Mindfulness Monday

Mindfulness Monday: Everything Is(n’t only) Awesome

Do you know the song Everything is Awesome?  Since watching The Lego Movie four years ago during the worst of times, it became sort of a sarcastic anthem for me and J.

Sometimes it takes a paradigm shifting event in life to realize that not feeling awesome all the time is ok.  And feeling several seemingly opposing things one time is normal.  And embracing the entire spectrum of emotion is just part of the human experience.  Whether it be due to culture or individual capacity, navigating one’s internal world can be tricky.

You may have heard the term “emotional alchemy” before, but I would like to present the idea of “emotional addition”.  By allowing yourself to feel several feelings at once and acknowledge each one you may create something more useful than either alone.  The whole may be greater than the sum of it’s parts.  For the past four years in our family, the new year has brought about a strange mix of emotions.  Instead of fighting them back, this year I played with blending them together.  Here is what I came up with:

Sadness + Gratefulness = Compassion

Give it a try, it’s kind of fun.  Like blending paint colors for your soul.  The following is an emotional addition meditation:

-Find a spot where you can close your eyes and get comfortable for 12 minutes (any amount of time is better than none, but 12 minutes has been proven to be the sweet spot for short meditation sequences…)

-Bring awareness to your breath.  Once breathing deeply and regularly, notice any emotion that arises without pushing it away.  The goal isn’t to “feel better”, just to feel.

-Notice where you feel these emotions in your body and, if helpful, physically place a hand where you feel sensation (ex. sadness might express physically as a heavy feeling in the heart, nervousness a tightening in the stomach, etc.)

-Notice if you can feel several emotions simultaneously and what else arises if you do.

-Resist the urge to “do anything” with these emotions, just let them hang out and shift naturally.

-At the end of your time, gradually bring your awareness back to the present.  It may be helpful to jot down some notes on your experience to solidify the experience.

For more musings on mindfulness, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook or follow on Twitter!

T never saw the movie but still thinks Legos are awesome……





Mindfulness Monday

Mindfulness Monday: Sticky Brain? Roll Out Your Sticky Mat

When we are down in the dumps and stuck in rumination, we are often poor judges of what will make us feel better (pints of ice cream and a Netflix binge anyone?)  Research on positive psychology has proven time and again that this is just part of being human.  Not to say that a treat and Netflix binge is never warranted, but if you find yourself falling back on these old coping mechanisms while simultaneously falling further into a pit of despair it may be time to try something different.

Neuropathways run deep and ditching old patterns while creating new ones is not a walk in the park….or is it?  Next time you are feeling low and want to run and hide, play with stepping just a little outside of your comfort zone and get moving.  A little nurturing movement can bring about a lot of shift.  The key is to be gentle enough with yourself that it feels supportive but engaging enough that it gets you out of your head and into your body.  Here are a few ideas for getting unstuck:

-Walk or hike outside: Fresh air, nature, and exercise all in one convenient package.  If you are lucky enough to live somewhere near scenic views this can be a great way to remind yourself of how big the world is and give you a bird’s eye view of your problems (rather than looking at them through the lens of a microscope).

-Hit up a yoga class: Honestly, I am an introverted yogini through and through.  Sometimes I feel like I could practice in my own little world for days on end.  However, when I am feeling stuck, I make sure to haul myself out to a class.  Practicing with others can be a great way to inspire an energetic shift while still honoring yourself and working from where you are at.

-Dance your cares away: If dancing wasn’t man’s first way of releasing emotion and shifting stuck energy, it has to be close to it.  Little is more primal or more satisfying.  It requires just enough focus to shift your awareness outward but still allows for creative expression of what is within.

For more about the mind-body connection, as well as a variety of other topics I write about, visit the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook or follow on Twitter!

Head into nature for a bit of nurture….


Mindfulness Monday

Mindfulness Monday: Mindlessness Monday

These days, there is an awful lot of talk about being mindful.  Did you know mindlessness, or daydreaming, can be just as important to one’s health and happiness? Like anything, the key is in how you do it.  Most of us have experienced having an “aha moment” while doing something random, like brushing our teeth.  There is a reason for this.

Studies have shown that intentional mind-wandering (read: consciously choosing or being mindful about being mindless) can help unlock the pre-frontal cortex and enhance creative thinking ability.  However, this only works if you have been mindful, or fully engaged in the problem you are trying to solve, beforehand.  You know when you’ve been working so long on a complex problem that your brain feels as if it may explode?  That is a great time to engage in a little mindlessness.

