This blog is the first in a series about staying strong and healthy so that you can pursue your next big adventure.
When people think about keeping their mind strong, they invariably mention mindfulness. There are many mind strengthening practices. Here are some basic ones that I have tried.
Mindfulness is one of the best ways to keep your mind strong and positive. As with all our blogs we look forward to you sharing your mind strengthening exercises below.
One of the best-known mindfulness practice is meditation. While the idea of meditation is daunting for some, anyone can get something out of this experience. Certainly, anything that I have read about meditation talks about its positive impacts and how it can change brain waves. Just so you know I am meditation and mindfulness amateur. Consider my advice as a primer from a learner. If I can do it, anyone can! Having said that, I do feel that it has helped me through some very dark days in my life, but I also confess to sometimes having “monkey brain” during meditation which is impossible to control.
Some meditation is better than no meditation so do not feel that you have to master a 2 hour sit down in order to say that you have actually meditated. Start with a very short duration. I started with 3 minutes and gradually increased that to 20 minutes. Morning is the best time for me before my brain starts processing all the multiple things that I need to do.
Three Kinds of Meditation
There are three kinds of meditation that I have read about and tested. I don’t think there is any “best” kind. If it works for you, use it. All three start with taking deep breaths to help you focus in on your self and to relax.
Guided Meditation – this is a meditation where someone talks you through a scenario while you focus on relaxing and visualizing what they are saying. Often there is music that accompanies this. A lot of the meditation apps use this technique. I have not personally used a meditation app so if you have, leave a comment below about your favourite app. I have experienced this with a meditation group run by Kristi Stangeland called My ParaVita https://myparavita.com/ . She has great free 5 minute introduction if you have never meditated before.
Concentrated Single Focus Meditation – this is the kind of meditation that I do most often. Practitioners like Pema Chodron, who is a Tibetan monk, engage in this kind of practice. Their methods are based on a Zen-like approach. This is a more challenging approach because you have to practice being in the moment and not thinking about a million other things that float through your mind.
Multi-focus Meditation – this is a meditation that I just became aware of through a book called The Art of the Impossible by Steven Kotler. He advocates single focus meditation as well but uses this kind of meditation to help stimulate creativity. The idea is to do the same kind of relaxation that you would do in single focus meditation and then let your mind take over and flash through all the thoughts that come up.
The trick is to not engage with any of the thoughts but just see it as a stream or a film flashing through your brain. If you think of something you must do in your day that is fine, but you don’t try to make up your to-do list just let the thoughts keep flowing. Kotler claims that when you are meditating you are not using your rational mind so you may make connections that you would never think about otherwise.
These are the three meditation practices that are most common. If meditation seems a bit challenging for you, it is still possible to experience some of the benefits of meditation thought incorporating simple mindfulness practices.
Other Mindfulness Practices
The goal of any mindfulness practice, including meditation is to be aware of your thoughts and ultimately to control them. This allows you to “see” the negative thoughts and eventually to be able to focus on the positive thoughts. You can do that just by relaxing and focusing on the moment. I believe that one of the best ways to practice mindfulness is to be in nature. When you focus on being in the moment and not on the past or the future it opens you up to so many wonderful experiences.
Here are examples of easy practices that you can incorporate into your days without having to set aside specific times.
– Going for a walk is a perfect time to practice mindfulness. Start with breathing deeply and then become distinctly aware of your body and the feelings that you are experiencing at that moment. Feel the sun on your face, the crunch of the pavement or gravel underfoot, the smells and sounds of your surroundings without trying to interpret them; just experience them.
– Take a couple of deep breaths. Go into yourself when you are just sitting or standing alone. Oprah talks about focusing on trees which is very calming. They are not doing anything, they just are. Feel that.
– Really sense a very common experience that you do repeatedly but really allow yourself to feel it. For example, if you are on an elevator, you can see the light and interior of the elevator, feel the experience of dropping, hear the sounds of the mechanisms. Do all of this rather than thinking about all the things that you will do when you reach your floor.
None of these mindfulness practices will last for very long – maybe 30 seconds to 5 minutes but you will be surprised how calming they can be.
So those are some thoughts on mindfulness and meditation. The trick is to incorporate them into your life so that they are easy and simple so that they become habitual. You will be amazed at how these experiences can change your attitude and any anxiety that you may be experiencing.
Please share your mindfulness practices and any other techniques that you find helpful. Let’s start a conversation as we share our Lifeshiift!