Body Mindfulness

I’m sure you’ve heard of mindfulness, and I would bet a number of you practice, but what about body mindfulness? Sure, in flexibility training, yoga class, or pilates you notice when you are asked to check in. What about when you run, bike, climb, shoot the ball, or skate? Do you focus your attention on where you are in space, how your body feels, and the sensations you experience? Here’s three steps to creating more body mindfulness.

Mindfulness allows us to focus our attention as a “Witness”. This allows space to observe what is going on around us and within us without attachment to the activity, thought, emotion, etc. From this point we have more access to our internal wisdom and therefore are better able to effectively meet the challenges in the given moment.

First, begin by setting an alarm on your phone, watch, oven timer, computer, or another way you can remember to do a “moment to pause”. Set it to random times throughout the day. This way you are training your mind to reflect despite your activity levels.

Next, pause when you hear your alarm. Notice how much you feel connected to your body. Stop whatever you are doing, take a deep breath and feel it all the way to your feet. Notice your feet on the support they are touching, then move to the legs – notice the front vs the back. Then your torso in space. Is is tilted to one side, twisted? Then pay attention to your arms, your hands, your shoulders. How do they feel? Finally, notice your neck, your head, your face. It may help you to close your eyes or choose a gazing point. Soften your gaze so you aren’t distracted by visual stimuli.

When you have finished the above it may be helpful to notice how in your body now. Is it different? How so?

Then return to your task and your day. Next bell check again. Notice any differences throughout the day. Over time this exercise allows you to gain more wisdom about your personal process, adds space in your day, and helps refocus your attention. See how you feel after a few weeks.

Making Sense of Physical Sensations

How much thought have you given to how much you judge physical sensations, label them, and then operate as though they are truth? How often have you used anxiety, excitement, or guilt to create a physical sensation to motivate you? Continuing from May’s concept of emotional and physical health connections, this month lets look at those most primitive and un-regulated body pieces to our intelligence – sensation.

Many of us feel a physical sensation and immediately jump to a conclusion about what it is, why it’s there, and react as though it must be true. Really, these items – like hot, cold, tight, loose, rough, soft, sharp, empty – are just information about what is going on in this moment, not the next one, not the one before it, this moment. Using mindfulness and curiosity it is possible to gather more information about what these physical sensations mean. We can then use them to inform our responses from an empowered place rather than react without considering the possibilities.

Begin to get comfortable with your body. How comfortable are you with the feelings (sensations) of your physical body? Are there areas you love? hate? ignore? that take more attention and focus than others? Are there places you feel strongly? Do these concepts even make sense?! If not you may want to slow down and consider how do you feel right now in your body? The trick to this exercise is to remember there is nothing to do, nothing to fix. It’s just about noticing what is going on in your body right now? Where is your attention drawn? Do not judge. Then use curiosity to “hang out” with this area and notice. What can you learn about this part of you? Where are it’s edges? Does it have a color? If it had one word what would it be telling you? Is it familiar? How is it different from similar past experiences?

As you begin this practice you begin to notice more and more of the body’s wisdom and you become better able to listen to it. Once you are able to hear what it has to say, listen to it. Follow it’s guidance and use this information to help you live a more embodied life. Living in your body isn’t just about shaping it. It’s also about enjoying it and living from within it. Embrace it’s wisdom and it will lead you toward a fuller and more engaged life.

Making Fitness Fit Your Life.

Can you make your fitness fit your life? Planning is key. Life will happen. It is important to consider how you will live life as a healthy person. Many, don’t take this into account and create goals set up for failure. Here are two considerations to make when you are planning your new HEALTHY life!

If you can look at your upcoming schedule for the next few months. Note any big things like trips, events, extra work projects, etc – that way you can time your workouts to reflect life rather than trying to make your schedule fit your exercise. This is usually a little less hectic and more successful in the long run.

You can create a workout plan that includes light weeks and weeks of “active rest” (just scheduled activities like on vacation but not a true workout if it’s not available) for the weeks you need more time. The week before you would schedule a heavy workout week – more time working out and the week after a moderate amount. Then you have a plan and don’t fall completely off the wagon for a well deserved vacation.

Planning is key to sticking with healthy living goals. Here’s to a great and healthy 2014!!!

A Healthier You in 2013

It is important to set a realistic goal. On average fitness resolutioners hit it hard in January and burn out by Valentine’s Day. Here’s 5 questions to ask yourself and help make sure you’ve got the stamina to make it to at least Spring Break and beyond!

