Mindfulness is something you can access whenever, wherever, however you want. It’s a regular reminder to be present, purposeful and at peace.
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MINDFULNESS IS GOOD FOR ALL OF US
I first became interested in the concept of mindfulness when it was brought up in yoga class. I kept hearing about it on podcasts and articles. Turns out I was already using some of the techniques, but it wasn’t until I became aware of the variety and benefits that I learned to be intentional in practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness is like free therapy. It’s something you can access whenever, wherever, however you want. It’s a regular reminder to be present, purposeful and at peace.
In the busyness of life, it’s hard to take some time to be still.
To be calm.
To be quiet.
And just be.
WHAT DO THE EXPERTS SAY ABOUT MINDFULNESS?
Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., co-founder of The Center for Mindful Living, says, “We’ve got to allow ourselves to simplify sometimes. Mindfulness allows us to be intentionally present, unplug and come into the richness of what’s in front of us.”
Researchers at Mindful Magazine found that “When we’re mindful, we reduce stress, enhance performance, gain insight and awareness through observing our own mind, and increase our attention to others’ well-being. Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful. And there’s growing research showing that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re actually remodeling the physical structure of your brain.”
My husband and I took a family trip to Colorado a few years ago. We have been married long enough that we know I’m never going to be excited about climbing a mountain. I’m a beach body and he’s a mountain man. I love sitting in nature and he loves playing in it. For someone who loves to read, write and draw, I couldn’t help but feel like a misfit in this “exercise” culture.
We stayed in Keystone, a tourist town geared toward skiers. In August, however, everyone is decked out in yoga pants, those hippie strappy shoes (that’s the official name for them), hiking backpacks, and is riding a mountain bike. I packed a pair of jeans and flip flops that broke the first day.
I switched out my jeans for yoga pants (which were my pajamas) and bought a baseball hat and a Keystone hoodie to give the impression I knew what I was doing there.
My husband on the other hand, fully prepared for this vacation, literally climbed a mountain with my son while I skipped to the family activities with my four-year-old daughter. We painted and played games and stuffed our faces full of ice cream and popcorn.
We’d separate into boys and girls for a few hours in the morning: they would ride bikes, my daughter and I would settle in at the playground, and then met back up for lunch, a nap, and an outing before dinner.
In that one week, we flew on an airplane, drove through the mountains, sat in a horse-drawn wagon, steered paddle boats, hiked, rode on bikes and horses, took a train ride up a mountain, and a gondola ride down it. It was wonderful. Everything we did was a different way to be in nature.
THE STILLNESS OF NATURE
Being out in nature just begs me to be still and be in the moment. The sounds of the birds, the trickle of water, the smell of mountain air, the warmth of the sunshine on my skin, it’s a cozy blanket around me.
Engaging your senses is good for your nervous, endocrine and cardiac systems. According to Florence Williams, author of The Nature Fix, “nature is good for our emotional state because it calms the frontal cortex responsible for ruminating thoughts and inner drama. [By going outside], our frontal cortex is getting a break like an overused muscle. It’s tiring to have constant cognitive stimulation.”
Even just a 15-minute walk in the woods can help reduce stress, alleviate mild depression, relax tense muscles and lower blood pressure and cortisol levels. So let’s get walking!
WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM FINLAND
This year, the 2019 World Happiness Report ranked Finland as the number one happiest country, followed by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands. What do they all have in common?
These countries are heavy “outdoor” cultures, not understanding the concept of “scheduling-in daily exercise” but rather making it part of their everyday life such as biking to work, and walking to local stores.
In The Finnish Way, journalist Katja Pantzar discusses her move to Finland and how the culture of “movement as medicine” won her over. She struggled with depression (along with 300 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization) and found that her lifestyle choices (poor diet, no exercise, minimal time outside) played a big part in her mental health. She experimented with the combination of ice swimming and saunas, and biking and walking to get around town.
