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Mindfulness

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What is mindfulness? I love this topic and the practice; yet even I have a difficult time finding the words to describe what mindfulness succinctly.  In simple terms, mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on purpose.  The concept is that you control your mind/thoughts instead of letting them control you.  Mindfulness has been around for hundreds of years and is often traced back to Buddhism.  The literal Sanskrit translation is awareness.  

Mindfulness is a skill and thus requires practice.  There are six core mindfulness skills according to the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy model, which are broken into “what” and “how” skills. The “what skills”, or what you need to do in order to be mindful, are to observe, describe, and participate.  The “how skills” encourage us to be non-judgmental, effective, and one mindfully in the moment.  Observing is about noticing your internal and external surroundings in a curious manner.  Describing encourages factual statements that everyone would agree with (note this requires you to be non-judgmental and thus becomes effective in reducing anger and gossip). Participating requires you to get out of your head and into the moment, targeting the anxiety that people often feel in new and/or social situations.  In order to be effective in the what skills, you need to apply the how skills. Using them together allows more time between a trigger and a response which reduces anxiety, depression, obsessions, and maladaptive behavior patterns such as self harm, substance abuse, and aggression. 

Examples of mindfulness practice are limitless, almost anything can be a mindfulness practice if done with intent and focus. Taking a walk is a practice if you open your eyes, take in your surroundings through all 5 senses and block any other thoughts from entering your mind.  Eating is often done mindLESSly; however eating mindfully-with no distractions and full awareness has been shown to reduce binge eating and overall meal enjoyment.  Art, dancing, building, meditating, breathing, applying lotion, showering, listening to music…all can be done with full awareness and can increase your ability to live in the moment fully, thus reducing depression and anxiety.

If you need to plan, as is essential in life, mindfulness would tell you to sit down with pen and paper and plan with your full attention. Take that time to worry, think and make decisions; then return to the here and now.  Mindfulness would also tell you that if you need to feel sad, you should reminisce and be sad as is justified; then return to the here and now.  As you notice your self judgments, mindfulness tells you not to judge your judging! 

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Stop Appologizing!

Stop apologizing!

No really, stop being overly apologetic! We live in a culture that expects constant apologies, which leads to a nation of people who struggle with establishing boundaries.  Consider the examples:

At home:

               “I’m sorry to be annoying, I was just wondering if you could take out the trash”

               “Sorry I’m late! Traffic was a mess!”

               “Hey, I’m sorry to bug you…but when you finish your homework can you come help me watch your sister so I can run to the grocery?”

At work:

               “I’m sorry, I know you’re busy but I was wondering if you had time to meet with me today?”

               “I feel terrible for asking but is there any way you could call that client for me?”

               “Sorry I wasn’t here for that meeting, my kids were sick and I had to stay home from school with them.”

In public:

               (You accidentally bump into someone and they aren’t mad) “I’m so sorry! I lost my balance.”

               “I’m sorry to be a bother but do you have the time?”

               “Sorry! I didn’t know you were sitting there; I would have never invaded your space like that.”

Can you see what all of these statements have in common? Yes they all start with an apology. But also notice how common they are…AND they are also all scenarios that do not require an apology! Think of the purpose of an apology: to convey to another person the guilt that you feel as a result of an action you chose to make.   I hesitate to think that anyone should be made to feel guilty in any of the above scenarios.  Guilt is only justified if your own behavior violates your own morals or values.  Examples being if you have harmed another person or you damage another person’s property.  Missing work as a result of caring for your child, having to ask a stranger for the time, asking a person to do something that falls within their job description, and requesting the help of a family member are all appropriate actions that should not make you feel guilt. 

I offer you a suggestion, say “thank you” whenever you want to say “I’m sorry”. I realize this sounds strange; however consider the same scenarios in reverse:

At home:

               “Can you take out the trash?” (after they do) “Thank you

               “Traffic was really stressful, thanks so much for being understanding”

               “When you finish your homework I need you to come help me watch your sister so I can run to the grocery, I’d really appreciate it”

At work:

               “I was wondering if you had time to meet with me today?” (if/when they do, say you appreciate them taking time out of their day for you)

               “At some point today, I need _____ called. Thanks, you’re awesome!”

               “It means a lot to me that I was able to stay home since my kids were sick, thank you.”

In public:

               (You accidentally bump into someone and they aren’t mad) Laugh it off and strike up a conversation.

               “Do you have the time?” (When they tell you the time, thank them)

               “I didn’t know you were sitting there. Let me slide down and make room”…then introduce yourself and exchange pleasantries.

Even imagining the second set of situations, I feel a calmness and lightness in the air.  I feel we have become so apologetic and so fearful in our culture, that we lose out on opportunities to chat with strangers/neighbors/coworkers.  In the workplace, people villainize upper management and don’t share their personal lives at all which makes the job feel cold and impersonal.  And in the home, resentments build because there is a lack of teamwork.  If we can begin to share ourselves emotionally, connect with those around us and work together, I believe we could experience a much greater enjoyment in life.

THANK YOU for taking time to read this!