7 Mindful Tools for Every Day
Mindfulness can come in many forms. Contrary to popular beliefs and images, it doesn't have to look like a meditation practice. One of the easiest ways to experience mindfulness is to weave it into the small moments of your day.
1) Add mindfulness to your everyday routines - Try bringing awareness to the daily activities you usually do on autopilot. For instance, pay more attention as you're brushing your teeth, taking a shower, eating breakfast, or walking to work.
2) Do one thing at a time - Multi-tasking is a thing of the past. Focusing on only one task at a time increases your productivity and the quality of what you are doing. Focus on one thing and do it well.
3) Practice gratitude - When we practice gratitude, we have to focus the attention on what is positive in our lives in the present moment. This gently brings the good stuff to the forefront of your mind. That way, you can more easily come back into the now moment instead of fretting about the future or rehashing the past.
4) Go for a walk - An easy way to be mindful during the day requires you to leave the house and just roam around. Notice the little things, take in the sensations like smells and sounds, feel the ground beneath your feet, and so on.
5) Be mindful in your interactions - Whether you're interacting with your partner, your children, or a colleague, mindful interactions are essential. Instead of crafting your rebuttal while people you talk to are sharing their opinion, seek to hear their message. Become more mindful by paying attention to the way you're feeling, listening carefully, and learning to respond to others more mindfully.
6) Be present when eating - Focus on your food and enjoy the pleasure it brings. Chew slowly, taste each flavor, and notice every texture. There is no need to rush, so really take in every aspect of the dish in front of you. Take small bites, feel the intention and let yourself be fully present in the experience. Your body will thank you.
7) Know that it is OK to reset and recalibrate your mind - When you notice that your day is falling apart from your original plans and intentions, you can reset the tone. Take a few deep breaths and restate your intention. Take a few moments for the purpose to settle, and then you can resume what you were doing with your calm restored.
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Reducing Pain with the Mind
Your mind is a powerful pain remedy when given the chance. Science continues to show how mindfulness can manage pain — and it doesn't take years to master. "Using mindfulness is a way for older adults to treat ongoing chronic pain and the occasional flare-up without having to always rely on medication," says Ellen Slawsby, director of pain services at Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine.
Shift your thinking - Mindfulness means being aware of the present moment and accepting a situation without judgment. "When pain strikes, mindfulness helps to shift your thinking away from negativity to recognize pain for what it is--something that can ease," says Slawsby. This change in mindset also interrupts your brain's processing of painful feelings and can induce a relaxation response to naturally release endorphins, the feel-good brain chemicals, and help relieve discomfort. The goal of mindfulness is not to eliminate pain, but rather to manage your reaction to it, according to Slawsby. "You don't focus on going from a high of 10 to zero on the pain scale, but rather 10 to around five," she says. "That amount of change can do wonders for getting through painful episodes."
Practice makes perfect - As with acquiring any new skill, learning mindfulness takes practice. Slawsby suggests doing some kind of mindfulness exercise for 20 minutes every day. This teaches you to stay in the moment, channel your thoughts and positive energy into a single experience, and learn to relax. "It takes about four to six weeks of daily practice for mindfulness to become a natural reaction to pain," says Slawsby.
Count breaths - Close your eyes and focus on your breathing as you count your breaths to 10 and then backward to zero. Repeat several times. "Something so natural and repetitive, like breathing can move your focus away from pain, while it helps to calm anxiety," says Slawsby.
Watch and listen - Observing the natural world, like the trees in your backyard or squirrels scampering around, also can produce a mindful and relaxing state. "You can feel some of the same benefits from a virtual experience, like watching a person snorkeling over a coral reef or walking through Muir Woods in California," says Slawsby.
Be aware of when pain occurs - Sometimes pain is predictable, and mindfulness can be a pre-emptive measure. For example, if you suffer from recurring morning pain and stiffness, do a mindful stretching or yoga routine when you first wake up. "In this way, mindfulness helps you think about ways to ease pain before you expect it to begin."
Look to your past - We've all had moments of mindfulness before, so think back to those times and try to replicate them. "What did you do that helped you feel calm and in control?" says Slawsby. "It could be a hobby or a household chore or some other form of repetitive absorbing stimuli."
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Improving Critical Thinking
Critical thinking then, is a process of looking at situations, relationships, ideas and real world pieces of information and understanding what's going on, what's behind it, and what to do with that information. It's understanding our personal and collective relationship to our world. It's part of how we participate in creating the world we see out there. There are several ways to begin mastering our critical thinking so that we can make more effective decisions in our personal lives and as a community.
Listening - One of the best ways to improve our critical thinking is to better hear what is actually being said. Whether we are reading, watching a video, listening to a podcast, or in conversation, truly taking the time to HEAR what is being said seems a lost art. What state are we in when we are listening to something? How about when someone says something we don't quite like? Do we start sighing, judging, responding back to the screen saying things like "oh man you don't get it?" Does this change the way we listen and what we hear? Do we miss all of the areas that we actually agree with the person on in favor of seeing the one or two things we don't agree with? Were we open to learning something new?
Understanding Our Bias - Bias is something we all have, it's a distortion in our thinking that can often make it so we begin to disengage with what someone is saying because in some sense we have been triggered by something we already believe, and we now shut off any further inquiry into new information. Bias also affects how we see news and information, as well as situations and our relationships, and even affects decisions we make. In a spiritual sense, we're taking an incredible being that we are as an awareness having an experience, and confining it to an incredibly limiting box that states "I'm a progressive" or "I'm a conservative." Does that truly tell someone who you are and what you believe? Is that label in practice actually serving our culture?
Asking Questions--Ease, Playfulness and Curiosity - Another key to improving critical thinking is taking a quick look at what our state of being is with regards to learning about and exploring new information. In essence, what's your frame of mind and emotions when you're consuming media? Think for a moment when a kid is learning, they are often playful, curious and move about with ease. They aren't finding ways to disagree, trying to argue all the time or identify with a particular position. These are learned habits that we develop as we take note from cultural norms and form a certain sense of identity around how we think about what we believe. Questions are key. When we hear bits of information and ask more questions as opposed to simply jumping to conclusions, we pull our thinking and awareness even deeper. We begin to see where else things might go vs. simply stopping at whatever an analyst on TV might have told us.
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Health & Healing Hack of the Week
Who Does This Belong To?
Of all the various systems I've studied through the years, Access Consciousness, founded by Gary Douglas, has the easiest and effective tools I've found. Here is a great one. Ask, "Who Does This belong to?" From his research, Gary Douglas discovered that 99% of body discomforts, pains, and conditions are NOT OURS. We pick them up and express them in our bodies for various reasons, mostly having to do with victimization, judgments, conclusions and other sub-conscious patterns. The good news is that when you ask the question, "Who does this belong to?", you will get an awareness that it is not yours. You can then, "Return to Sender", to dismiss it from your body. -- From 25 No Cost Health & Healing Hacks by Boyd Martin)
Quantum Healer of the Week
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