Mindful breathing sounds so simple that we tend to overlook it as a thing in itself. But let's consider mindful breathing as something that can
Most people who practice mindful breathing quickly come to realise how central the breath is to being fully present in one's body. It's a foundation from which you can become more self-aware: you can respond rather than react to things.
Once you've learnt this core practice you can return to it naturally whenever you need a reset. It's a very literal connection of what is actually happening right now, as opposed to the whirlwind that can happen when the mind comes up with various interpretations of things.
How to start
You can do this lying down or standing up. Notice what difference the position of your body makes to the feeling of your breath. To begin, just notice that you are breathing. That's it. Just notice the breath and the body as it is. As you follow the breath in, follow it with your whole attention for the entire length of the in-breath -- as it comes in your nose, passes down your throat and into your lungs. As you breathe out, follow with all you attention the feeling of air leaving the lungs, passing through the throat and coming out through your mouth or nose. If you become distracted, simply return to where the breath is in its cycle.
Variation 1: hold a finger horizontally under your nose, and see if you can feel the breath on your finger. Try to sense the difference between the in-breath and the out-breath. Can you detect the differences in temperature, moisture quality, and so on?
Variation 2: use the breath to gather information about your state of mind. Gently note what the breath is doing and where your mind and body are right now, what that might tell you about your current preoccupations, and whether there is any shift after the practice.
These are some things to consider when doing this or any practice. Use them sparingly. It's not a check-list, rather something to consider briefly.
I hope this helps you. It can be challenging to remember to do this at all when we're stressed. Sometimes starting this practice for 2 minutes first thing in the morning can help it become more familiar. Good luck.
We're experiencing a strange era with many of us disrupted from our routines. While we're carrying on as best we can, self-care as a proactive maintenance of energy is more important than ever. If we do not actively prevent exhaustion and monitor our reserves we quite simply burn out.
In the West, we often take self-care to mean participating in relaxation activities, like bubble baths, or a day on the sofa, but I think this is falling short of properly restoring us. True self-care combines self-knowledge and positive self-talk.
Self-knowledge is important so that we really understand our needs. It's about learning what tips you over the edge and what pulls you back. Triggers as well as remedies differ markedly from person to person. A facial at the day spa might not be what you need to help you bounce back from a 55 hour work week. Or maybe it is.
The other crucial aspect of self-care is managing the way we talk to ourselves. Few things are as draining as the inner critic, who tends to flair up more when we're low on sleep or pushing harder. That bullying voice that tells us we aren't enough will drain your reserves every bit as much as a physically tough day, so it's important to let that stuff go (related: Removing self-limiting beliefs).
What ways do you care for yourself that have come from understanding yourself better? Do you enjoy time to yourself or going to see a movie with others? What are some things you'd add to the list above?
I've spent far too many weekends thinking I needed rest when in fact what I needed was a walk on the beach on the other coast. And when a friend said "shall we?" and we did walk there, it was incredibly rewarding.... I might think I need to rest on the sofa, but the truth is that doesn't make me feel like my weekend was great. It gives me rest, yes. But it doesn't feed my soul.
It seems like a bunch of things we do are not a "heck yeah".
So I've been thinking a lot about how we spend our free time and if that's actually rewarding. I think outside tends to work for me (weather permitting). An adventure. Something outside of what I'd get to see in the week. A beach. A forest walk. Connection with friends. Because when I stay put, it isn't satisfying. It doesn't quite make me feel like I had "me time".
There's no amount of Netflix or Instagram that makes me feel like I'm living my best life, even though those things have a time and a place.
I recently read something online that came from Kyle Manyard and he said "My biggest (time management) shift came from listening to a successful CEO talk about his philosophy for hiring people."
When his company grew and he ran out of time to interview people himself, he had his employees rate new candidate on a 1–10 scale. The only stipulation was that they couldn’t choose 7. "It immediately dawned on me how many invitations I was receiving that I would rate as a 7 — speeches, weddings, coffees, even dates. If I thought something was a 7, there was a good chance I felt obligated to do it. But if I have to decide between a 6 or an 8, it’s a lot easier to quickly determine whether or not I should even consider it.”
Consider this as you think about your weekend ahead. Are you accepting a safe 7? How would excluding that option change your world?
Auckland is a beautiful green city for good reason: rain. We're lucky to have decent rainfall, which keeps the city and its surrounds gorgeous and fresh. However, if you're in Auckland on a wet day, the great walks and travels on foot aren't recommended. There are many excellent things that you can do while staying dry. Here's what is ideal on a grey day in the city of sails.
