Thrive Wellness: Mindfulness and Meditation
Throughout the hustle and bustle of daily life, it can be challenging to take time to slow down. Add in the holidays, filled with events, shopping, visiting family, and it's easy to get bogged down. The next thing you know, it's the middle of January. Is it possible to make time slow down? If only we had an answer for that! It may not be possible to slow down time physically, but there may be a way to get the most out of our time and increase our happiness over time spent.
Mindfulness is a popular word in the world today. When you hear the word mindfulness, what do you think? Merriam-Webster defines mindfulness as "the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis." Simply put, being mindful is being present in the current moment. Mindfulness can be put into practice in many different ways:
- Being mentally present during conversations by listening rather than preparing comments.
- Focusing on a task at hand rather than ruminating on an upcoming to-do list.
- Even taking time to enjoy a meal rather than sitting in front of the TV or cell phone.
Practicing mindfulness throughout the day can help enhance attention, decrease stress and even improve bodily functions like digestion and blood pressure. Mindfulness helps slow our minds and bodies down.
For more ideas on how to practice mindfulness in day-to-day life, check out these 10 simple ways to practice mindfulness from Monique Quetallon.
Another suggestion to create a habit of daily mindfulness is to practice gratitude. What a wonderful time of the year to reflect on gratitude. Based on a PositivePsychology.com article, practicing gratitude can reap the following benefits:
Who wouldn't want the benefit of improved sleep without adding medication or going through sleep studies? Taking a few minutes to practice gratitude may be the supplement to add to the daily routine.
So how do we practice gratitude? Saying "thank you" to someone as they hold the door is a great way to start, but let's dig a little deeper. Practicing gratitude can come in many shapes and sizes, but it boils down to setting aside time and being mindful of what you are thankful for. Mindfulness allows time to put opinions and judgments aside and focus on the good. No matter how big or small your list may be, let yourself be grateful and being in the presence of your gratitude changes your mind's view to the positive.
When beginning a mindful gratitude routine, start small. It can be as simple as writing in a journal and starting with one or two things from your day. The important part isn't about how long the list is, but that time has been taken to reflect and be grateful. If you're not someone who regularly keeps a journal, some of these gratitude prompts may be helpful.
Another way to develop a habit of mindfulness is to practice meditation. Meditation takes many shapes and forms, and the best part is it is entirely customizable to the individual. Meditation does not have to take hours at a time or take place in complete solitude. Meditation can be as simple as stepping away for a few deep breaths to center or ground your mind and body. The common elements of meditation are:
- A quiet location.
- A comfortable position or posture.
- Focus of attention and an open attitude.
There are different types of meditation, and each one can be used for a different purpose or because it works best for an individual. Some examples are mindfulness, movement, mantra, loving-kindness and visualization. For more information on the different types and to find what fits, check out this article from Healthline.
If you haven't tried meditation before, a simple way to start is practicing box breathing. Find a comfortable position, remove distractions (turn the phone on silent), and close your eyes. Begin by noticing your breath, not trying to change it, simply noticing how it feels. As you settle into your space, allow your breath to deepen and imagine your inhale is one side of a box. Notice the pause after your inhale as another side, exhale steadily as the third side, and the pause before your inhale as your box comes to a close. Continue for several breaths allowing your mind to solely focus on your breath. If other thoughts start to come in, allow them to pass through and dismiss them on your next exhale.
Please stay tuned for next month’s post for Thrive Wellness updates and share this information with your friends. Invite them to subscribe to the PSL blog. Thrive Wellness monthly blogs will post at the end of each month.
About Heather Kennedy
Heather Kennedy is the Independent Living Resident Services Director at Glen Meadows Retirement Community in Glen Arm, Maryland. Heather has worked in a variety of roles at Glen Meadows over the past seven years, including six years in the Community Life department. Heather has a bachelor’s degree from Frostburg State University, is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist and is a licensed Assisted Living Manager. Heather lives in northern Baltimore County with her husband and two children.