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mindfulness and stress reduction
So I realized yesterday as I was scrambling around the house cleaning, that I could really do double duty while doing those mundane chores. What do I mean by that? Well I found that my mind tried to focus on my surroundings, even though I knew I had to get a chore done. I had to slow down to process what my mind and body were trying to communicate. I found myself gazing out the kitchen window watching the birds fly around. Then I saw the trees blowing in the wind, the leaves tumbling across the grass. The feel of the bubbles, the warmth of the water, was soothing and relaxing. I found myself washing dishes, yet admiring the beauty and events outside my window and in my hands. Before I knew it, the dishes were done and instead of dreading another chore on my list, I embraced moving to the next. I saw the housework as an opportunity to be mindful of my day, to be present in the moment, and not dread what else was ahead. In essence, I can meditate while working; mindfulness practiced in chores!
Does it sound strange to find peace washing the dishes or folding laundry? It does if you look at it in a shallow light. Rushing through like it is a dreaded chore, only leaves a storm like aftermath in your body. The chore is felt and absorbed as stress. But really, that time is generally alone time, a perfect opportunity to clear your mind, breathe deep, and perhaps focus on a mantra for healing or peace within. It allows you to appreciate the time you have, no matter how you are spending it.
Thích Nhất Hạnh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist. He once wrote that he washes dishes with as much care as he would if he were bathing the newborn Buddha: “If I am incapable of washing dishes joyfully, if I want to finish them quickly so I can go and have a cup of tea, then I will be incapable of drinking the tea joyfully.” How you treat the present moment will affect the future moments. Wise thought; Be present and mindful of how you throw yourself into chores.
He gives you a new perspective on chores, right? I cannot recall how many dishes I have broke trying to rush, or bulldoze through getting the dishes done. I am pretty sure that there was no urge to sit and enjoy a cup of tea after doing so either. Thoughts drift to the ‘other’ chores on my list. Plus, the darn tea cup was probably my poor victim during the cleaning tornado, too!
Slow down. I have mentioned that chore time can be alone time, but it doesn’t have to be. If you can share that time with a child, or children, it gives you an opportunity to teach valuable lessons. The first lesson is that of responsibility. Chores are a parents way to encourage independence, team work, and self care. Sharing that time to teach techniques to complete the job, gives you a bonding moment too. However, I see that teaching moment as a gifted time to share meditation or mindfulness. You should be completely aware of the chore you are doing and teaching. Again be present and conscious of your thoughts and actions. Mindful. Teach the chores to kids to engrain a ritual of responsibility and inadvertently teach meditation and mindfulness.
I think that sometimes we get caught up looking into the future, and do not live in the present moment. If we cannot clear our mind and stop thinking of other things, we are incapable of living in that minute of life, enjoying that cup of hot tea in our hands. You have to be alive in that moment. This practice of mindfulness or meditation during chores, strips us of the ‘I don’t have time’ excuse too!
“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going in deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh
I spend a lot of time researching, and looking for ways to make changes in life or ways to make life more enjoyable naturally. There are so many aspects of your life that you can look at to determine where things can be improved. The one thing that has become very apparent to me, is that nothing can change until you take action. Change has to start with yourself. I see that there are habits or reactions that are learned through out life. We all learn to adapt to the situations of life. Depending on the environment or the people you have in your life, that reaction or habit will either be good for you, or bad for you. I think this is very true for those who struggle with self esteem issues. Knowing yourself, and loving yourself is key to the decisions you make in life.
“Don’t wait for your feelings to change to take the action. Take the action and your feelings will change.”
To get to know yourself, and take action in making changes in life, you have to start by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness has allowed me to become more aware of my thoughts and reach a sense of inner peace. It’s not always perfect, and somedays are easier than others. As my awareness has increased, so has the peace and joy in my life. The more familiar I have become with the inner workings of my mind, the better I have started to feel. Being mindful of the inner workings of my mind, allow the avenues to my heart and soul to be free. Again, it is a work in process. However, one of the most influential things I am learning to do, is to self regulate.
Self regulation for me has been my stepping stone to mindfulness and meditation. I was introduced to it, not realizing what I was being taught…essentially, mindfulness. I become aware of how my body is reacting to a situation. Those reactions can sometimes be stressful or negative, if the situation is not positive. In essence, the body can get triggered to go into a fight or flight response when it gets stressed. Before I practiced mindfulness, I would stay in that fight or flight state and panic a bit. I now can take a deep breath. Focus on my breathing. Notice how my body is reacting; Is my heart pounding? Am I clinching my jaw? Muscles tense? Once I assess my reaction, I begin releasing those tense reactions. Breathing to slow the heart rate, release clinched muscles, and relax. In that time, you have cleared your mind to give a proper reaction to the situation, a rational reaction. That is self regulation. For many, this is a normal, easy practice. For me, it had to be learned, and I am continually practicing, and I wish I had learned earlier in life! It has brought more peace and kindness into the home. I know how important the modeling you provide your household is. Teaching peace, is so rewarding, in so many ways!
The following are examples of instant stress busters, excerpted from Natural Superwoman, by Rosamond Richardson. In a world of go, go, go, these are great tips to remember. They can bring relief to mental, physical and emotional stresses. As always, remember to breathe when stress is present.
Slow down and take your time. Talk, walk or drive at a slower pace.
Call a friend for a long chat.
Escape mentally – read a book, watch a movie or be a sports spectator.
Keep a notebook on you and make lists: being organized is less stressful.
Smile. It relaxes the major facial muscles and releases serotonin from the brain and makes you fell better.
Stop thinking ‘must’ ‘should’ and ‘ought’ for at least an hour.
Sweat out your stress. Take some vigorous exercise class, or dance til you drop.
Write a list of all the essential things you have to do – then stick it on the fridge and leave it until tomorrow.
Look at some wonderful paintings, or paint one yourself.
Change into comfortable clothes.
Help someone. Be really nice to someone.
Get a massage or a pedicure.
Write a rage letter and don’t send it.
Find a safe place to cry. Crying restores the chemical balance of the body.
Drop perfectionism: it stresses you out.
Pet the dog or cat.
Shut the door on the world at least once a day to see you own needs: do some yoga or meditation.
Lie down with a hot wet flannel over your face.
Go away for a weekend.
Lie in a hot tub and add soothing essential oils to the water. Light a candle and dim the lights and breathe.
Turn off your mobile phone.
Sometimes doing nothing is the key to stress.
Express yourself: don’t maintain the stiff upper lip. And don;t lose your sense of humor.
Change your routine – have a beautiful bath mid afternoon.
Cancel your appointments and have a day off.
Collect inspirational quotations and stories and refer to them to lift your spirits.
Here are 5 Easy Steps for Mindfulness – to decrease stress in your life
Find a comfortable – quiet location when possible – however you can, and use these steps even at work or in other locations. Sit relaxed.
Set an alarm if you want for 2 to 3 minutes 0- you can make it longer each time if you want; however there are benefits from meditating for 2 minutes.
Find an object to look at or close your eyes. Either technique can be relaxing. Try both so that you can decide which one works best for you.
Breathing is the key to being present with your body and self. Inhale for 3 seconds (say in your mind calming – calming – calming) Hear your breath going into your lungs – hold it for a second, exhale for 5 seconds (say in your mind releasing – releasing – releasing) Hear your breath going out of your lungs.
When done, stretch and hug yourself.
Stress is a part of life – How much you choose to manage it is about CHOICES. Make the CHOICE to meditate for two minutes very day, You can do 2 to 3 minutes several times a day if you would like.