When I've found myself being anxious over a topic, it has usually boiled down to either my self confidence or my self worth being a bit shaky. This is normal, and it happens to all of us at times. I've found it to be very helpful to notice what's going on, admit it, and then tend to it by taking action to build up my belief again. To be honest, it has been really interesting to understand the difference between self confidence and self worth because then I'm better able to tell which area needs the boost. Let's look at them both and see what helps.
Self confidence is a trust in your abilities. It's not necessary that you have a high sense of self confidence in all areas, as you're probably strong at some things and less able at, eg, long division. It is, however, important to have a strong self belief in your abilities in the areas that matter to you. Self worth is "a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect" (Merriam-Webster definition). You have a deep knowing that you are a valuable person irrespective of your mathematical or other abilities. You are just as worthy as anyone else on the planet.
Building up your self worth is a practice. When it's low, a combination of self awareness and mindfulness can build it up. Thankfully it's very teachable. See this article and this one. To build up your self confidence you almost have to start proving to yourself that you are capable in that specific area. You have to take a different kind of action.
If I want to be a confident speaker, a huge part of this comes down to my preparation of the speech weeks (months) in advance of actually speaking. I write it early because the first version always needs to be put away and edited two days later with fresh eyes. Then I add more, and practice and practice and practice. I know I'm going to be fine on the day of the talk, because I've put in the weeks rehearsing it. Before I share the talk with anyone, I've already shown myself that it's ready to be shared. The same is true of any presentation, school exam, or interview. You feel much better when you prepare early. Maybe you won't anticipate everything, yet you know you've done your best and because of your preparation you can trust in your abilities to figure the rest out.
There can be areas in which you find you're constantly negative about yourself. You'll put yourself down either overtly or in your mind. That's not going to help you believe in your ability to improve and grow. Instead you need to be your own best coach. If something doesn't go as you hoped, see if you can adopt a "thank goodness it wasn't worse" mindset. When things go well it's useful to note them down either in a small journal or note-taking app. We tend to forget the good things more quickly, so it's helpful to have a running list. I'm grateful that my partner doesn't worry about things that I think "oh no" about. I overcooked something the other night and thought, "that's terrible" and he reflected to me, "it's actually ok." I laughed and realised how seriously I was taking it. Would it matter in a week? No. Can you notice when you're being too serious about something? Can you take the sentence you're telling yourself and reverse it? There are things in life that are terrible, and an over-cooked dinner isn't one of them.
Think of someone you know who has a lovely confidence about them. How to do they stand? How do they enter a room? Can you see through their eyes the way they see things and try to embody their behaviour on a literal level? Stand as they would. Greet people as they would. See if you notice your posture slouching and gently correct yourself. This alone has worked for many people as we often learn by emulating those we admire. It works for confidence too.
Our lives are full of gems of knowledge and hidden insights, but sometimes we don't see our learning for what it is. Journaling is one way to tap into that knowledge you already have. The very act of writing allows you to reflect and dwell on answers that are true for you. Below are some prompts to get you started; each one could be a page or 5 of writing alone. The point is to just start. You don't know what deeper lessons will come out, and the act of beginning is the most important hurdle to cross.
Following on from last week's article on 5 ways to build your self worth, this week we'll dive into one creative way to explore what self care looks like to you. The idea is that you create a board with images of way you might enjoy caring for yourself but then you actually DO the things on the board. The board acts as a visual prompt, so it's best if you can see if daily. I keep mine in my wardrobe, where I spend more time than most people.
While self-care may sound simple enough, it is often difficult to execute. Many people say they “don’t have time”, so they don't engage in self care. Fortunately, there are many different self care practices possible, and none of them are especially time-consuming.
Self care is often mistaken as selfish, but it actually allows you to better take care of others when your own cup is topped up. Countless research findings demonstrate the importance of your ability to attend to and meet personal needs. Self care has been found to increase empathy, immunologic functioning, and has been associated with lower levels of anxiety and depression (Schure, Christopher, & Christopher, 2008).
Let's begin. Set aside one hour for this activity.
1. You can either use magazines and stick them to card (my preference because I'll physically see it more) or you can create a keynote or powerpoint slide with images you find online (there's the potential to be distracted when you're searching online... beware). You can also draw images with pen and paper, so the whole action board could be one large drawing if you prefer that idea.
2. Enjoy the process. Don't over think things. Just collect any and all images that appeal to you. You can edit later when you're sticking them to your page. To begin, just go for it. Especially if this is your first time making an action board. Put on some music, make a mug of tea/coffee/other, and have some fun. See if you can surprise yourself with what you create.
3. Put the finished board somewhere you'll see on the regular. It's an action board, so see if there's something you can schedule straight away. Can you call a friend and arrange a time to meet for coffee or FaceTime? Can Sunday night be spa night at home with candles and a face mask? What can you get the ball rolling with?
