6 practical ways to practice being present – mindfulness tips

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How many times has my body been in a wonderfully enjoyable  place while my mind was stuck in a worried, angry or fearful place? In Zen Habits, Leo offers some great tips to enjoy the NOW!

Mo

6 Practical Ways to Practice Being Present

Posted: 14 Oct 2016 07:43 AM PDT

By Leo Babauta

There are a lot of amazing benefits to being more present and mindful, but one of my favorites is this: you’re not missing the beauty and joy of the present moment.

Being present also helps you to see when you are feeling fear or resistance, uncertainty or the urge to procrastinate, anger or resentment … and then to work with those difficulties mindfully.

That’s all great, but how do you remember to practice being present? It’s so easy to get caught up in our thoughts and distractions, and forget to practice.

The honest truth is that no one is perfect at this. Me least of all. It’s a continual learning process, not something you figure out and then you’re good. It’s messy and beautiful.

So with that in mind, here are some practical ways to practice:

  1. A Small Regular Practice. Form the simple habit of meditating for just two minutes a day (to start with). After you wake up, simply sit comfortably and try to focus on your breath for two minutes. When (not if) your mind wanders, just notice it and label it “thinking.” And gently return to the breath, without harshness. Set a timer, and when the timer goes off, you’re done! If you feel like expanding it by a minute every week or so, feel free to do so, but you don’t have to expand. The benefit of this regular practice is that you learn skills you can take and practice in other parts of your day.
  2. Work with Others. Having a regular group or partner to meditate with is helpful. You support each other continuing to practice, and can talk about struggles and things you’re learning. If you don’t have a practice group in your area, you could find people online to talk to regularly about practicing.
  3. Have Mindfulness Bells. You could have a chime regularly sound off on your phone or computer (numerous apps do this) to remind you to pause and be mindful of what’s going on right now. I’ve also found it useful to see other things as mindfulness bells: seeing my child’s face, a traffic light, hearing an alert from an appliance or the computer. Each of these can be a reminder to be present when I notice them.
  4. Set an Intention Before an Activity. If you’re about to do a work task, process email, read a book, cook dinner … you can pause just before starting, and think for a second about what your intention for that activity might be. What are you hoping to do with this activity? For me, I might cook dinner out of love for my family or myself. I might write a blog post (like this one) out of love for my readers. I might do a workout out of love for myself (and to set a good example for my kids). I process email out of responsibility and consideration for those trying to communicate with me. By setting an intention, it reminds you to be mindful of that intention as you do any activity.
  5. Reflect Daily. At the end of each day, or at the beginning, take a minute to journal or just reflect on how your day has gone. How have you done with practicing being present? What have you struggled with? Have you been using your mindfulness bells and setting intentions? What resistance has come up for you, what stories are you telling yourself about all of this? Daily reflection is one of the most useful habits for continuing to practice and getting better at practicing.
  6. See Everything as a Teacher. This method admittedly sounds a bit corny, but it’s actually amazing. When you’re feeling frustrated with someone, feeling stressed out by work, feeling upset or grieving about the health of a loved one, feeling anxious about a national election … pause and see this person or situation as a teacher. What can you learn from them about being present? What attachments can you see in yourself that are causing this difficulty? What stories are you forming that are causing you to feel this way? What can you practice letting go of? What can you appreciate about this moment that you are taking for granted? In this way, every difficulty, every person, everything that arises in the present moment can be a loving teacher that is helping us along the path to being present.

Mindfulness for Beginner’s ebook

If you’d like help with mindfulness, check out my new Zen Habits Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness short ebook.

She Let Go, the poem (my fave meditation)

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She Let Go

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear.  She let go of the judgments.  She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.  She let go of the committee of indecision within her.  She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a book on how to let go.  She didn’t search the scriptures. She just let go.  She let go of all of the memories that held her back.  She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.  She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go. She didn’t journal about it. She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer. She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper. She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope. She just let go.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go. She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter. She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment. She didn’t call the prayer line. She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.

No one was around when it happened. There was no applause or congratulations. No one thanked her or praised her. No one noticed a thing. Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort. There was no struggle. It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be. A small smile came over her face. A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.

Hows your Sleep Hygiene?

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Do you sleep well? Having been an insomniac  for years, I am sleeping well now. Why? What changed? Let me share.

Several years ago, I read Dr Andrew Weil’s book, Healthy Sleep, and learned that my brain is not a computer that I can simply power down at will.  It takes attention to a bedtime routine, time, temperature, environment, and consistency to “shut ‘er down.”

I was at first quite skeptical. However, trying to remain teachable, I gave it a try. I now sleep like a baby. It wasn’t a quick fix, but after some time (about a 2 week commitment), I am a true believer.