OUTDOOR PLANS VS OUTDOOR LIFESTYLE
Katja noted that her co-workers rarely discussed shopping as their weekend plans, rather, they stayed busy with outdoor or nature related activities despite the weather. “To say you have been in the woods picking berries and/or mushrooms; fishing at the cottage; swimming at the lake; skiing; or on a mini break is a common reply.”
She goes on to also give examples of ways she learned to get outdoors more often. “Incorporating daily doses of nature into my urban life by going for a dip in the sea every morning and choosing to cycle or walk through a park or wooded area rather than along a busy street has been a key factor in improving my well-being.”
I loved the attitude that making time to get outside was not optional. It was a necessity. Finnish people are outdoors rain or shine and they think it’s more ridiculous to stay inside if it’s cold than to spend a lot of money on good quality all-weather gear.
BACK IN MY DAY…
After reading The Finnish Way, I reevaluated how I approach my kids and outdoor play. So often I say we can’t go outside because it’s too cold or rainy. However we live in Texas, so if it was snowing outside, you know we’d be out there! This past month I’ve been much more intentional in kicking my kids out of the house every day to play in the sunshine.
The more they play outside, the more they want to play outside.
We are so fearful of letting our kids outside these days that we keep them inside more often than not. Too much time inside leads to moodiness, which leads to TV time and more video games. I’m preaching to the choir here. I’ve learned that if I’m not ready for my kids to have freedom to get outside and explore, then I need to take them around and do it with them until they’re ready to be on their own.
There are endless ways to play outside. Remember when you were a kid? We would be gone when the sun came up to when our mom yelled that dinner was ready. Those days are some of my favorite memories. We didn’t have a ton of toys we played with. Most of our fun was done with bikes, a few hills and sidewalk chalk.
Teach your kids how to be out in nature without a plan, without a time limit, without fear of getting dirty. Look for ladybugs, dig for worms, catch fireflies. Teach them how to look around and learn (wait until you go back inside to bust out the phones for research), and to take risks. My kids feel so empowered when I let them choose where we go on bike rides. Don’t make it complicated or expensive.
BRINGING NATURE INSIDE
Just making sure that the curtains are pushed back and the blinds are opened each morning to let in the sunshine is such a boost to start my day. When I’m sick in bed, sunshine pouring in through the windows makes me more cheerful than when the room is dark and gloomy.
Here are some more ideas for bringing nature indoors:
Open the curtains
Run a diffuser with nature scents
Get a pet
Add a water feature
Take care of an indoor plant
Frame pictures of fun times spent outdoors
Collect items from trips and put them in jars to display (sand and seashells from the beach, rocks from the mountains, etc)
Listen to nature sounds
Put a screen saver of your favorite place in nature on your computer
Set bird feeders out so you can view them from the window
Look for squirrels and other wildlife while you eat breakfast
TAKE THE SUNSHINE CHALLENGE
Before we had kids, we’d go on a canoe/camping trip with friends and I would read a book while my husband paddled. Our friends laughed at me, but I was in my happy place. So was my husband. He didn’t seem to mind because when he got tired, he would fish for a bit.
My husband benefits from the physical side of being in nature, while I enjoy the mental health benefits. He encourages me to get outside and be active more and I encourage him to sit and enjoy the moments.
If you’re not making time to get outside, how can you add it to your routine this week?
Want to move on with your life but not sure how? I share 5 tips I wish I had known sooner when I was stuck in my own survival mode.
FROM SURVIVAL MODE TO INTENTIONAL LIVING
There have been a handful of times in my life when I was trapped in survival mode.
Once when I became a new mom, another when I moved far from home, that time I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, and the most recent in this crazy pandemic.
Each of these times, I had to make a choice: either continue to believe the worst and feel sorry for myself, or pick myself up and learn how to move on. Most of the time, this came in the form of encouragement from family and friends, or slowing finding out I was stronger than I realized.
