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.

Eat Well, Feel Well

Over the last few years I have been diving deep into the connections between mental health and physical health. As I have been working with mental health clients using physical exercise some surprising interventions have made the most impact. One that continues to be a solid help is eating a balanced diet at regular intervals.  Here are some reasons to care and tips to track your own moods as they relate to your food choices.


Easy Budget Meals Your Family Will Love

When we look at the links between blood sugar and mood we see some themes. When one doesn’t eat for long periods of time irritability, depression, sadness, a general feeling of malaise are common. My clients articulate this as “blah” and it makes sense given that feeling low energy often gets tagged as depression in our culture or “what’s wrong with me because I can’t get things done”. Things just aren’t as vibrant, colorful, interesting, or exciting when you aren’t feeling well. When you don’t eat for long periods of time, you don’t feel well.

In the body the brain registers this as dangerous and a slew of chemicals is pumped from the endocrine system to accommodate this threat. Some describe feeling a “little high” or “being detached” from the world and people around them. They report using food to help them achieve these states helps them “numb out” from painful emotions. The problem becomes this behavior feeds its own cycle and often the thoughts around these somatic sensations are distorted. As noted above people label their low energy as depression, the shaky nauseous feeling as anxiety, and the lack of focus as ADHD. However, what’s really going on doesn’t need a psychotropic med it needs a balanced meal.

To begin your own exploration of how food impacts your moods tracking can be helpful. Note what time you eat, what you ate, what emotions you were feeling before and after the meal, and any physical (or lack of) sensations you had. Track for 1-2 weeks without changing anything.  This can help you see patterns in your behaviors, moods, and physical sensation. It is important to begin this process without judgment. There is no need to judge, you are doing what you are doing, just allow yourself to objectively see what it is you are doing. From this place of observation it becomes easier to determine what you would like to change and how you’ll be most successful changing it.
Here’s to happy eating and contented feelings!
Food Diary Log Example:
Date
Meal (can include calories or nutrition info if wanted)
Time eaten
Emotions Before
Emotions After

Physical Sensations

 Photo Credit: www.naimamohamed.com

Healthy Weight Loss Goals

So you’ve been working hard and know you’re no the right track, but now it’s time to morph your new year’s resolutions into your life. It’s getting hard to maintain the motivation to keep up the new year pace. That sounds great! AND that’s how it happens day by day and new behavior by new behavior. Here is a guideline for losing weight to help you plan for the next few months and bring this lifestyle into your week.

10-12lbs in 12 wks is doable. On average you want to aim for 1-2lbs per week. So you might be better off giving yourself 14wks to allow for set backs. There will be some weeks you lose more and some less. We all cycle so that usually isn’t something to worry about unless you aren’t seeing loss. I find most of my clients (men and women) lose about 3wks a month and gain .5 or so 1 wk a month on average.

Sometimes the last 10 lbs can stick. If this is the case look at diet and see if there is anywhere you might be getting hidden calories or extra salt. Alcohol is another big place to cut down or out when looking to lose the last few pounds toward your goal. Use this as a guideline to help you determine healthy weight loss to keep it off.

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!!!