Oftentimes, when we think about health, we tend to think of physical health-working out, gaining strength, etc, but we don't necessarily think about mental and emotional health. Mental health is an important piece of whole person health and often is overlooked. Unfortunately, mental health challenges are on the rise with over 26% of Americans alone suffering from anything from anxiety and depression to bipolar disorder. Welcome to the last part in the series, "Detox Your Mind," where I will discuss the mind-body connection, mindfulness and specific ways to calm your mind for optimal whole person health.
The Mind-Body Connection
Our minds have the power to impact how we feel, which can then impact our actions. Our thoughts, behaviors and actions can also have an impact on our physical health. When we are hard on ourselves and do not have kind thoughts towards ourselves, it affects how we feel, which then can lead to other ailments and disease.
Our thoughts, behaviors and actions can also have an impact on our physical health.
Awareness and Practice The first step is awareness. Simply being aware of thoughts that come into the mind that do not serve us. When we notice that our minds are taking us down a deep rabbit hole of negative thoughts, we can choose to bring ourselves back to the present moment by recognizing how these types of thoughts make us feel and how these thoughts then make us act. We have the power to not let these thoughts take over our lives. It can be a challenge though as it is a practice. A practice of patience, self love and gratitude. Being kind to yourself is not easy. Society applies pressure to perform a certain way, look a certain way, etc and this can be overwhelming and can often lead to burnout, which can lead to a plethora of other issues. Working on our mental health takes patience and practice, but if we continue to work on it, little by little, we can have the power to take a deeper look at what thoughts serve us and recognize those that do not.
When we notice that our minds are taking us down a deep rabbit hole of negative thoughts, we can choose to bring ourselves back to the present moment by recognizing how these types of thoughts make us feel and how these thoughts then make us act.
Mindfulness You've probably heard many people talking about being mindful or using the word mindfulness, but what exactly does it mean? Being mindful means being fully present and aware of your thoughts, feelings and actions. It's more than a mind-set, it is an integrative mind-body approach. When you energize your body, you energize your mind and vice versa. Mindfulness is when the mind is fully attending to what's happening, to what you are doing, to the space you're moving through. According to the developer and founder of mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR), Jon Kabat-Zinn "The practice of mindfulness can help you to connect in deeper and deeper ways with that wholeness that is never not here, and perhaps encourage you to let it come out more and more in how you carry yourself and choose to act from moment to moment in the world."
Being mindful means being fully present and aware of your thoughts, feelings and actions. It's more than a mind-set, it is an integrative mind-body approach.
Mindfulness has been known to help relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep and it also helps with digestion. It puts our body in a calm state and helps us to be fully present to what is happening. Practicing presence, gratitude and acceptance are ways to be mindful daily. When you focus on a more positive mindset, you crowd out space in your life for things that drain you. Mindfulness helps you slow down and it supports you in engaging with the world from a place of empowerment rather than reacting to every emotion that arises. Oftentimes, we have a thought and immediately want to move that thought into action. I have found for me personally, that pausing is key before action, especially when making big decisions or having a potential conflict with someone. Without the "pause" we often say things we didn't mean, type things we wouldn't normally want to convey or do things we then feel guilty about. By taking that extra time to digest things, it allows for more space and clarity. For more on pausing, you can listen to my podcast episode "The Power of the Pause."
When you focus on a more positive mindset, you crowd out space in your life for things that drain you.
Calming the Mind
Finding quiet time for yourself is key for staying in the present moment as much as possible. When our minds are caught in a storm of negativity, it can make us feel like our lives are being taken over which can make us feel helpless, lonely and lost. Oftentimes, our minds take us on a journey to the past or to a worry about the future. By focusing on staying present, we have the power to connect more with ourselves, which puts us in a happier state of mind and allows us to have better connections with others as well.
Daily Meditation I recommend starting with 2-3 minutes of quiet meditation daily until you can then add a few more minutes each day. Quiet time doesn't need to mean you are staring at a candle for 2 hours. Most of us don't have 2 hours in our day for this. Just focus on a small, reset working with your breath...-inhale and exhale. Many people find that having a meditation practice first thing in the morning gives them energy and some people find that doing it right before bed allows them to have a restful night's sleep. You can find what works best for you and your schedule. When we quiet our minds, we are giving the mind and body space to breathe, which helps when life gives us some unexpected curve balls. It is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself. I like the app Insight Timer which is free and easy to use and is a good place to start if you are new to the practice. For more on meditation, you can also read up on my blog post "Meditate Your Way to a Calm Mind and Bright Skin."
Daily Gratitude Another powerful way to calm our minds is to practice gratitude. When we practice gratitude, it puts us in a happier state of being and allows us to connect more with those things and people that matter most to us. One idea is to find a gratitude buddy. My friend Anna and I send each other three things we are grateful for every Friday. We are going on our 2nd year of doing this with each other and it has been a wonderful practice.
When we practice gratitude, it puts us in a happier state of being and allows us to connect more with those things and people that matter most to us.
Recognizing What Fills Your Cup Sometimes we get lost in remembering those little things that lift us up. Life gets in the way and seems too busy. Make a list. What are some things you love to do and don't seem to have the time for? How about those things that you always wanted to do? It can be small things like walking through an antique store by yourself or meeting a friend every Friday for tea. Try and make time this week for one item on your list. Or, like Julia Cameron calls it, take yourself on an "Artist Date" which is a date with yourself once a week doing something fun for yourself by yourself.
The Power of the Breath “Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh.
Practicing Presence Being present means being fully aware of what is happening internally and externally. When we practice presence, we are allowing for a deeper connection with ourselves as well as with others in a more meaningful way. Through this, we are also more connected with our surroundings and environment. Some say that the best present of all is "being present"-I couldn't agree more.
When we practice presence, we are allowing for a deeper connection with ourselves as well as with others in a more meaningful way.
What are you listening to? Watching? What businesses and people do you follow on social media? Do these channels support your mental health or tend to cause you to feel a bit anxious or overwhelmed? Take a deep look at these channels and try scaling them down to only watching and listening to things that ignite you in a positive, meaningful way. Time is precious. Allow things in that matter.
Clean Living Inventory
On a scale of 1-5, rate the statements with 1 being "strongly disagree" and 5 being "strongly agree." The goal is not to score a perfect 50 in each section, but knowing that it is just a guide to help you prioritize which areas you would like to work on moving forward.
1. My mind-set energizes me and makes me feel good.
2. I practice mindfulness.
3. I recognize when my thoughts don't serve me.
4. I practice gratitude on a regular basis.
5. I recognize connections between my thoughts and the way my body moves and feels.
6. I'm self compassionate.
7. I practice presence in my relationships with others.
8. I believe I have the power to create my reality.
9. I often experience feelings of abundance.
10. I regularly revisit my mind-set and consider new ways to detox.
After going over each statement, add up where you landed and begin creating a plan to dive deeper into these areas, one step at a time. Remember, it is about making small shifts that are sustainable over time.
Thank you for being here and for being a part of "Detox Your Life." This has been a fun and meaningful series for me to write. I hope it provided you all with some insight into yourself and some ways to "detox" and minimize things that do not serve your overall health and wellbeing.
Recommended Daily Ritual:
Try to quiet your mind for 2-3 minutes/day this week. See how you feel. Journal it if you want. Share in the comments below!