Instructions for "Brush Your Teeth!":
Before I did this exercise I thought brushing my teeth was a single action—I did it, and it was done. After doing this exercise I was amazed at how much was actually going on while I brushed my teeth! There are so many sensations to be felt, smells to notice, images to see, all of which I had never really paid any attention to before.
Doing this task made me wonder how many other things in life were passing me by because I was not really paying attention to them - life is often richer and fuller than we think!
It's also worth noting that the time I spend paying attention to brushing my teeth, is time I am not worrying about the day to come, or mulling over what happened yesterday.
- Print the instructions below and stick them on your bathroom mirror to help you remember.
"Practicing mindfulness while engaged in daily activities helps with concentration (and therefore, memory), efficiency, and stress." - Debra E Burdick
Instructions for "Tuning in to Another Station":
Last week you practiced paying attention to thoughts as they arose, and listening to them without judgment, as if they were on a radio playing in the background. This week, you will take it a step further...
The purpose of this practice is to help you become aware of your old stories and get accustomed to the idea that you can change them at any time. This is not to say that these old stories are bad—quite often there is a valuable message or lesson in the story that will be helpful for us. However, mulling over the same stories again and again can have negative consequences such as a bout of low mood or anxiety.
It can be quite surprising to notice just how much time we can spend mulling over past stories and events. We humans are naturally story-telling creatures and it's through story that we bond with each other and understand the world. Many anthropologists argue that we are more inclined to notice the negative as it was how we were able to keep ourselves safe from predators as we evolved, BUT, it is important to ask yourself — if that is how you want to spend your valuable time now?
It's worth remembering that humans are also creators, and that each new moment offers you a choice to create a better future.
"The stories we create influence the stories of other people, those stories give rise to still others, and soon we find meaning and connection within a web of story making and story living. Through our personal myths, we help to create the world we live in, at the same time that it is creating us." Dan P. McAdams
Instructions for "Thoughts on the Radio":
You have just taken a valuable step along the way to releasing the hold your thoughts have on you. As story telling creatures, we humans are constantly narrating our own lives. This serves to help us understand the world, get along in it, and avoid danger.
Where this becomes tricky is when we stop seeing these narratives as just story, and start thinking they are truth. For example, if my mum is 10 minutes late picking me up from school when I am 6, I will spend that 10 minutes narrating what is happening from my 6 year old point of view. — I may think that my mum doesn't love me, that I am not important enough to be remembered, that I am alone in the world, and that it is a scary place. These thoughts and the emotional reactions that accompany them can make their way into my psyche, and they will become part of the way I live my life. I may continue as an adult to life with the conviction that I am not loveable, I am not important, I am alone, etc.
My rational, adult mind can se the many flaws in my 6 year old thinking immediately. I can see that my mum being late means she probably had trouble starting the car, or finding her keys, whatever, no big deal. But a 6 year old mind is not rational, and it is a known fact that we establish much of how we see our worlds before the age of 8! Our subconscious minds are full of ideas that we have made up when we were kids, and they form the basis of how we live today.
Don't be disheartened by this, the good news is that we have the power to change how we live, and by doing exercises such as the simple one above, you have contributed to that change by reducing taking control over your thoughts and their influence over you. It's never too late to make change happen!
"...our thoughts influence our feelings and body sensations and are themselves influenced by our feelings and body sensations. But that does not make our thoughts true, no matter how compelling they may feel." - Williams, Teasdale, Segal, Kabat-Zinn
Instructions for Take Three...:
A short break like this gives you a little mental space, and grounds you in the reality of what is going on around you. Instead of being in the 'productive' mode of thinking and problem solving which can be tiring, enjoy some time in 'receiving' mode.
"We don't need the mind to narrate all the events of our life. We don't need the mind to comment internally on everything and everyone we encounter. this narration, these comments, separates us from just experiencing life as it is." - Jan Chozen Bays, MD.
Instructions for "Sole Sensation":
--Along with setting a reminder to do this practice several times a day, do it if you notice you're feeling anxious or upset.
You have just practiced giving your mind a break from the busyness of constantly thinking and analysing, and allowing it a chance to settle down a bit. The feet are as far away from the head as you can get on your body, and when you direct your focus to the feet, you are rebalancing the body, and stepping away from any anxiety that may be brewing in your mind.
"Placing your awareness in the bottoms of your feet will lead to mental stability and emotional serenity, if you practice it diligently." - Jan Chozen Bays, M.D.
The Weekly Minute is a blog I write each week with the aim of providing legitimate tools to help promote positive mental health.
The collection of short, practical mindfulness and therapy tools for self-reflection and self-improvement, can equip people to take their mental well-being into their own hands, and improve their quality of life.
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