Mindfulness Monday

Mindfulness Monday: More Mindful Posts

For a while now, I’ve been on a three post a week kick.  It’s been just over a year of Mindfulness Mondays, Tasty Tuesdays, and Fitness Fridays.

Going forward, I’ll be playing with writing one post a week and making it more substantial.  A new post will be published every Friday, so keep your eyes peeled for The Joyful Gym Rat on your social media feed or, better yet, subscribe to get posts delivered straight to your inbox!

I also post relevant articles and other info regularly to The Joyful Gym Rat Facebook page so like and/or follow to get your feel good fix!

Until Friday….have a great week!

T says “Oh my, change is so exciting!”
Mindfulness Monday

Mindfulness Monday: Mindfulness in the Moonlight

Last week’s post gave some ideas on how to incorporate a mindfulness practice into the morning.  This week we’ll focus on some practices that can be integrated after the sun goes down.

Evening is a great time to invest in a little mindfulness practice.  Rituals at bedtime can result in better quality sleep, which has a significant impact on overall wellness.

The following are three ways to find your center, no matter which side of the bed you sleep on:

-Be Still With a Body Scan: Starting at the crown of the head and working down, systematically relax muscles from head to toe.  Notice any areas of tension and see how you can relax them, either by changing position or simply focusing on releasing.  This is usually best performed with eyes closed, but a soft focus on the ceiling also works.

-Say Goodnight with Gratitude: Think of three good things that happened during the day.  This is a nice way to train your mind towards the positive and is great of you tend to be a night time worrier.

-Lounge with Your “Legs Up the Wall”: Try a little yoga with Legs Up the Wall Pose.  Sit with one hip pressing against a wall or headboard.  Spin around and place the backs of your legs on the wall.  Breathe deeply.  This pose is lovely after being on your feet all day, as well as post travel.

For more ideas head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

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Photo credit Mary Ellen Blacker



Mindfulness Monday

Mindfulness Monday: Morning Mindfulness

Whether you are a night owl or a lark, mixing a little mindfulness practice into your morning is a great way to start the day.  We plan when we wake up, why not plan how we wake up?

Every morning is a fresh opportunity to experiment with a little neuroplasticity.  Because the mind tends to be quieter first thing in the morning, most people find it easier to practice at this time.  On the flip side, if you are someone who naturally wakes up on high alert or is going through a stressful period, practicing in the morning can help break the anxious cycle.

The pushback I get when recommending this is usually lack of time.  There is a zen proverb that goes something like “If you don’t have time to meditate for an hour, meditate for two.”  Though I love the gist of this, I also understand what it is like to have a screaming toddler banging down your door (who also happens to be a lark like his mama….)

Here a a few ideas on how to begin the day mindfully, right in the comfort of your own bed:

-Read and Rehydrate:  Keep a bottle of water and an inspirational book next to your bed.  Set your alarm earlier than you usually do.  As soon as you wake, prop some pillows to read and sip.  You’ll start the day with the two things your brain needs most: water and positive thinking.

-App It Up: There are some excellent meditation apps available, and many for free.  Download one to play as soon as you wake.  Earbuds are helpful if you are sleeping with a partner, and sitting up can be helpful to keep you from falling back asleep.

-Yawn and Do Yoga: Take that instinctual morning stretch a step further and hit a few yoga poses before your feet hit the floor.  Pull your knees in towards your chest and curl up like a ball to stretch your back, take a spinal twist to either side, then flip over and hit child’s pose.  Take deep full breaths as you move.  If you sleep with a partner you may want to take your mini practice to the floor or, better yet, have them join in!

For more ideas head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

You look so comfy T….how about sleeping in this morning?


Mindfulness Monday

Mindfulness Monday: The Upside of Awareness

At the age of almost 3, T flips his lid pretty regularly.  Lucky for me (but mostly for him), I came across a little piece of knowledge that helps in understanding the plethora of irrational behavior he spills forth these days.

I became familiar with Dr. Dan Siegel’s work while researching meditation for my own purposes.  Interestingly enough, his analogy of “flipping our lid” is equally helpful in understanding stereotypical toddler behavior.

Siegel uses the model of making a fist with the fingers wrapped over the thumb.  The bottom of the palm is the brainstem, which controls involuntary function and instinctive action.

The thumb tucked inside represents the mid brain, where emotions are stored and the fight or flight reflex is triggered.

The back of the hand and fingers represent the cerebral cortex, where higher thinking occurs.  Rational thinking, empathy, kindness, and problem solving all occur in this part of the brain.

When emotions are overwhelming (as is often the case with toddlers and, if we are honest, sometimes their parents…) the communication between the prefrontal cortex and the mid brain becomes severed.  Siegel uses the illustration of raising the fingers up straight, essentially “flipping the lid”.

The stronger the emotion, the harder it is to access logical thinking.  So, what can we do to keep calm and keep the cerebral cortex online during times of stress?  You guessed it, pick up a mindfulness practice!

The good news is we adults have a leg up on toddlers because the human brain isn’t fully developed until sometime between 21-30 years of age (looking back some of the choices I made in my 20’s, I feel like maybe for me it was closer to 30….)

Since I’ve been big into metaphors lately (Metaphor Monday does have a nice ring to it…) here is one that might help.  Picture a pool table.  As toddlers we are like the cue ball.  If the cue is our emotions, when we are struck, we get taken on a ride that causes us to knock into the other balls (reactionary action).

As we grow older and gain awareness, we are more like the person controlling the cue.  Our vision pans out and our wider awareness allows us to take in the whole table.  We may not be able to completely control the movement of the cue ball or the activity of the other balls it hits into, but we no longer feel thrust about widely.  We can observe the action in our brain without being completely swept away.

Ok, so I am no Dan Siegel but hopefully you get the picture.  Now off to teach my little cue ball how to pee on the potty instead of the rug…..

For more ideas head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

Photo credit https://pixabay.com/en/billiards-balls-table-cloth-play-2795499/



Mindfulness Monday

Mindfulness Monday: Teachings and Tomato Plants

The past few weeks have brought some new challenges.  I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend of basking in the familiar and comfortable.  For a few reasons, and none so interesting or dramatic as to be worth sharing here, this did not happen.  I was a little put out about this until a few tomato plants in our garden set me straight.

You see, our tomato plants weren’t flowering.  Upon further research we realized that they were too content.  Too much nitrogen in the soil had squelched their desire to blossom.  They would have been happy continuing on the way they were forever.  Never producing their delicious fruit, just hanging out in garden box number two.  So we took away the nitrogen, trimmed back some of the lush foliage, and basically made their lives a bit more taxing to inspire their development.  As I trimmed, I wondered if the challenges I’ve been facing would inspire my own…..

A stretch of a metaphor?  Maybe, but it was too perfect and too plant-centric not to document on this plant based blog.  So, next time your life throws a curve ball, remember it might be encouraging you to blossom and produce something delicious beautiful.

For more ideas head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

Sorry guys, but it’s for your own good.  I promise we will treat you to some more nitrogen real soon…..