Mindfulness in the New Normal
Updated: Nov 6, 2020
Adapting to “the new normal” has left most of us feeling pretty abnormal. But the best part about our thoughts and feelings is that they are manageable through practice. So how can we manage our anxiety, stress, and confusion? One word: mindfulness.
noun: focusing one's full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations while allowing judgments to roll by.
AKA: Living in the moment.
Connectivity of mind, body, and spirit is key to alleviating stress and anxiety.
[ "Pilates is complete coordination of the mind, body, and spirit" - Joseph Pilates ]
Incorporating mind-body-spirit practices such as Pilates, yoga, and Tai Chi requires your attention in the present moment, keeping your consciousness glued to the here and now, and allowing your mind a little breathing room from what may usually occupy your thoughts.
Speaking of breathing, awareness of breath is an essential element in fostering mindfulness, and you'll find it as a central focus in all mindful practice. This makes Pilates a powerful tool, where breath is fuel, power, and connectivity, fostering the mind-body connection.
But why not run from anxieties at a 10.0 incline on the treadmill, or sweat them away lifting dumbbells? Of course, all movement can be mindful with practice, but most conventional forms of exercise are not in nature. Your full attention is far from necessary when climbing Big Ben on the stair-stepper--you might not even notice when you “reach the top” and you start climbing the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The fact is that it’s almost impossible to prevent your mind from wandering while doing conventional aerobic exercises because these exercises do not rely on a mind-body connection. Your full attention simply isn’t required, and while this time may once have been used to mentally plan meals, to-do lists, and consider what to get Uncle Ted for his birthday, the unpredictability of the current situation may now flood your thoughts instead. So do your mind a favor, and find the mindful movement practice best for you.
Okay, you’re practicing mindfulness through movement, but to really reap the benefits, it must be practiced daily. Adding mindful meditation to your morning or nightly routine might just be the solution. The best part of this strategy is that it can be done virtually anywhere and in just a few minutes. Try this simple method to get started.
1. Get comfortable. Take a seat. You’re going to be here for a bit, so make sure you chose a solid, comfortable place to begin, crossing your legs or resting the bottoms of your feet on the floor.
2. Tune your posture. Sit up straight, but not stiff. Allow for the natural curvature of your spine.
3. Bring awareness to your arms. Rest your hands on your legs, facing upward or down, whatever feels most natural.
4. Soften your gaze or close your eyes. Allow your chin and gaze to drift gently downward, or close your eyes. The key here is to allow whatever appears before your eyes to simply be, without focusing on it.
5. Notice your breath. Shift attention to the physical sensation of breathing. Feel the air moving through your nose or mouth, and your belly or chest as it rises and falls.
6. Wander and return. It is inevitable that your attention will wander to other thoughts. Imagine these thoughts as clouds on a windy day. Give them a second, and allow them to be gently pushed away by the wind, ultimately bringing attention back to the physical sensation of breathing.
7. Gently open your eyes or lift your gaze. You can use an app like Insight Timer, which signals the end of your meditation with a peaceful gong, an alarm on your phone with a soothing melody, or simply meditate until you’re ready to be finished.
8. Take inventory. Notice how you feel afterward, physically and mentally.
Movement and mediation are great practices to enhance mindfulness. Applying what you learn through these strategies into your daily life is what will ultimately fulfill the goal of managing stress and anxiety. Apply what you have gathered in your mindful practice in everyday situations.
[ Use breath to create space between yourself and your reactions. ]
That intimidating email you just received from your boss? Reread it and process instead of firing off an immediate response. The less-than-satisfactory report card your child just handed over? Breathe, take a minute to internally draft your thoughts, and then respond, no need to fly off the handle. Create space to process thoughts and feelings. You’ll be amazed at what a little mindfulness practice can do.