Mindfulness Activity #95
Relaxation Week-Day 1
Good Morning. Today I wanted to talk about the importance of following instructions in mindfulness practice. I’ve often had the experience of giving an instruction about what to pay attention to in a mindfulness practice and a participant will say something like, “I found it easier to imagine I was at the beach and then I was able to do it and I liked the practice.” If relaxation is your goal, that’s ok, but that is not really the only point of mindfulness training. The idea of a task or focus, especially if it is challenging, is what disciplines our mind to be able to focus effectively on demand. Mindfulness practice, the act of recognizing when our mind has strayed and gently bringing it back, is crucial. Since March, we have been doing lots of practices together designed to allow you to notice and regulate emotions, to get control of runaway thoughts, and to attend to what’s most important to you. People often write back, “I liked today’s “ or “not a fan of today’s practice.” Those are great observations, but know there is value in doing practices you do not like…that are hard. Just be gentle with yourself and do not give up and your experience of whichever types of practice you dislike tend to change over time.
Now, given that I said all that, you are probably worried about what’s in store for you today! Relax. Now that I have explained that mindfulness is more than practices designed to provide relaxation, I also want to note that relaxation is a perfect goal of mindfulness. It is just much more likely to work for you in the context of a regular practice that teaches you how to focus and what to do if your mind strays. We are going to spend the next week on mindfulness practices for relaxation. Just 30-60 total minutes of practice weekly has been shown to yield many health and wellness benefits I’ve highlighted before, including improved mood, improved concentration, better physical health, and lower reported stress levels. There is robust evidence that regular relaxation practices help people de-stress and reduce symptoms of depression.
So today we begin our mini-study in relaxation practices. For today’s practice, begin by lying on a mat, on the floor or the grass, or in your bed. This practice is designed to soothe you and to recharge your energy. As you are lying with eyes open or closed, take a few deep breaths in and out. Feel your stomach lengthen as your chest rises, then follow you exhale extending it. Cue up and click the following clip and listen to this composition while also staying connected to your breath. If you get distracted, begin to listen intently on your next inhale.
When you are done, take a minute to notice how your body feels after this practice. Try to make this feeling (relaxed, in the present, not worried about the next thing you need to do) a familiar place. Try to recognize a shift. When you have a worry thought, or start to get overwhelmed and anxious today, try to notice those sensations (heart racing, chest tightening, jaw clenching) and if you can take a deep breath and try to return to the feeling you experienced this morning after our practice.
Enjoy the day!