    1) What is your big goal? (Be specific – I want to smoke/drink/watch TV less, I want to eat more healthy or to lose weight are too generic – What do those really mean? Break them down to specific ideas. I want to eat at least 3 balanced meals per day, smoke X amount/day, watch X hours of TV, exercise X times/week, etc)

 

  •       (Healthy weight loss is approx 1-2lbs/week. If you’ve got 50lbs to lose that’s a minimum of 25weeks – you didn’t put that weight on overnight and you won’t take it off that quickly either. Your body is smart and will do it’s best to maintain a sense of safety. Lose too fast and research shows it usually comes back on with vengeance)

 

2) What is one small step you can start doing this week to reach it? (To gain or lose we need to manipulate the caloric intake/output – this fits well within a weekly tracking goal)

 

 

 

3) Break it even smaller – what’s one step for today, tomorrow, the next to reach your weekly goal?

 

 

 

4) How many obstacles will get in your way? How will you overcome them? (Thinking through this helps you create a plan. You won’t figure them all out but you will be better able to handle them if you have given some thought to what will keep you from your goals.)

 

 

 

5) Why do you want this goal at this time? (This is your driving fuel. Important to spend some time figuring out your why – if it’s not your goal it’ll be much harder to maintain.)

 

Endings and Beginnings

Here we are at another year end. How was your’s? Did you meet some goals? Re-evaluate others? Did you reach what seemed to be an impossible challenge? Did you fall short of an important task? 

Spend some time reflecting on your year. For many we are very good at coming up with what needs to change, creating the goal, and then moving through it or beyond it without a way to measure our progress. All movement, even the ones that feel backwards, is progress. Here’s a worksheet to help you reflect on your year and get ready for the next year of your growing wisdom.

What do you want more of? 

 

What do you want less of?

 

What needs a small change? 

 

A big one?

 

Who do you want to be in the next year? 

 

How will you know when you’ve reached your goal?

 

What rewards you for your efforts?

 

How will you re-evaluate your progress throughout the process? (daily, weekly, monthly, project based, etc).

 

What does success look like for you?

 

Glancing back at the above – what else needs your attention?

 

And are these goals truly yours?

 

Repeat this process as needed. Remember it’s precision not perfection and the journey is what matters most.

10 Healthy Things I’m Thankful For

We have arrived at the start of the holiday season. Regardless of spiritual beliefs this is a time of introspection and reflection. A time to assess what you have, where you are, and dream about what comes next in your life. Research shows when we are thankful we invite more of those blessings into our lives. Here’s a short list of things I’m thankful for. Maybe you’ll resonate with some and quite possibly add your own. 

Comment on our Facebook Page to add your gratitude items. Community is a great place to share our gratitude and we all reap the benefits of reading others’ thankful prayers.

  1. My body & its health
  2. My mind’s ability to challenge me (in a variety of ways – at least I stay on my toes)
  3. Family (including my dog)
  4. Friends
  5. Meaningful Work
  6. Yoga
  7. The smell of snow in the air – means I’ll be hitting the slopes soon!
  8. Good (healthy) and tasty food that nourishes my body as well as my soul
  9. Tea – I love it anytime of the day!
  10.  A good book to snuggle with on these longer winter days

And your gratitude list …. ?

The Power of Mindfulness – Build Your Brain

So today on this longest day of the year – just for the next 30 minutes – commit to Mindfulness. Just to see what happens. Just to notice if something is different in your regular routine after you try it. Just get curious. Just see…

This isn’t about a new age-y trip or about religion or yoga. This is actually about building your brain circuits. So why not try it out. See what happens in your brain when you become mindful for a short time. Just notice, see what is different than before. Maybe nothing … but I’ll bet something shifts for you.

This isn’t about a new age-y trip or about religion or yoga. This is actually about building your brain circuits. So why not try it out. See what happens in your brain when you become mindful for a short time. Just notice, see what is different than before. Maybe nothing … but I’ll bet something shifts for you.

Begin by noticing how your body feels, your posture, your hands, fingers, feet, and toes. How are you breathing? How are you holding yourself. Make a commitment to return to noticing as needed.

Then allow yourself to become immersed in whatever project you are doing. Turn off music, put away any distractions, tell your co-worker to be quiet (nicely). Allow yourself to connect with each detail of your project. What are the colors? Textures? Sights? Smells? Sounds? of what you are doing.

Finally, each time you find you are thinking about the future or the past note it as thinking and allow those thoughts to move through and out. If it helps you can tell yourself you won’t forget anything important that needs your attention – but for now you are focused on this project and will come back to those important thoughts once you are finished here.

No judgement – this is a practice for a reason. It’s not easy. So just give it a whirl and notice how it impacts your day. Commit to yourself for just 30 mins – Go On, Give it a try.

