Mindfulness in Emotions

The last post of the 4 part Mindfulness for Beginners series is upon us! Last week I covered 5 tips to bring mindfulness into your movement and exercise, and before that, 4 ways to bring mindfulness into your relationships. 

For this final post we’re going deep and exploring how mindfulness can help you deal with high emotions, especially negative ones.

Emotional awareness – or, emotional intelligence – is the skill of recognizing and understanding your personal various emotions and the impact they have on your mood and behavior. Mindfulness is key to healthy emotional awareness, and practicing the following steps will help deepen your own emotional intelligence.

Mindfulness is key to healthy emotional awareness Click To Tweet
  1. Feel the feelings – When you’re aware something has stirred uncomfortable emotions, it may be tempting to ignore them, to push them away. Instead, when you have a reaction to something, pay attention to what your body is telling you. Let yourself sit for a moment with the uncomfortable feeling and let it run it’s course while noticing the thoughts it brings about.
  2. Pinpoint the feeling – It’s easy to categorize a feeling as “mad” and “happy”, but there are a huge range of emotions that give you insight into your personality and behaviors. Some examples; jealous, anxious, cautious, nervous, hurt, nervous excitement, fear, calm, shy, embarrassed. When you get that rush of emotion, and are sitting with it, try to pinpoint exactly what the feeling is.
  3. Search for the source – This can come hand in hand with pinpointing the feeling. Here, you are investigating what brought the emotion on, really getting to the root cause of it. An example; you’re secretly hoping the networking event you RSVP’d to will be canceled, even though you know it will be a good opportunity to build connections. The easy excuse would be that you don’t want to go anywhere and would rather stay home, however if you dig a little deeper you may discover that you’re not confident with your networking skills, or perhaps large groups make you uncomfortable.
  4. Learn from the emotion – Both step 3 and step 4 may take a little while to uncover. Sometimes it will be instant, and other times it will come to you in the following days and interactions. Learning from your emotions is learning about yourself. Maybe you’re more of an introvert than you recognized, and when you don’t get time to yourself you find that you get irritated easily. Or, when you don’t get enough details about something, you get anxious. In the future you can use this knowledge to pull yourself out of a negative space.

We are meant to experience a broad range of emotions as they arise, stay for a while, and fade away. Being mindful of what they are and why they pop up can help us work through them in a healthy place instead of ignoring what they tell us about ourselves. When you’re emotionally aware, you are in a better position to respond in stressful situations and will find that strong emotions don’t throw you as intensely or for as long.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Mindfulness for Beginners series and have a clear understanding of where to start. Please share in the comments what actions you have started using and what you discovered!

Mindfulness in Movement

Here we are at part 3 of this 4 part Mindfulness for Beginners series! Last week we looked at 4 ways to incorporate mindfulness into your relationships, and before that, actionable steps to bring mindfulness into your eating habits.

Today I will cover 5 tips to bring mindfulness into your movement and exercise.

This may sound counterintuitive for those who would rather be on the couch, however as exercise expert Paige Waehner points out to Verywell.com, bringing mindfulness into your movement has some powerful benefits;

  • A stronger connection to your body: When you focus on each exercise, the muscles you’re working, and what you’re actually accomplishing, you get more out of each exercise and each workout.
  • Better results: When you focus on your what you’re doing, you improve the quality of your movement and, as a result, the quality of your overall workout.
  • More satisfaction: When you know exactly what you’re working, how each exercise feels and whether you’re getting the most out of each exercise, you can end your workout knowing you did your best.

Let’s get into how you can use mindfulness to increase the benefits of however you enjoy moving!

Feel how you feel

Too often we go through the motions of a workout paying zero attention to how our movements feel, which muscles are working, what motions feel good and not so good. Your body gives you instant feedback, if you are willing to listen. This can save you from injury, and get you to your goal quicker by knowing when you’re able to push more, and when to hold back.

Before your workout even begins, notice how you feel. Are you tired? Sore? Restless? These feelings will effect your workout, so if you are in tune with your body you can adjust your session to benefit you best.

Tune into your environment

Fully experience your workout by connecting your body to your environment. Whether you’re walking outdoors, lifting weights in a gym, or doing yoga in a studio, notice the temperature, sounds, even smells. Working out with focus can be a moving meditation, and being aware of what’s around you can enhance your experience.

