Mindfulness Monday

Mindfulness Monday: Practicing Kindness

This post builds on last week’s post, with kindness being the main theme.  Usually when we hear the phrase “be kind” we immediately think of it as something we need to do for others.  While that is true, being kind to ourselves is just as important and will make emanating kindness in daily life easier.  Don’t believe me?  Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism all support the notion of “Ahimsa” which loosely translates to non-violence, or non-harm.  The belief is that, since we are all connected, harming another equates to harming one’s self.  Conversely, harming one’s self equates to harming another.  So what is one to do if harming one’s self and another is off the table?  Be kind.

Seems simple, right?  Well, you and I both know it is not.  It’s all well and good until that a-hole cuts you off on the highway or you are passed over for that promotion at work. Unfortunately, our brains are naturally wired to focus on the negative.  Back in the day, it was what kept humans alive when we were being chased by lions.  To focus on the negative, or threat, was more beneficial than paying attention to the good stuff.  So, instead of giving the a-hole who cut you off the benefit of the doubt, you might be more apt to surge with anger at the threat to your ego.  Rather than looking at losing that promotion at work objectively, you could use it as ammo to shoot yourself down for never being good enough.  And it’s not your fault, it’s just how your brain is built!

There are, however, a few things you can do to dial down that negativity bias while amping up feelings of peace and contentment.  You may not be levitating with feelings of exquisite bliss forevermore, but they might help you to be less of an a-hole to yourself and everyone around you.  Interested?  Read on:

-Meditate: Ok so, yes, I realize I sound like a broken record every Monday but if there were a magic pill, meditation would be it.  The benefits of sitting for just 12 minutes a day have been proven effective more times than any pill on the market.  And best of all, no side effects!  How does meditation help with kindness?  When the stress response is quieted you are able to see situations more clearly and act appropriately.  Not to say you’ll never be angry, but you might be more likely to express that anger properly, and in a way you won’t regret later.

-Exercise accordingly: Not too little, not too much. Being kind to yourself when it comes to fitness means doing right by your body.  Too little exercise has been linked to depression.  Too much exercise can cause excessive anxiety and sleeplessness.  Neither one these states put us in an ideal position to be open and available for our loved ones. Take the time to be kind to your body and you’ll find being kind to those around you comes more naturally.

-Realize that your thoughts are not always true: Pay attention to the mental chatter that goes on in your head.  Just because you think it doesn’t mean it is true.  Often, our thoughts are old constructs that kept us safe as children but may not necessarily be helpful to our more aware adult selves.  Chuck the unhelpful and outdated stuff to make more room for the beneficial stuff.

Want to learn more about how mindfulness can help your health?  Check out the Joyful Gym Rat on Facebook and Twitter.

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T being kind to Dee by sneaking her food