I wish I could go back and help 28-year-old Amy raise her violent toddler son again and tell her that everything would turn out ok, and that she didn’t need to worry about all the what-ifs for his future. I wish I could tell 31-year-old Amy the cause of her medical problems and speed up the healing process so she wouldn’t have to go through her daily depression. But I can’t and neither can you.
What I can do is offer you some advice in how I pulled myself out of survival mode and what I’ve learned works for me in hopes that it encourages you to take control of your own life.
ARE YOU LIVING IN SURVIVAL MODE?
I don’t know what you are dealing with, but if you feel like you’re living out groundhog day or you’re miserable most days, you are probably living in survival mode. Survival mode isn’t bad—but it’s supposed to be reserved for a short period of time, not morph into a lifestyle. If you feel like that’s what your life has become—a never ending cycle of merely getting the day over with, then you my friend, need a pep talk.
I needed this talk myself a few years ago, and I want to give it to you today. To encourage you that you don’t have to live this way, and that things will get better!
Here are 5 things I wish I had known sooner when I was trapped in my own survival mode:
5 TIPS FOR BREAKING FREE FROM SURVIVAL MODE
1. Get out of bed
With me, this is where I needed to start. With you, you might be wishing you could get into bed–needing a break is a big part of survival mode. However, in either situation, both need a reboot. What is it that will set you on a new course? Do it!
Here are 3 things that I recommend for anyone trying to make some changes in their life:
Create a morning routine – Add a few things to your morning that you look forward to or energize you.
Wake up early – I am a night owl, but as a mom, quiet mornings can’t be beat. I am calmer and happier on these days.
Make your bed – Something about this tiny accomplishment sets the tone for the day.
2. Talk about where you’re going, not where you are
This moment is hard and overwhelming—I get it. But imagining worst case scenarios or being stuck in an endless pity party is helpful to no one—especially yourself. What you’re going through is tough—absolutely—but don’t let it hold you prisoner. Start a gratitude journal, write down some goals you want to accomplish. Don’t beat yourself up with the if-onlys and what-ifs.
Stay hopeful and positive – Start a gratitude journal.
Dream big, set goals – Believe in yourself. Write down where you want to be in five years.
Stop imagining worst case scenarios – Seriously, not helpful!
Acknowledge the present moment – Stop with the regrets and the what ifs.
3. Open your Bible
For most of us in times of hardship, we wonder what the purpose of the suffering is, or how a good God could allow bad things to happen. Take these thoughts and questions to the One who made you. Open your Bible—study it, pray it, read it.
Learn about it – Easier said than done, but I have several strategies I recommend here.
Find passion in your study – For me, it was relating it to my struggles. Try these scripture studies here.
4. Stop comparing yourself to others
People will want to help. They’ll recommend you call so-and-so, or give you a book about someone who “went through what you’re going through”. Don’t beat yourself up if others “handle it better” than you. Everyone’s journey (no matter how similar) is completely different. Take it one day at a time. One of my favorite quotes for this is: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt”
Make your own mantra – Find something that speaks encouragement to you and repeat it and write it down everyday.
Stop comparing your beginning to their middle – This is hard, that’s ok! You’re on your own personal journey.
5. Don’t put off your some-days, act now!
Even before the pandemic, I lived in fear of going anywhere for awhile because of my disease. But after I decided it was now or never, we began taking our kids on more family vacations than ever before. And guess what? We survived! Yes, your life may look a little different now because risk is involved in doing something different than you’ve always done, but don’t waste your today living in fear. You’ve got this!
Remember, tomorrow isn’t promised – Take the trip, start the business, do those bucket list items!
Live for today – Even if you feel like today is a waste, it isn’t! Find the purpose in all your days by practicing gratitude.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE…
A great way to change your mindset when things get tough are to find things to look forward to. I did this by setting goals and new habits in my life. You can use my getting out of survival mode tips in this Goal Setting Workbook I designed specifically for this! You can purchase it in my shop or below: