if you can feel the support of the chair (couch, bed, floor, etc.). Where do you notice the contact between your body and the surface you’re sitting or lying on? You might feel something like pressure, warmth/heat, coolness, sweat, heaviness, tingling, and so on.

Then, notice the contact between your feet and the floor, if sitting or standing. If you have trouble feeling your feet, try wiggling your toes or gently pressing your feet into the ground. Then, scan your body for any tension, tightness or holding (paying particular attention to your brow, jaw, neck and shoulders). Without forcing your body to release any tension or tightness, you might find that just by bringing attention to it, something does relax and let go.

Scan your body again, seeing if now there is any place that feels relaxed or calm (it may be subtle feeling). If so, investigate the sensations of relaxation or calm. At first, this can be difficult because we are so much more aware of stress, anxiety, discomfort/pain, and general feelings of unpleasantness. We don’t often take time to notice the opposite: calm, relaxation, openness/expansiveness, happiness and the sensations of these states. Give yourself time to explore where the body is telling you that is feels okay, calm, relaxed, etc. It may just be in your left hand. That’s okay!

Now (and this may seem strange!), once you have been able to feel some sense of relaxation or calm…really feel it and call to mind a situation that is causing stress. Briefly tune into the sensations of that stress in the body (maybe tightness in the shoulders, constriction in the chest, tension in the jaw, clenching in the stomach, or just a general feeling of unease) without being pulled into a story about it. Your focus is on the sensations of that stress.

Then turn your attention back to any feelings of relaxation or calm, or general ease, in the body. If your mind tries to keep you in story or unpleasant spinning of thoughts about the stress tell yourself the truth, that YOU are in control of this practice and YOU can return your attention to the body, anywhere it feels less stressed (maybe that’s your rear end on the chair, or your feet on the ground, or your right pinky). If thoughts persist or unpleasant emotion builds, stop, open your eyes (or lift your gaze) and let your eyes wander around the space around you (the room or outside) to whatever attracts your attention in the external environment. Let your neck and head follow your eyes and label to yourself what you are seeing, noticing colors, textures, movement (maybe the wind moving a branch or a plant if you are looking outside). Connect fully with what is out there and while you do this, can you feel the contact that your body is making with the chair or the contact of your feet on the ground.

This exercise (with practice) allows you to increase your capacity to not give in to cravings, urges that might not be helpful for you, and to reduce the negative effects of stress as it comes up. Stress tends to keep us bound to those habits that aren’t allowing us to be the person we want to be. The exercise, with time, helps us see the stress, notice the cravings, tune into the unhelpful urges and watch them without being pulled into their powerful grip. It allows us to spring forward into healthier habits and establishing new patterns that we want for ourselves!”

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