So you may be asking yourself, “What is mindfulness?” well, we all have those days, especially caregivers, when we seem to rush around mindlessly on “auto-pilot” with our to-do lists, and our brain concentrating on dozens of things at the same time. Everyday life is distracting our attention and pulling our energy in so many different directions, we find it hard to focus, concentrate or make choices. Mindfulness is a simple yet profound state of mind and body which is fully focused, self-aware and non-judgmental.
With our busy lifestyles, many of us are increasingly becoming aware of how our internal “autopilots” in rush mode can overload our minds and bodies and lead to tension, anxiety, stress and depression. Few of us know how to handle these difficult emotions yet mindfulness can bring us to our senses and live a more fully aware life as it focuses our attention on the present moment.
Mindfulness training involves exercises in deep breathing, learning how to meditate and mindful movement or body scan exercises. Let’s try them out!
First, we’ll practice deep breathing. Here’s what you’ll want to do:
1. Sit down or lay down in a comfortable position with your eyes closed.
2. Bring your attention to your breathing, as you inhale, feel how your belly expands. When you exhale notice how your belly relaxes. Continue this for about 5 minutes.
3. When you notice your mind starts to wander, bring your attention back to your breathing.
Deep breathing should help your mind relax and prepare for meditation.
Next we move onto meditation.
1. Find a quiet area where you can sit in a comfortable position with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight up.
2. Start with some deep breathing.
3. Bring your awareness to your thoughts as they come and go. Be aware of how some thoughts move on quickly and some thoughts fade in and out but continuously come back.
4. Just sit without focus or expectation for a moment. Be completely open to whatever comes into your awareness. Let it come and go, observing stillness. Allow yourself to just “be”, moment by moment.
Meditation should focus and quiet your mind which will result in a deeper state of self-awareness and thinking. Ultimately you should feel relaxed, renewed and recharged after a meditation.
And finally, the body scan exercise.
1. Lie or sit in a comfortable place and allow your eyes to close gently.
To begin the body scan, bring your attention to the lowest part of your body which is the feet or toes. Notice the feeling and sensation in that area.
As you work your way up your body focus on breathing in the good thoughts and exhaling the bad. Make sure you are relaxing the area that you are focusing on.
If you attention wanders, bring your mind back to your breathing and area of your body you left off at.
The body scan exercise should physically relax you. You should feel light and refreshed after a body scan, allowing you to move on with your daily tasks of care giving.
Mindfulness practice has many benefits to you, the caregiver, particularly with stress and anxiety but it is known to also help with boosting the immune system, sleeping longer and deeper and decreasing negative feelings like anger or tension.