Take your time

Entering your workout with the mindset of getting through it as quickly as possible doesn’t sound enjoyable or beneficial. Whether it’s your morning walk, mid-week strength training session, or evening yoga class, you’ve set that time aside because movement is important to you.

Allow yourself to be fully in your workout. Fitting movement into your day is a form of self care, and rushing through it or feeling there’re more important things to get to defeats the purpose. When you feel your mind wander to things  outside of what you’re physically doing, acknowledge it, and refocus on the movement you are completing.

Remember your intention

Whether you’re moving to train for a race, for relaxation, to rehab an injury, or anything in between, remind yourself of that intention when your energy and focus start to fade. Thinking of all the benefits your chosen exercise will bring to your life, helps when you feel like stopping.

Maybe you’re going to cardio classes to improve your fitness so you can keep up with your kids easier. When you want to slack the last 15 minutes of class, picture playing tag with your family and not needing a break.

End on a positive

Take time to stretch and cool down (or sit a little longer in savasana!) and reflect briefly on your hard work. Relish how it felt to move your body and give full focus to yourself and your goals. Ending a workout with positive feelings makes it easier to to fit it in the next day, and reinforces how movement is crucial for a balanced mind and body.

Stay tuned next week for the last part of this series, Mindfulness in Emotions!

Berry Stuffed French Toast

I have to admit, 80% of the time I make indulgent breakfast favorites it’s for dinner, and this berry stuffed french toast is no exception! This recipe is great to use up those fresh berries from the farmer’s market, and frozen berries work just fine in the colder months.

Mindfulness in Relationships

Welcome to part 2 of this 4 part Mindfulness for Beginners series! Last week we looked at actionable steps to bring mindfulness into your eating habits, and today I will cover 4 ways to bring mindfulness into your relationships.

 

There are a wide variety of relationship levels to practice these concepts; from spouse to coworker, how you participate in each relationship has great effect on how satisfying they are.

Communicate Honestly

How often do you react to a question or situation the way you think you should respond and not how you truly feel? I’m guilty of this, it’s easy to do! Sometimes it’s because we want to spare someone’s feelings and sometimes it’s to protect our own, either way, it creates a barrier.

For example, I had been training for a race a few years ago and my husband asked if he needed to go. It would have been easy to tell him he didn’t have to, after all, it would be early and it wasn’t like he hadn’t been to my races before, and this wasn’t a new distance for me. But I had trained hard and knew I would love to see his face at the finish line. Instead of brushing it off, I simply said what I felt; that I had trained really hard and was a little nervous and it would be fun to have him there.

This is a pretty small fish in the scope of our marriage, but getting into the practice of stating what you’re thinking and feeling will saves loads of frustration and hurt feelings down the road!

Of course this doesn’t give you free rein to air all your pent up grievances or harshly state your opinions when they aren’t asked for! To communicate honestly is to be open with your feelings instead of sweeping things under the rug. To be transparent instead of closed off.

Listen Actively 

Communicating is a two way street and often the side of listening gets roadblocked. We’re in our own head forming our next point or question, even when the other person is answering our last question! Being mindful while listening is called active listening, where you are fully immersed in what the other person is saying.

Practice listening to their tone. The emotional words they use. How they feel. Instead of jumping into giving advice or telling them your take on their story, ask them more. Instead of replying with how you would feel, ask how it makes them feel. Simply allowing someone to be fully heard and understood can strengthen a relationship more than any advice you could wish to give.

Maintain Closeness

Relationships don’t continue without care, and they certainly don’t deepen without work. Closeness doesn’t equal proximity, as you can feel deeply connected with your best friend who lives across the country, and disconnected from the friend who lives 5 miles away.

Relationships don't continue without care, and they certainly don't deepen without work. Click To Tweet

Here’s a great exercise from Elephant Journal: Draw a circle and write the names of relationships you consider your core people, your inner circle. Next draw a larger circle around that, listing those you consider close, but do not know the details that your inner circle does of your life. Draw another circle listing acquaintances and friends/family you perhaps have fallen out of touch with.

Now, look at these names one circle at a time. Think of what you actively do to nurture these relationships. What’s working? What’s lacking? What can you do to keep these relationships nourished and top of mind?

When we’re in the day-to-day we forget how simple touch points can strengthen relationships, that it doesn’t take sweeping gestures or plans.

