Mindfulness Walking

Mindful Monday’s

Hello! Welcome back to my second mindfulness post.

Anxiety and depression are the two most common mental health issues people experience. They can significantly impact the lives of people who have them.

I suffer from depression and have since I was a teenager. Unfortunately, mental illness is largely stigmatized. So I thought I’d share some of my own experience with depression. People will often tell me they had no idea I suffer from depression because I hide it so well. Perhaps this is part of your experience too.

What my depression looks like

I get into such low moods all I want to do is sit on my couch and zone out. I won’t clean, I’ll barely do laundry and dishes. Now I do what I have to for my son, but when it comes to my own stuff, it’s largely forgotten. I will binge on crappy foods and other times I’ll barely eat anything. Sleeping will become impossible even though I’m exhausted, or I will literally sleep all day. I become very negative and believe everything people say is a slight against me. Sometimes I will get angry with my loved ones for no reason and lash out.

I won’t always know it’s happening, it can be a slow, creeping process. The depression will slowly choke out the outside world until I’m left with only dark thoughts. Thoughts will circle continuously telling me how ugly I am, how fat I’ve gotten, how I will never be happy, that people don’t actually want to be my friend, they are just pretending. Why do I bother? No one will want me. I’m too abrasive, I’m not happy enough, I don’t understand jokes.

While my depression and negativity is happening, I’ll go through the motions. I put on my eyeliner, smile and laugh, joke with my coworkers, and maybe have good conversations with my friends and family. I’m exhausted from pretending all day and can’t keep it up at home. I will sit on my couch for hours with the TV on, sometimes I’ll watch it, but mainly it’s for background to try to block out my thoughts. To switch off, to shut down. But when I manage to shut down, the numbness can be worse. Can you be human if you are numb? There is a major difference these days to my depression though. Before I was pregnant, I hardly cried. Now crying is all too familiar.

My light of my life

The light I focus on in the fog is my son. My happy little man is my reason for being. His whole face lights up when he sees me. That is the most magnificent gift. He doesn’t know what depression is. My son doesn’t know Mommy struggles with depression. Ezra needs his mommy to be there and be engaged with him. I have been working very hard to recover from depression for my son.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a very good tool to use that can actually help with depression and anxiety. It can help you boost your mood, stop dwelling in the past or future, and encourage you to relax and experience this moment. If you want to read a little bit more on mindfulness, see my other post here

I love mindfulness and have found it to be extremely helpful and useful. Now, I’m not perfect, I definitely don’t practice mindfulness every day. But I try to practice several times a week. Currently, I do a mindfulness exercise as part of my bedtime routine. This is the easiest part of my day to set aside for mindfulness because it’s a time I reserve for me. You can do mindfulness pretty much by doing anything and pretty much anywhere.

If you’re super busy like me, perhaps an easier time for mindfulness is when you’re walking. Yes, walking. You’re going to be walking at some point during your day, right? So why not make it mindfulness walking!

Ready for another mindfulness exercise? Good! First though, some reminders!

Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, to the moment without judgment and emotional attachment. Losing focus is normal and perfectly OK! When your mind wonders to thoughts, worries, or anything else, gently bring your attention back to the exercise.

Mindful Walking Exercise

Start by walking at your typical pace without trying to change it. Notice how you are walking.

Notice the sensation of when your feet leave the ground. What does that feel like? Do you shift your weight? Do you lift at the foot? Or the knee or hip?

After several steps, shift your attention to the sensation of your feet hitting the ground. How does your weight shift when your foot lands? Do your toes or heel hit first? Notice your feet making contact with the ground for a few steps.

Slowly make your way up your body. How are your knees bending while walking? Are they moving easily or are they stiff? Allow yourself to simply notice your knees for a few paces.

Then, focus on your hips. What direction are they moving? Side to side or more straight? Can you feel your upper legs and hips connect at the joint? How does that feel? What is your experience with that sensation?

Move your attention then to your stomach. Are your stomach muscles moving? Do you hold your belly in? Can you feel your breath in your stomach? Just feel and notice your stomach muscles as you walk for several steps.