4. Congratulations. You've just done something wonderful for yourself. You can repeat this process as often as you wish. It gets easier each time you do it too.
To do our best work -- the work we are on this planet to do -- we have to see ourselves as worth the while. We have to know that we matter and at the very least we matter enough to care for ourselves and believe in ourselves. They say overnight success takes 20 years, and in those 20 years there can be a lot of ups and downs, wondering if you're good enough or are on the right path. You could be the most accomplished, influential, popular, wealthy person, but if your self-worth isn't developed you won't feel particularly successful.
Real success is the kind that comes from internal metrics (not external ones of social media likes and wealth). To succeed is to accept and value yourself. You understand your gifts and your foibles, which helps you do your calling. By building and growing your self-worth you can spend more of your creative energies on your tasks and things that make you happy. You'll have a better sense of focus and thus of contribution because your mind will stay on track. Here's how.
2. Accept all parts of what you've just learnt above
Forgive yourself for any thing you could do better. Let yourself be valued just as you are. More importantly, value yourself as you are. If it's really bothering you, it could be a clue that your values aren't in alignment with your actions (see online course linked in #1). Your emotions are always there to tell you something about what's working and what's not. Listen to them. Meditation can help to better listen inwards and to help you understand your habits and tendencies better. There are some guided self-compassion meditations on my online yoga site that are very helpful (and a free 10 day trial to explore the site).
3. Do caring things for yourself
Extend compassion to yourself and act with kindness. We often think that by being critical we'll get more done, but ask yourself if that style has really worked for you. When you're in a positive frame of mind, you're more creative, more parts of your brain are activated, and you literally are smarter (ie can think and perform better). While self-care may sound simple enough, it is often difficult to execute. One of the most common reasons for people not engaging in regular self-care is that they “don’t have time”.
Doing kind and caring things for ourselves, particularly when we are struggling, can help us to cope and move through difficult emotional experiences. Self-care activities can be sensory, emotional, physical, spiritual, and social. The idea with initiating self-care and integrating it into everyday life is to find out what feels good to you— this could be a bubble bath and a face mask or it might be a weekly long run in nature. It could be a coffee date with a good friend on the regular or it could be a combination of each of the above for different days of the week.
4. Appreciate yourself for inner strengths
Start moving the metrics away from external factors like age, income, popularity, grades, or status. Think about yourself being worthy because you are kind, thoughtful, caring, a good listener and patient. If there are inner strengths you want to develop more, make a point to immerse yourself in learning them. They are all learnable skills, and you can learn them. Consider a mindfulness or meditation practice focused on one of those themes (if that appeals to you) to help you focus each day on these strengths. It's much like a muscle in the mind...the more you work it, the stronger it will grow.
5. Take full responsibility for the person you are becoming
This isn't about how you were raised or where you live. If you're reading this, you have internet, and you're well on your way to deciding who you want to be in this world. Take note of any inner critic who says you're not good enough. Just notice when the self talk isn't kind. DO THE WORK. There isn't a shortcut to better self work. Just put in the time, and you'll get there.
1. Your morning routine matters. If you were going to school, what time would your alarm be set for? When would you shower, change, have breakfast? Stick to this schedule. You might have a bit more time because there's not a commute right now. Consider using that time to exercise. Having a bit of time for yourself is one of the best things you can do, ever. Walk around the block with a podcast you love, run, play tennis against the wall. Just give yourself some time to play. It's more important that you realise, and you'll be a happier person for it.
2. Get dressed as though though you're going to school (or work). Maybe not put on your school uniform, but put on something that makes this feel official. The way you see yourself, literally, is how you'll treat the day.
When I reached graduate school, my reward was a stash of fancy caffeine-free teas to brew when I needed a break. T2 has some excellent ones. So does Websters Tea and TleafTea. My concentration was already hours long at this point, so getting up to brew a cup of tea was a good chance to stretch the legs. Keep the rewards affordable, practical, and non-addictive. It has to be something you won't be distracted by thinking about while you work.
5. Set an alarm for bed, and stop study 2 hours before you sleep. It's easy to miss the boat on this one, but your ability to retain information that you've just studied or to absorb the information from tomorrow's lessons is 100% dependent on this. Set an alarm and when it goes off, it's time to relax in bed. Read a novel, chat to people in your household, unwind. You've worked hard all day, and you deserve a break.
Here you'll find essays and musings on applied mindfulness. What does this look like on a daily basis? How can you infuse it in your day to enjoy yourself more? Join hundreds of others on the the mailing list (link in footer) to get these straight to your inbox.