For example, if I’m going to work out of a coffee shop for the day, I’ll shoot a text to a few friends nearby who also work from home. You may think, “oh, they probably won’t be able to go.”, or, “It’s nothing exciting, just working and coffee.” Instead, think of this as a touch point. Even if they can’t go, you’ve connected and they know you’re thinking of them. If they can and you’re only sitting quietly working together, you’re spending time with each other.

Another idea, my family (I think I owe the credit to my mom!) came up with a couple of years ago. We created a Facebook group for the whole family, where we can share little snippets of our days. It’s usually stuff that isn’t going to be mass emailed or talked about during the holidays, instead it keeps us all in touch with the minutiae of everyones life. I love it!

See Past Yourself

Similar to listening actively, your relationships aren’t just about you. Begin thinking of how you can serve other people in your life. If they are struggling, how can you be there for them? When they come to you for support, ask what would help and refrain from talking about you. If there is an area they are frustrated; marriage, kids, career, health, etc., be mindful of talking about successes you’ve had in those areas.

For example, if a friend is going to physical therapy and limited in what they can do, it’s probably not the best time to talk about how your marathon training is going, or how you stubbed your toe and that yoga has been hard for you that week. Or, if a friends’ spouse is out of town for an extended time, try to include them in more of your plans.

Simply pausing for a moment and thinking how you can best contribute can greatly strengthen any relationship.

Stay tuned next week for Mindfulness in Movement!

Mindfulness in Eating

Last week I left you with a little teaser about the mindfulness series I would be posting, and this week is the first installment: Mindfulness in Eating. 

Intuitive eating – or, paying close attention to hunger cues – are wonderful approaches to eating in a more mindful way, and this post will take it a step further.

I’m giving you 5 specific actions to practice that will bring mindfulness into your existing eating habits that will in turn put you more in touch with your hunger cues and on the path to intuitive eating. Let’s get started!

Tune Out and Tune In

We’ve become accustomed to treating our meals – especially breakfast and lunch – as a secondary activity we do while catching up on email, texting, shopping online, watching TV, etc. How often are you surprised you’re down to your last bite, or scrape your spoon across an empty bowl?

We’re highly distracted while eating and miss out on the enjoyment food should bring. Not only that, we ignore any signs of being full and the experience of the flavors when we’re completely wrapped up in the other various things we’re doing.

What to do instead: Pick one meal (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) that you typically multitask during and for the next full week remove all distractions. If you’re tempted to check your phone or computer, leave them in another room or eat at a different spot. Maybe listen to music or something you won’t be completely absorbed in, but place your primary focus on your meal. Notice how it tastes, how full you feel throughout, what flavors and textures you love. 

Measure by First Taste 

The all-or-nothing approach to eating is a struggle for a lot of us. The first part of your meal is so delicious that you keep eating until it’s gone. This isn’t a big deal when you’re cooking at home and have reasonable portions, but when  you’re given 5 pounds of pasta at a restaurant, or open a new bag of tortilla chips and salsa, it’s easy to go overboard past the point of enjoyment.

“I’ve already eaten more than I should, I may as well finish it.”

What to do instead: Be a food critic! Judge how that first taste satisfies you and check in when you’re 1/4 of the way through whatever you’re eating. Is it still delicious? Are you still hungry for more? Are you eating another bite because you fully enjoy the experience or just because there’s more left? Check in when there’s 1/2 and just 1/4 left so you stay engaged with the food and your enjoyment of it the entire time.

Change it Up

I love a good routine, they help cut down on choices and overthinking our actions throughout the day which drains your willpower. However, the monotony that aids us in some aspects, allows us to become complacent in ways that aren’t so helpful when it comes to mindfulness. Whether you make the same thing, sit in the same place, eat at the same time – or all three – it’s easy to become disconnected with your food.

What to do instead: Change something! Sit in a different chair, eat outside, make an entirely different breakfast or change the side dish to your lunch. Anything that will reconnect you to the eating experience. Tonight, try eating dinner at that table you only use for guests!

Slow Your Roll

You go out to a restaurant and the majority of your time is spent looking over the menu and waiting for your food. You cook a delicious meal and what takes you an hour plus to make is scarfed down in 12 minutes. I get it. We eat fast! And when we do, we’re missing out on a lot of information.

We clean our plates and are holding our stomachs minutes later realizing we didn’t actually need those last few bites, or that the green beans were so good this time because the almonds were toasted with some spice you couldn’t quite put your finger on.

