I am again honored to have Alyssa Pelletier, therapist in training, write this month’s blog post for my “Thoughts from the Couch” mental health blog. Alyssa provides tips on how to incorporate the practice of mindfulness into your life and I am excited to share her suggestions with you.
Mindfulness is simply paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment. Mindfulness doesn’t have to be an hour long project or a change in our schedule. It is simply redirection of our focus to realign ourselves and get grounded. Below are 5 mindfulness exercises that anyone can do throughout their day to help alleviate anxiety and stress. The only thing that is required is the courage to pay attention. Read through the exercises below, and try just one (or more!) that resonates most with you. See how powerful even 60 seconds of paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment can make a difference to your body and mind.
During times of panic, we often hear someone telling us to “just breathe” or “take a deep breath.” We all know this is the last thing we want to be told to do in the moment. However, preventative breathing can be the easiest way to avoid those panic attacks or moments of immense anxiety. Although you may have hopes to wake up every morning to meditate with a cup of tea and practice an hour of yoga, it isn’t always realistic. But, taking that extra minute that you may be laying down in bed and make it your “breathing” time can be incredibly beneficial. Simply focusing your mind towards your breath, just noticing it and not changing it’s pattern. By doing this you can have a signal into where you are in your body. Is your breath short and shallow? Or are you able to breathe deeply and easily? Simply paying attention to your breath and allowing conversation with it. By practicing this daily, we will find more times that our mind wanders towards checking in with our breath. Maybe it’s a moment we begin to feel anxiety and can take a few cleansing breaths to rebalance? Or perhaps we are rushing from moment to moment and can allow the breath to bring us back to the now. Mindful breathing can be a savior!
This one is another simple favorite, as we all need to eat everyday! Pick a meal that you tend to rush through, or are distracted during. Perhaps you and your family rush through dinner with the nighttime news on. Maybe you nearly skip breakfast and just grab a bar while you run out the door. Your food is your body’s source of nourishment, and the energy you put towards cooking and eating it is a source of nourishment as well. Make sure you are present during this time. When you are cooking, what does the texture of the food feel like? Is it warm in your mouth? See if you can chew each bite at least 30 times before swallowing. Be present and use all of your senses when consuming your meals. Not only will it be more enjoyable, but this will help improve your digestion and your mental wellness as well!
When we are young we learn all about our five senses. But as we grow older, it’s something that becomes second nature in our lives. However, honing in on our five senses can be an incredible tool to recharge the body and regulate our systems. Focusing on our five senses can be as simple as driving in the car without music so you can listen to the sounds of our journey. You can also focus on the feeling of our fingers hitting the keyboard as we spend endless hours on zoom. If you have a couple minutes to spare you can follow the prompt below for an incorporation of all of your senses. Wherever you are, make note of the following:
5 things you see
4 things you feel
3 things you hear
2 things you smell
1 thing you taste
If you struggle to identify something listed above, identify your favorite. For example, if you can only identify one thing you smell, what is your favorite smell? By doing this, you are still able to connect your mind and body.
This one can show incredible long term effects! We all have daily chores such as brushing our teeth, taking the trash out, feeding the dog. But what is going on in our mind during these tasks? We probably are letting autopilot run the show. We need to check in with the narrative that goes on. A good example is if you are brushing your teeth and looking at yourself in the mirror. What thoughts are repeating as you see your reflection? Are they positive? Are you thinking about the meeting you have at 10:00 am that you don’t want to attend? Are you thinking about how you can’t forget to take the chicken out of the freezer before you leave? Simply pick one task you choose to focus on daily. Be present and allow your mind to focus back on this task. Find gratitude in what you enjoy seeing in your reflection. Think about how brushing your teeth allows you to feel clean and refreshed. Take power back over your mind, be present, and you’ll easily end up being grateful.
This practice is great to utilize right before bed. It helps to relax your body and prepare for sleep, while also building in time away from your phone or any screens. When you are ready to fall asleep, lay flat only our back with your arms by your side. Focus your attention first to your toes. Allow your toes to relax and let go of any tension you may be feeling. Next move up to your feet, relaxing and releasing. Mindfully allow yourself to do this and focus on each body part as you slowly make your way to focusing on the top of your head. Focus your attention on each part for at least a few seconds, making sure all of the tension is released and you aren’t rushing through. At then end, you’ll be left with a sense of peace and a deeper connection between your body and mind.
Try to incorporate one, or all, of the practices above and see how your daily life changes. Even if you start with one practice once a week, you’ll begin to notice a shift over time. To recharge and realign, be present and purposeful!
Alyssa Pelletier is a therapist-in-training, virtual assistant, and recovery support specialist based out of Connecticut. Alyssa is studying Marriage and Family Therapy and will be graduating in May of 2022. She hopes to combine her training in yoga and mindfulness with her love for the outdoors to support those suffering from addiction with holistic, nature-based modalities. Connect with Alyssa on Instagram at @alyssaraetherapy.