March has arrived, and though it is snowing this morning, spring is just around the corner. I mentioned my love for fresh starts in my New Year’s post, so I thought I’d take a moment to set my intentions for the coming weeks.
My focus this month is on mindfulness and really encouraging myself to be in the moment. Such a simple idea! And yet so, so challenging. Far too often I catch myself fretting about the day ahead, the week to come, over-analyzing past moments, working myself into a frenzy about how I will deal with all the “ifs.” None of this is beneficial to me. It is living in a cloud, blind and fumbling.
Being present in the moment allows one to truly experience the beauty in the simplest actions. Our senses are continuously providing us with a wealth of information, but if we aren’t paying attention, we miss out. My goal is to catch myself when my mind is wandering into modes of thought which are unhelpful and retrain my concentration to what is happening in that moment.
As I write this, my cat is purring like a freight-train on my lap. My tea is hot and tastes faintly of vanilla. Outside, fur trees are blanketed in snow. I could just as easily have missed all this had I not brought my attention to the “now.”
More of this, Holly. More of this.
Some days simply don’t go as planned.
After not sleeping well last night, I found myself in an emotional slump. My attitude was negative, I (might’ve) cried into my lunch, and I made poor eye contact with the nothing-but-friendly cashier at the health food store. So many times I’ve let bad hours turn into bad days and bad nights, relinquishing any chance for seeing or experiencing beauty. I did not want today to be one of those days.
Though I can’t recall (or even find) the specific quote, I once read something about doing the “next best thing.” This particular quote was in reference to eating disorder slips, but can be easily applied to any number of good-mood-destroying events. The basic idea is that, even if you cannot always prevent something negative from happening, you can do the “next best thing,” the next positive step toward opening yourself up to what could be.
For me, today, that involved a hot shower, comfortable clothes, tea, a book and a soft blanket.
I have been absent for awhile, as events in my life have forced me to re-examine the way I’ve been living, the way I think and the way I carry out my beliefs on a day-to-day basis. I think it sometimes takes a minor crisis to get my attention. With that being said, I’ve developed a renewed focus on being aware of myself and staying mindful in the individual moments of my day. As a chronic worrier, my mind is often a step ahead in another dimension, so this is a titanic task (oooh, I love accidental alliteration).
In college, I gave a speech about mindful eating. I passed out Hershey’s kisses and asked everyone to look at the chocolate, smell it and finally allow it to melt on their tongues. Eating slowly, using your senses, allows your body to truly grasp what is happening as you nourish yourself. Too often we are in a rush, focused on something else or just too tired to go through this process. And I understand that! I was always eating in front of the television, shoving food into my face without paying attention. The end result? I often felt unsatisfied and reached for more food that I didn’t need.
“When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” rashaski
One of the newest goals for myself has been to 1) make meals I enjoy 2) arrange them in an attractive manner 3) set the table and 4) turn off the damn television. Without the added distraction, I feel I am able to get more enjoyment out of my meals, leaving me sated and not needing seconds (or triggering a massive binge). I know this is going to be a lengthy process and though I’m not “permitting” slip-ups I’m sure there will be some along the way. Regardless, I feel this is an important aspect of my recovery and of learning that food is not the enemy.
My challenge to everyone is to give mindfulness a chance. Could you sit quietly for even one meal a day? How does doing so change the experience of eating? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
For more on mindful eating, check out this link. I love these suggestions!
By default, my brain is a negativity sponge. Left to its own devices, it would put down roots in the land of all that is gloomy, cloudy, gray and uncomfortable. Preventing this takes work. Every day is a choice: Give in and ruminate in sadness or fight like hell.
I will say that years of practice have made the fighting, or rather the knowing how to fight, a little easier. For instance, you won’t generally find me sitting alone in the dark; If a room has curtains or blinds, expect me to open them. I’m wary about the music I listen to and the movies I watch. I almost always do some kind of chore while I wait for my coffee to brew in the morning because it helps me to productively pass the precarious minutes between asleep and awake time. This is important because those minutes have the capacity to set the tone for the entire day.
Perhaps most importantly, I am learning how to look for the good in each day. My hope is that slowly but surely my brain will start to see these things naturally, that the effort to be consistently happy will be less difficult. And I have reason to think this could be the case. Studies in neuroplasticity show that, contrary to popular belief, the brain continues to rewire itself throughout life. Exposure to difficult and/or new experiences can actually change the physical structure of the brain! How fucking cool is that?!
In the meantime, spring has finally arrived in Indiana and with it, so many reasons to feel happy and hopeful. Just look at that blue sky!
Lying in bed last night, I was thinking about the similarities between spring and the end of an episode of depression. Both bring a sense of new life and an enhanced appreciation for all the little things. While I certainly don’t recommend taking a spin at depression (“All Aboard Misery Cruiselines!”), I do believe that experiencing a particularly rough patch of life can help one to better appreciate moments that might otherwise be taken for granted.
Take a moment today to step outside and feel with all your senses.
Stop. Be still. Close your eyes and breathe.