What to do instead: “Eating slower” is a little subjective, so here’s a trick from Darya Rose of Summertomato.com by way of the Nutrition Diva Podcast; when your mouth is full, your fork is empty.

Allow yourself to fully chew and swallow your bite before shoving another forkful in. This will not only slow you down and make it less likely to overeat, but you’ll automatically be more in tune with the bite you’re eating and how you’re enjoying it. When not using silverware, set your fork down while you chew.

The Magic Question

A struggle for many – myself included – is getting caught up in the moment and throwing our healthier habits out the window. Cutting through the candy aisle and tossing Oreo’s in your cart. Plating up at a buffet and getting some of everything available. Stocking up at the farmer’s market and finding yourself in line for a Nutella crepe (that one is oddly specific for a reason). It’s easy to give into a craving – whether it’s an indulgent treat or going back for seconds – without much thought if any at all, and we often regret it as soon as we’re done.

What to do instead: When you feel the tug to ignore healthy eating habits, ask yourself, “Is this worth it?” Sometimes it will be worth it; a homemade cookie from your favorite local bakery, a dinner our with your spouse on your anniversary, or having doughnuts from a famous shop for breakfast on vacation.

But, sometimes it won’t be. Stopping to ask “is this worth it?” can stop you from loading up on mashed potatoes at the buffet because when you think about it, you only really like your grandma’s mashed potatoes, or having another cookie when the first one was just OK.

Don’t let these tips overwhelm you! Pick one to do today, and perhaps another one tomorrow. The more you practice these strategies, the more natural they will feel and you’ll stop thinking about what you’re doing do eat mindfully, you’ll be eating mindfully automatically.

Up next week: Mindfulness in Relationships.

English Muffin Breakfast Scramble

The first time I created this recipe it was a night I had little time and hadn’t been to the grocery. I wanted something more filling than just scrambled eggs, and had ricotta left over from another recipe so I added it in for more bulk and a protein boost.

Oh. My. Gawd.

They were the creamiest eggs I’ve ever had! The avocado added some healthy fat and the juicy tomatoes gave it a burst of flavor with each bite. This truly is great for any meal of the day.

Are weeknight dinners a stress in your home? Then you’ll want Simply Healthy Weeknight Dinners, a month of 5-ingredient recipes to get you through the week. Grab yours today and be set all month!

Mindfulness for Beginners

What used to be fully in the woo-woo hippie land of alternative health, mindfulness is proving itself to be more than just the new buzzword in wellness. According to this post from Inc.com,

Revenue in the industry grew to $1.1 billion in the U.S. in 2016, an increase of more than $100 million from the previous year, according to IBISWorld, which finds the alternative health care industry as a whole is still in a growth phase.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the many benefits of mindfulness and practices that enhance it like meditation, but when it comes down to your day-to-day life, when you’re in the thick of your career-kids-errands-cooking-routine, you probably feel there simply isn’t time to cultivate a new practice.

You may think you need to read a few books, maybe take a class, at least do some research and dedicate time to master this mindfulness business before you can really benefit.

I totally understand how easy it is to overcomplicate mindfulness. My mom took an intensive workshop on meditation and would tell me things she learned, what they did, and how much she enjoyed it. I was interested and enjoyed hearing what she learned, but somewhere in my head, I felt doing it on my own wasn’t “real” if she was going through a master-led course.

The same can be felt about mindfulness. After all, there are mindfulness training certifications out there, how are you supposed to practice mindfulness on your own without knowing what they know?

This is exactly why I’ve created this Mindfulness for Beginners series. To give you simple actions of mindfulness you can incorporate into your life today. 

Here’s what the next 4 posts will cover:

Mindfulness in eating
Mindfulness in relationships
Mindfulness in movement
Mindfulness in emotions

So we’re on the same page, here is what I’m talking about when I use the term “mindfulness”.

A psychological state of awareness, the practices that promote this awareness, a mode of processing information and a character trait…we define mindfulness as a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. In this sense, mindfulness is a state and not a trait. – American Psychological Association

This same article lists many benefits we gain from entering this mode of mindfulness regularly as follows:

Reduced rumination
Stress reduction

Boosts working memory
Focus
Less emotional reactivity
Increased cognitive flexibility
Relationship satisfaction
Enhanced self-insight and intuition

Stay tuned for the first part in this series – Mindfulness in Eating – next week!