Switch your focus then to your arms and shoulders. Are your arms moving or crossed? Are your shoulders lose or hunched towards your ears? If your shoulders are upwards, make the point to lower your shoulders and uncross your arms, letting that tension release.

Then focus on your face and head. Where are you looking? Is your head downward looking at the ground? Upwards looking side to side? Do you move your head when you see something or hear something? Take the time to simply notice your head.

If you are still walking, start again, but speed up or slow down your pace. Are you less tense? More tense? Is walking easier or more difficult? How does your breath change when you speed up or slow down? Notice how the change in your pace changes your experience.

Practice makes perfect!

Practice mindfulness walking for a week and see how it impacts your life. Ask yourself if you notice you’re less stressed? Focusing less on past or future thinking?

Let me know what your experience is! I’d love to hear from you. If you like this exercise and want more, please follow my blog and sign up for my email list for exclusive Positively Kati Content!

Mindful Monday’s!

Welcome back! I’m soooo glad you’re here!

Monday’s can sometimes be a pain, a drag if you will. The weekend is over and it’s back to the humdrum of our work lives, not matter what that work is. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a super fan of Monday’s. So I thought, why not give you all something to make your Monday a little better? Tad DAH – Mindful Monday’s.

I want to offer you guys lessons to help you practice this little something called Mindfulness. To start, I’m going to give you some background information.

What is Mindfulness?

Isn’t that like meditation? Do I have to sit and oam?? The answer is well, yes and no. You COULD use mindfulness as a meditation and yes there is a meditation component, but it’s not meditation in the traditional sense of the word.

What it IS; however, is paying attention to the exact moment you are in, right here, right now, on purpose AND without judging, evaluating, or being attached to this moment.

You’re not paying attention to the past, you’re not paying attention to the future. You’re paying attention to the moment. Nonjudmentally simply means if you have a thought, or a feeling, you are not judging yourself for having it. For example, if while you are practicing mindfulness you have the thought “I’m dumb” you simply acknowledge you had that thought and come back to the moment. Without attachment means you are not assigning emotion to your moment, that if you feel sad/happy/anxious whatever, you acknowledge it and bring it back to the moment.

Why Mindfulness?

At this point you might be asking yourself, why do it? What’s the point? How will this help me?

The good news is there are a BUNCH of reasons for practicing mindfulness. There’s a decent amount of research to suggest mindfulness helps with things like:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • stress reduction
  • increased focus
  • increased happiness
  • ability to be more flexible
  • helps to boost your immune system

take a look at this link to read further benefits
http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx

Ok so now that you know some of the benefits and a little more about what it is, I’m going to offer you a little intro to mindfulness!

Are you ready? Ok here we go….

You can do this practice with your eyes opened or closed. Whatever feels most comfortable to you.

Start by brining awareness to your breath. Just notice it without trying to change your breath. How does it feel? Can you feel the breath coming in through your nose? Down into your lungs? Where do you feel your breath the most?

Take the time to simply notice the next few breaths, answering these questions.

If your mind wonders, it’s ok. Each time you catch your mind wandering bring your attention back to your breath.

After a few breaths, start to deepen your breath. Four seconds in through your nose, one second pause, and four seconds out through your mouth.

Notice the difference in these breaths. Where can you feel the breath now? If it feels right to you, you can bring your hands to your abdomen to observe the coming in and out of your breath.

Take the time to notice a couple of these breaths and start to bring your attention to your body. How does your body feel? What do you notice about your body? Is there tension somewhere? Or an itch? If you do notice any stress, try to “breathe” into this tension.

Again, if you start to feel your attention slipping, just nudge yourself back to paying attention to the moment.  It’s perfectly natural and ok to find your attention waning in practice.

Notice your body for a couple more breaths and then bring your attention to what your body is touching. Are you sitting on a chair? Laying down? Can you feel your body touching whatever you are resting on? How does that feel? If you need to adjust to make yourself more comfortable, feel free to do so, letting youself rest even further.

