We tend to spend a lot of time worrying about the future or ruminating about the past. When I work with people in my therapy practice, I see it a lot (and I’m guilty of it myself). It can make us feel disconnected — and no doubt the people around us feel it too. We don’t always need to be “present,” but sometimes it helps to dial back into the moment to reduce stress or feel grounded.
I’m not a big meditator, (in the quiet-room, lotus-position kind of way), but I think weaving certain exercises into daily life can really help people with focus, emotional regulation, and more.
I loved reading Kelly McGonigal’s (she’s a health psychologist at Stanford) short but sweet on-the-go mediation today. So I’ll share it with you, along with another short mediation I learned recently and have been trying to practice myself.
Hers starts with walking…
1. Give yourself 10-20 minutes to take a walk.
2. Walk at a moderate pace to get your blood flowing.
3. Pick 5 different “points of focus” — these are places you will turn your undivided attention. For example, your breath, or the sound of your feet hitting the sidewalk, or the wind and anything else you feel on your face or skin. You shift all your attention to one of these for about 30 seconds, then move on to the next. Her 5 focus points are: the feeling of walking, your breath, the sun or wind in your face+skin, sounds, and sights.
4. After a full round of switching to your 5 focuses, spend up to 5 minutes being aware of everything in your surroundings, taking in all the sights and sounds (but not escaping to your worries and to-do lists).
5. Repeat as many times as you want, in a cycle.
Mine is simple. I learned it last week from Dan Siegal, the psychiatrist and expert in mindfulness and interpersonal neurobiology (I’m in his seminar, so expect to hear more about him in the coming months).
Closing your eyes, breathe in for 4 counts, hold your breath for 7 counts, and breathe out for exactly 8 counts, making a humming/groaning noise as you breathe out (the more embarrassing, the better). Focus on your breath and the counting. You have to measure it well to be able to time it right — this is what gives your mind a focus and brings you into the present.
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