Mindfulness and your mental health
After a year of pandemic, our feelings might be summed up in one word: blah.
Many of us don’t feel like ourselves. Increasingly, many of us are reporting not feeling like much of anything. We’re worried about the third wave or the economy. We’re missing our friends and family and wondering how long it’s been since we sat in a restaurant.
We’re tired, we’re foggy, we’re so bored of staying home.
From Ride Don’t Hide partner Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, here’s your invitation to step out of the monotony of the pandemic and find some calm and beauty in what you’re doing, thinking and feeling in this moment.
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
Mindfulness is a way of being.
It’s also a skill developed by deciding to slow down and taking the time to pay attention and be curious about things that we’re experiencing and things that we see around us. Most people new to mindfulness first work on three of its main parts: attention, curiosity, and acceptance.
Attention means that we are aware of things in and around us. This includes attention to internal thoughts, feelings, and sensations as well as things happening in our environment, like sounds. It also includes paying attention to specific experiences, like the sensation of eating a juicy apple, or of feeling the breeze on your face while you ride outside.
Why is attention important? We spend a lot of time thinking about the past or focusing on the future. We can forget that we are here right now. Attention can help us notice all of the things we have in the present moment and understand how we are in our lives.
Curiosity means exploring without judgment. We look at thoughts, feelings, or sensations from the perspective of an explorer, examining different perspectives so we can better understand what’s going on. Curiosity helps us bring an open mind to our mindfulness.
Why is curiosity important? It means that we’re relating to things a bit differently than usual. A common habit is to judge thoughts, sensations, or other experiences around us. When we explore with judgment, it’s easy for one critical thought to cascade and cause distress. For example, a small disagreement with a friend can lead to unrealistic fears about the future of the relationship. Practicing mindfulness may not stop judgments, but it can help us notice those thoughts.
Acceptance means embracing the present moment as it is, both the good and the bad, rather than resisting it or doing something quickly to change it.
Why is acceptance important? Sometimes, trying to control or change something isn’t possible or the best approach. If we are feeling a lot of anxiety, for example, it’s easy to get caught up in those uncomfortable feelings. We might do a lot of things to try and stop the sensations or feel angry at ourselves for not being able to control the anxiety. Acceptance in this case might mean simply acknowledging that we feel anxious and letting those feelings be, knowing that they will pass.
Attention, curiosity, and acceptance can have a huge impact on the way we feel and the way we live our lives. You might also notice that while they are simple to understand, they are not necessarily easy to do.
WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF MINDFULNESS?
Research shows that mindfulness can help improve well-being and quality of life. It may help people reduce stress and anxiety, manage symptoms of some mental illnesses and substance use problems, and improve physical health. Mindfulness can help us look at our own lives more clearly. It can help develop a different relationship with our experiences and it can give us space to look at problems from all perspectives, without getting tangled in difficult thoughts or feelings that only make us feel worse.
HOW TO START PRACTICING MINDFULNESS?
Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways, from formal groups or classes to a short check-in with yourself on the way home from work. There is no right or wrong, and what you experience is what you experience.
WANT AN EASY INTRO TO BUILD MINDFULNESS INTO YOUR EVERYDAY LIFE?
Join the Meditate with Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy Mindfulness Challenge June 21-27 as part of Ride Don’t Hide! Here's how it works:
- Find your community and register to Ride Don't Hide, then download the Ride Don't Hide app from the Apple App or Google Play store.
- Meditate or practice mindfulness for 10 minutes a day at least five days between June 21 and June 27. Tune in for livestream guided mediations to help you get started – 5pm EDT on June 21, June 23 and June 25. Link coming soon!
- Share your Mindfulness story using the hashtags #RideDontHide and #MedicineShoppeChallenge.
- See your stress go down, your sense of clarity increase, and your overall wellbeing improve.
- Rest, and repeat! Mindfulness is good for your mental health all year long.
Here are some quick mindfulness techniques you can practice anywhere:
- Eat a meal without distractions like TV or any other devices. Pay attention to what you’re eating and the different sensations that come up, and notice how it makes you feel.
- Go for a walk and set out to really pay attention to the environment around you using all your senses. What do you experience?
- Talk with a friend without any distractions like phones. Focus on the conversation and really listen without judgments or expectations. Notice how you feel.
- Check in with yourself at any time. What thoughts do you notice? How do they make you feel?
- And a classic: Take a minute to sit quietly and focus on the sensation of your breath. When you find yourself distracted by a thought, acknowledge the thought and redirect your attention back to your breath.