Slowly, if your eyes are closed, start to open your eyes and return back to your daily life, completing your first mindfulness practice.

How’d that go?

Do you feel any more relaxed? More focused? Less stressed? Remember it doesn’t have to last for a long time, you can start with as little as 3 minutes at a time.

Let me know what you think in the comments and if you plan on doing a little mindfulness this next week!

Happiness…we all want it. Here’s how to boost it!

I have been interested in person positivity, well-being, and happiness for quite some time now. My first look into the idea of positivity and happiness was while I was in college and wrote a twelve and half page essay on happiness. In this essay, I collected a decent amount of research on the topic which revealed very interesting facts and possible ways to boost happiness.

First ask yourself what makes you happy? Or, what will make you happy? A lot of people might answer that if I had a new car, or if I lived somewhere else, or this new pair of shoes will make me happy. This makes sense right? Shiny new items, what’s better than that? Sorry, but you would be wrong. New items in your life do not actually make you happy! We adapt too quickly to our environment and surroundings for what is called our life “circumstances” to have lasting effects of happiness. Most of us have been there, when we get a new item or move it makes us happier for awhile, but then we get used to it. It stops being that shiny new item very quickly.

Now I am going to quote myself from the paper that I wrote a few years ago. Why? Because I can.

“Lyubomirsky et al, (2005) developed a model of happiness suggesting that circumstances only account for 10% of total well-being, 50% for the genetic set point, leaving 40% for what they called ‘intentional activity.'”

What this means, is a large majority of our potential happiness is genetically determined and tends to be the baseline our happiness will return to. There are people who are just genetically happier people and there are people who are simply genetically less happy. Only ten percent counts for our house, our car, our jobs, and the items we have. Yep, that’s it, a measly 10%. The other 40% is determined by WHAT WE DO! Now this is very important. Our own actions are what can boost our happiness, even our long term happiness! The only problem is finding out just exactly what actions can bring sustained happiness.

Curious to find out what that is? That “intentional activity?” I bet you are just dying to know! You’re in luck, because I’m going to tell you. Based on scientific studies conducted by Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005), Sheldon, K. M., Boehm, J. K., & Lyumbomirsky, S. (in press), and Seligman, Rashid, & Parks (2006), actions like  counting blessings, setting relevant personal goals, performing acts of kindness, and writing letters of gratitude can elevate well-being and happiness for UP TO ONE YEAR! Isn’t that amazing?

To help even further, Sheldon, K. M., Boehm, J. K., & Lyumbomirsky, S. (in press), found that SWITCHING UP your routine can help battle that “headonic treadmill,” which is a fancy term for the fact that we as people become too used to activities too quickly. So, if you pick more than ONE happiness boosting activity and even switch that activity up from time to time, you can actually maintain the elevated levels of positivity and well-being for an extended period of time.

And let’s face it, everyone wants to be a little bit happier right? So I’m going to challenge you guys to pick at least ONE of these things to do, counting blessings, random acts of kindness, to do for one month and then report back to me. Let me know how you feel, if you feel it worked, if you think me and a bunch of scientists are all blowing smoke up your you-know-what.

Personally, I am going to pick random acts of kindness. This can be something as simple as, waiting to hold that door open for someone, letting someone cut in front of you in line, paying for the person behind you line at Starbucks, or whatever you can think of that would brighten someone else’s day. I will report back to you in about a month to let you guys know what I did and how I feel after my months challenge.

Curious about where I got my info?? Interested in reading the full study? Awesome. Listed below are the peer-reviewed published articles I referenced in this post.

REFERENCES:

 Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing                            happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of                      General Psychology, 9, 111-131.

Seligman, M. E. P., Rashid, T., & Parks, A. C. (2006). Positive                                        psychology. American Psychology, 61, 774-788.

Sheldon, K. M., Boehm, J. K., & Lyumbomirsky, S. (in press). Variety is               the spice of happiness:
The hedonic adaptation prevention (HAP) model. To appear in I.             Boniwell & S. David (Eds.), Oxford handbook of happiness. Oxford:             Oxford University Press.