Here are a few mindless activities that will give you the most bang for your buck and, hopefully, the answer you seek:

-Engage in repetitive exercise: Walking, running, biking, and swimming are some great examples of repetitive exercise.  Choose something that allows you to enter a flow-like state but does not require much thought.  You may just solve your conundrum while simultaneously doing good for your body!

-Clean the house: Vacuum the floors, wash the dishes, dust the shelves.  Keep it repetitive and resist any urge to use your precious mental energy to redecorate.

-Take a shower: Who among us hasn’t had a great idea in the shower?  This is a classic way to let your mind wander.

For more about the mind, as well as a variety of other topics I write about,  visit the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook or follow on Twitter!

T likes to solve his problems while skipping stones….
Mindfulness Monday

Mindful Monday: Amazing Adaptogens

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with herbs (the kinds that are legal in all 50 states…).  Whether you want to relax or need sustained energy, adaptogens are a great tool.  I got hip to these plants when trying to bring my hormones back to balance after having my first child.  I am usually not the type of person to blindly follow a suggestion from an employee at a health food store,  but being at the end of my rope I did just that.  Turns out the lady knew what she was talking about.  Adaptogens are the bomb.  Since then I’ve been studying up on them and having fun playing with different types.

What are they?  They are plants that protect the body from stress, both mental and physical.  They came into the spotlight back in the 40’s when the Soviet Union’s Ministry of Health was looking for something that would help soldiers more easily endure adverse conditions.  They were later used by athletes to enhance physical and mental performance and have more recently been brought to popular consciousness.

Curious about ways to incorporate adaptogens into your own healthy lifestyle?  Read on:

-Try some tea: You can find bagged herbal teas with either a single or combination of adaptogenic herbs at most health food stores or online.  Prefer loose leaf?  I love cold brewing mine in a french press and leaving it in the fridge for at least 8 hours (or overnight) for maximum effect.  Some popular teas are Holy Basil (also known as Tulsi), Skullcap, and Reishi mushroom (yes, some mushrooms have adaptogenic properties too!)

-Cop some capsules: To be honest, capsules are my least favorite way to consume adaptogens.  I would rather enjoy a cup of tea than feel like I am taking medicine.  However, if you are looking for something easy and quick, they are a useful option.

-Take a tincture: Tinctures are kind of a happy medium between tea and capsules.  You can take a dropper full and hold it under your tongue for 30 – 60 sec and swallow or just add it your favorite beverage.  Keep in mind tinctures tend to be stronger than tea, so be sure to read the directions on the bottle.

For more on adaptogens, as well as a variety of other topics I write about,  visit the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook or follow on Twitter!

Be like this deer who ate all our tomato plants and embrace nature’s bounty….explore adaptogens!
Mindfulness Monday

Mindfulness Monday: The Gut-Brain Connection

It appears that the health of our gut can have a major impact on emotional well-being.  It’s only logical that belly aches and bad moods go hand in hand, but the science goes deeper than that.  The gut is home to the enteric nervous system or, as it is often called, “the second brain”.  Once thought to exist solely for the purpose of digesting food, as scientists learn more about it’s intricacy, it is ostensible that its job is far more complex.

Though the gut can’t develop thoughts on its own, it does “talk” to the brain which in turn may influence one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (giving a whole new meaning to “you are what you eat”…..).  Though it’s still unclear how deep this connection goes, there is reason to believe that having a healthy gut may help create a healthy mental state.  The following are some ideas to nurture your mind, via your gut:

-Procure probiotic-rich foods: Give your gut something it can work with.  The probiotics found in fermented foods, such as saurkraut, have been shown to increase healthy gut bacteria.  To help these bacteria thrive, choose whole plant foods instead of processed foods.

-Consume carminatives: Incorporating carminative herbs is an easy way to support good digestion.  Cinnamon, ginger, peppermint, fennel, anise, cardamom, and coriander are just a few of the many options for improving digestion while expanding your palate.

-Move more often: Among its many benefits, exercise has recently been back in the spotlight after recent studies have linked it to improving gut flora.

For more on the mind-gut connection, as well as a variety of other topics I write about,  visit the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook or follow on Twitter!

Avocado pudding makes T’s tummy (and face) happy!