If you Google mindfulness you will be inundated with a plethora of definitions, applications and techniques. It makes mindfulness seem ironically complicated. On the contrary, mindfulness is simple and accessible to everyone.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to what is happening to you from moment to moment. This includes your breathing, sounds within and around you, physical sensations, and the movement of your body through space. Mindfulness does not mean meditation or zoning out. It is a special kind of attentiveness to your body.
On many levels, mindfulness is beneficial. It can alleviate the physical problems of chronic pain and illness, anxiety, GI distress, sleep disturbances, fatigue, high blood pressure, and headaches. As for mental health, it can improve instances of depression, eating disorders, psychological anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Mindfulness has been linked to an increase in emotional intelligence, specifically empathy and self-regulation. Development in these two areas contribute to conflict management and communication skills. Psychotherapists have therefore employed mindfulness as an important element in the treatment of couples conflicts and job, family, or financial stress.
With its conciliatory nature, fortunately, mindfulness is also not something you have to acquire; it is already within you— a deep, internal resource patiently waiting to be released and used in the service of learning, growing, and healing.
Our daily exercises employ mindfulness.
From a simple crunch or jump rope to more complicated exercises that use equipment, exercising well means paying attention to everything that happens in your body as you do a move. You may become aware of muscles you never felt before and gain control over your body on a new level. At the same time, your mental preoccupations dissipate.
For one example, form me, performing the barbell snatch employs mindfulness:
Your day has not gone well. You didn’t sleep well last night because your mind was racing on your relationship issues and trouble at work. Today, traffic was awful and you are worried about money, too. Your inner critic is beating you up. Doubts about your abilities. Anxieties about your status in every part of life. All the stress builds up in your throat and you can’t stop thinking about all the things you need get done.
And now you’re walking up to that barbell to perform the snatch and you hear the count “3… 2… 1… GO!”
Instantaneously, you no longer think about your stressors. In this moment, they are gone. You are totally focused on your body placement: Feet under hips. Core tight. You reach for the bar, hook-grip, sink hips and butt down, back flat, weight in the heels, shoulders over bar, lats engageds. First pull: big breath, chest up, weight in heels, hamstrings loaded, hips and shoulders rise at the same time. Second pull: the launch, pull the bar in, push the ground away, squeeze glutes, hips come forward. Third pull: big shrug to pull yourself under the bar, hopefully doing this faster than gravity pulls the bar down, , triple extension, actively engaged, receive the bar overhead, arms locked out, shoulders active, praying you do not drop it in front or behind. Phew! Now stand up.
You just went through all the elements of mindfulness. Your heart is pounding, your muscles quiver, your sweat drips. And as a bonus, endorphins are released. You feel better. Your brain got a break from your stressors. You are physically stronger and you feel accomplished. Good job! Exercise IS the ultimate mindfulness activity.
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