Let us know how it worked for you and read other’s comments by adding your story on our Facebook page under this post.

5 Things to Think About Before Summer Chores or Play

It’s finally summertime! When I think of summertime I think of play. I think of lazy fun. And I think of easy days. I think I romanticize it a bit, don’t you?

Summertime is full of work, too! We’ve got gardening, lawn care, maintenance around our homes and land. There’s a possible painting job and maybe a big project like building a garage or home. All this activity takes a toll on the body. We often don’t think about our “work” the same way we think about taking care of our bodies during exercise but it still matters. Here are 5 things to do think about and do before doing summertime chores or play dates.
  1. Think about stretching. Move the body gently and stretch any muscles you will be working.
  2. Make sure you are strong enough to lift that bag, carry that cooler, move that log. If not get help. Use proper lifting techniques – keep the item close to your body, use your legs, and center the weight.
  3. Pay attention to your joints. Pay attention to the direction of your knees – they go in the same direction as your toes and nose. Trying to make them bend sideways ends up with a torn ACL. Shoulders are our most vulnerable joint. Care for it by making sure you aren’t over-extending or overloading it while lifting out and to the side or behind you.
  4. Your feet matter. It’s important to wear appropriate shoes for the activity. Going to be in the river? Make sure your feet aren’t slipping all over the place putting you at risk for a knee, ankle, or back injury.
  5. Hydrate! It’s important to drink enough liquids – the kind that aren’t diuretics (like alcohol) in the summer. The added heat and humidity drains us and our bodies need water to work well. Drink up often throughout your play or work.

And maybe we need a 6th – Don’t forget to have fun! Enjoy the long, lazy, dog days of summer this year!

Healthy Finances

Your financial health has a big impact on your physical and emotional health. Finances have been in the news a lot to say the least. Where do you stand with yours? Are you financially healthy?  Could you be more comfortable dealing with money? Does it bring up ideas of love, shame, guilt? What does it represent and mean in your life?Last night I went to an author’s discussion at a local bookstore on the book Emotional Currency by Dr. Kate Levinson. I have been reading and working through this book over the last month. Her basic idea is that money is not just a rational logical tool we use objectively. She states money has so many different meanings and we must understand our emotional ties to money before we’ll be able to logically and rationally deal with it.

For me working through the book took my associations with money from ick, greedy, ugly, and a variety of other negative words to much more positive and open words. This change surprised me. I wasn’t expecting to find the peace I did with money in just a month. I am curious to see how this work continues to play out in my life. Although, the sub title of this book is A woman’s guide to building a healthy relationship with money, men at the lecture said it was helpful for them, as well, and I can see why.

Another important point Dr. Levinson makes is that we need to have healthy dialog about money. Many of us, especially women, have been disenfranchised from the discussion and management of money. She says this is a huge part of our discomfort in dealing with it. For many money is, and I don’t know anyone for whom it isn’t in my personal life, a loaded word.

Whether you pick up this book (and I get no kickbacks from this posting/book) or another – pick up something and start looking closely at your emotional ties to money. How does it control, direct, consume, allow, help, hurt your life? What keeps you from using money wisely? What does money represent to you? Who did you learn your money behaviors from? These are some of the questions and paths you’ll explore as you work through Emotional Currency.

As we learn more about the interconnections of the brain, body, and behaviors it makes sense (no pun intended) that we ought to cultivate a healthy relationship to money. Begin your positive money path today.

Slow Down, Focus, & Finish Strong

I had a lot to do today. I am feeling a little scattered. I started by getting the kids off to school, then working with my dog on the leash – so she doesn’t break my arm when she pulls, then  I went to work in my home office, which can be harder than leaving my house to work because, then I started to take the dishes out of the dishwasher, started to clean the counters, started to check my email, started to look up the local yoga studio schedule. AND I wasn’t finishing anything I started.

This becomes a problem. I had to complete something or my day would be full of starts and no finishes. That never leaves me in a good mood. So I sat down, took a few deep long breaths to help re-set my system and began again. I looked at my to do list and focused on one thing I could do right now. Finished it, crossed it off, and focused on the next thing, finished it, crossed it off. Now I usually do my blog at the end of my other things to do – hence the lack of postings while I am in mid-semester – so the very fact that I am writing now is a testament to the power of my breath to keep me focused.

What helps you calm your system and focus? What allows you to stop the mental chatter in your mind long enough to feel successful getting one thing done? What will you do today to slow down, focus, and finish strong?

Working out isn’t just about the Body – It’s also in your Mind.