My top three suggestions are daily exercise (a 25 min walk) before 6pm and no screen watching one hour before bed. It is a brain stimulant. I also meditate (love the free Insight Timer app) or read briefly, in low light, nightly during the hour before my established bedtime, and I use the “brain dump, ” in which l write out today’s problems and proposed actions to take for solution tomorrow. My phone sets to silent one hour before sleep. No calls, period. See below for more tips that changed my sleep for the better, ’cause if Momma ain’t happy…you know the deal!

What are your “go-to” rituals for healthy sleep? Please share!

Mo

Andrew Weil’s suggestions:

The following are some of the best possible insomnia remedies:

  • Establish a consistent bedtime routine. This is one of the most important factors in insomnia treatment and maintaining good sleeping habits. Routines may include taking a warm bath or a relaxing walk in the evening, or practicing meditation/relaxation exercises as part of your regular nighttime routine.
  • Try to go to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time each morning. This includes weekends.
  • Get plenty of exercise during the day. Studies have shown that people who are physically active sleep better than those who are sedentary. The more energy you expend during the day, the sleepier you will feel at bedtime. Just be sure not to engage in vigorous exercise too close to bedtime as that can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
  • Reduce your intake of caffeine,particularly in the evening.
  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine and limit alcohol. Both, even when consumed early in the day, can affect sleep and inhibit insomnia treatment.
  • Use your bed only for sleeping and sex. Don’t use it to do work or watch TV.
  • Avoid large meals late in the evening.
  • If you can’t fall asleep within half an hour of going to bed, get up and read or do something calming until you feel sleepy.
  • Learn and use a relaxation technique regularly.Breathing exercises, meditation and yoga are not insomnia cures, but do lead to a state conducive to sleep.
  • Use “white noise” devices to block out surrounding environmental noise.
  • Take a hot bath before bedtime.Try a few drops of relaxing oil oflavender in the water.
  • Short naps are good. Try to get into the habit of napping for insomnia treatment: ten to twenty minutes in the afternoon, preferably lying down in a darkened room.
  • Spend some time outdoors as often as you can to get exposure to bright, natural light. If you are concerned about harmful effects of solar radiation, do it before ten in the morning or after three in the afternoon or use sunscreen.
  • Try to give yourself some time – up to an hour – in dim light before you go to sleep at night. Lower the lighting in your house and bedroom and if other members of the household object, wear sunglasses.
  • The two best natural sleep aids are valerian and melatonin. Valerian is a sedative herb, used for centuries. You can find standardized extracts in health food stores and pharmacies. Take one to two capsules a half hour before bedtime. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the wake/sleep cycle and other daily biorhythms. Try sublingual tablets (to be placed under the tongue and allowed to dissolve); take 2.5 mg at bedtime as an occasional dose, making sure that your bedroom is completely dark. A much lower dose, 0.25 to 0.3 mg, is more effective for regular use.
  • Don’t obsess about not sleeping.Not surprisingly, studies have shown that individuals who worry about falling asleep have greater trouble dropping off. It may help to remind yourself that while sleeplessness is troublesome, it isn’t life-threatening and there are insomnia remedies.

Some additional suggestions reblogged are:

Having a set bedtime routine will allow you to go to bed with a clearer head and rest better knowing you’re already set to face the next day.

I know, you may be thinking I’m asking you to add more work and activity to your day when you’re barely able to get to the bed before you crash for the night. I get that. But what I’m suggesting is that you just start by adding maybe one or two things to your routine at night that will help to set you up for a better day tomorrow.

You’re bedtime routine has less to do with an actual list of set activities but rather how you clear your head before it hits your pillow. Sleep issues accompany so many chronic illnesses and the things you do in the last few hours of your day will impact the rest you get at night.

Start out by picking one or two of the following examples. Try it out for a few nights and see if it has a positive impact on your sleep and mental relaxation!

Here are a few examples of things you can include in your bedtime routine:

  1. Set time aside to read. Reading allows your brain to focus on a singular activity. Don’t use this time to catch up on social media – experts say that will only get your brain rushing through a lot of thoughts and stirring emotions that can actually hinder your ability to fall asleep. Instead, choose a devotional or fiction novel.
  2. Listen to a podcast or relaxing music. If you’re not able to focus on written words, try directing your thoughts toward a podcast or gentle music. Put in the earphones, close your eyes and allow your body to relax.
  3. Express gratitude. Keep a gratitude journal next to your bed and take a moment to find one or two things you’re grateful for. Write them out and take a moment to express your thanks to God for that gift in your life.
  4. Brain dump. Have a notebook or notepad by your bed and take a few minutes to think about what you need to do tomorrow or what upcoming events you need to plan for. “Dumping” all these thoughts onto paper has a two-fold purpose. First, it allows you to have a clear head as you fall asleep. Second, it serves as your to-do list for the next day. Remember to include your daily non-negotiables.
  5. Stop working! At least an hour before bed you need to step away from any work you have going on. Housework, work you’ve brought home from your job, etc. Let your brain turn off the hustle and bustle and begin to relax.
  6. Spend some time with your spouse and kids. When my kids were little I’d sit by their bed at night and ask them what was the best part of their day. Those were precious times! It allowed me to see the day from the eyes of my children and get a glimpse of what was truly important and impactful to them. It’s also a good exercise to do with your spouse. It allows you both to focus your mind on the positives of the day and end on an upbeat note.
  7. Decide what you’ll have for breakfast and make sure the kitchen is set for the preparation. This may sound like a silly step that adds a lot of work but it will really help you start each day on a good note. Quite a few of our meds and supplements need to be taken with food. Having the kitchen set up so breakfast is easy to prepare can let you get through the first few hours of your day without the stress of cleaning the blender or counter and deciding what you can toss in your belly.
  8. Take a bubble bath! Giving yourself a moment for pampering will de-stress your body and mind. Toss some Epsom salts or essential oils in the warm water and your now detoxing as well!
  9. Check tomorrow’s calendar. Whether you keep a bullet journal or day-planner of some sort, take a peak to see if there is something you have going on the next day.
  10. Set out your clothes. Making sure you have clean clothes that fit whatever is on tomorrow’s agenda will save you the stress and rushing about that happens thirty minutes before you have to leave the house.
  11. Meditate on a few verses and take time to pray. If you have trouble quieting your mind and focusing on the positive as you fall asleep this step may just be the key.

 

I’d love to hear what you include in your bedtime routine. Leave a comment below and share your best tip for relaxing and clearing your mind to ensure a night that’s as restful as possible!

DBT- could it help you too?

2e3bead43728b0072795936bd014a52dI’ve been in Psychotherapy for a number of years and don’t plan to quit anytime soon!  I feel it gives me some of the best skills in handling life and the accompanying stress that comes along with it.

In my several years I have learned much about dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) Once an area that was reserved for only those who were diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, DBT has become a skill set that psychologists are teaching to a wide variety of patients who may be struggling with a wide variety of emotional regulation.

I love DBT especially because it includes mindfulness training. Mindfulness is learning to stay in the present without time traveling. It’s eliminating the “if onlys” and the “what ifs” (which are past and future worries).

There are four modules to DBT-read below and see if it’s for you! I hope you learn something new from this post!

Mo

The Four Skill Modules

DBT Skills training is made up of four modules: core mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. They are designed to specifically assist individuals in better managing behaviors, emotions and thoughts. The intent is to help people who experience problems with anger or the expression of anger, episodic depression, irritability or anxiety, intense or chaotic relationships, impulsivity, stress and feelings of emptiness.

Core Mindfulness teaches a person how to focus their mind and attention. Distress Tolerance develops acceptance of the current situation as well as crisis survival skills to decrease the likelihood of engaging in problematic behavior. Emotion Regulation skills include learning to identify and label current emotions, identifying obstacles to changing emotions, reducing emotional reactivity, increasing positive emotions and changing emotions. Interpersonal Effectiveness skills teach helpful strategies for asking for what one needs, saying no, and coping with interpersonal conflict.

 

Mindfulness SkillsCore Mindfulness Skills
Mindfulness skills in DBT come from the eastern spiritual traditions. These skills help members focus on the present and attend to what is happening in the here and now in a calm way. It helps people slow down and focus on doing what is needed to care for oneself in the moment. Members learn the value of wise mind instead of succumbing to intense emotions and acting in a destructive way.

 

 

Distress Tolerance Skills
Distress tolerance helps people get through difficult times when emotions are running high. It teaches people to soothe themselves in healthy ways when they are feeling upset rather than becoming overwhelmed by emotions or hiding from them. This allows individuals to make wise decisions about whether and how to take action, rather than falling into the intense, desperate and often-destructive emotional reactions. Crisis survival skills are also taught so that one does not engage in problematic behaviors and ultimately make the situation worse. Reality Acceptance Skills focus on helping people fully accept reality and provide a guideline for responding to painful aspects of life.

 

Interpersonal Effectiveness SkillsInterpersonal Effectiveness Skills
Interpersonal effectiveness skills involve helping people understand what their needs are in their relationships and helps develop effective ways of dealing with others in order to get one’s wants or needs met in a healthy way. This involves respecting the self and others, listening and communicating effectively, dealing with difficult people, repairing relationships and being able to say no.

 

 

Emotion REgulation SkillsEmotion Regulation Skills
The DBT emotion regulation skills help people understand their emotions. It teaches people to decrease the intensity of their feelings and helps them ride out strong emotions without acting on them. It provides education about the function of emotions and how to not be swamped by them.

From: http://www.dbtskillsgroupnj.com/four-skill-modules/

Buddha’s Brain

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Today I began reading the widely-acclaimed book, Buddha’s Brain, which explains the anxiety/stress reaction in masterful detail and in a way I can understand. I now agree that, “pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” I have practiced and lead meditation for years, but seeing the positive neurological effects in black and white has me reeling! I highly advise you to venture into the science of meditation.  It’s absolutely life-changing!

Mo