I don't know about you all but there have been times in my life when I have felt like my emotions are controlling me rather than the other way around. Toward the end of 2017 I started finding myself in a bit of a funk- often feeling bad about things but struggling to articulate why I was feeling that way. As 2018 rolled around, I decided I didn't want to continue down that path. I wanted to be in the driver's seat when it came to my emotions.
There are a few things that I have been doing to help me take control, but today I just want to focus on one of them- mindfulness.
Now, I will preface this by saying that I am in no way trained on this topic. I am just sharing my personal experiences. That said, I'll start by sharing a definition of Mindful Awareness per the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center: Mindful Awareness is the moment-by-moment process of actively and openly observing one's physical, mental and emotional experiences. Mindful Awareness has scientific support as a means to reduce stress, improve attention, boost the immune system, reduce emotional reactivity, and promote a general sense of health and well-being.
I was first introduced to the idea of mindfulness- specifically through the practice of meditation through a counselor I was seeing when I lived in Dallas. At the time, I really didn't buy in to the idea. I struggled to spend even a few minutes sitting in silence with my eyes closed. Later on, I discovered an app which helped me a bit but still the practice didn't really stick long enough for me to see any noticeable difference. I tried meditating in the morning but my brain was full of all the things I needed to do that day and it made it tough to focus. I judged myself for not being clear my mind- the exact opposite of what you're supposed to do in a mindfulness session.
Recently, I decided to revisit the idea of mindfulness with a couple differences- (1) I moved my meditation to the evening and (2) I found a new app to guide me in my practice. Moving my meditation to the evening allows me to let go of the stresses of the day, putting me in to a much more calm and present state for the rest of my night. The app I've been using is called Calm. I've been truly enjoying the guided sessions in their 7 Days of Calm and 21 Days of Calm series.
When I practice mindfulness in the form of meditation, I close my eyes, focus on my breath, and settle in to the sensations in my body in the present moment. As I'm practicing I will inevitably get distracted. As soon as I notice myself thinking about something, I will simply acknowledge that I'm thinking and bring myself back to focusing on my breath. I practice of acknowledging and accepting what is happening in the moment without any judgement.
That practice of acceptance without judgement has been so helpful in my everyday life. I am able to use that through my day to day. If something stressful or difficult happens, I have found that I am much more able to accept it without letting it set me down a path of extreme negativity.
If you haven't ever tried mindfulness meditation, I would highly recommend it. The app, Calm, has been great for me. Another popular app that I've tried is called Headspace. I also just discovered a bunch of free guided meditation sessions through UCLA (my alma mater!) which I am definitely going to be checking out.
What kinds of things do you do to keep yourself feeling healthy mentally?