As I've mentioned in previous posts, I aim to have my Bullet Journal have a place where I can host reflective thoughts (as well as planning and goal setting and all that good stuff). But what does it mean to be reflective? What does it mean to be mindful? What is "Mindfulness," anyway?
Take a second to do a little thinking (or, if you're like me, writing), and work on creating your own understanding of what it means to be reflexive (we say this so much in teaching, at least in my world.). What does it mean to be self-reflexive? What does it mean to be mindful -- to you? Don't cheat with Google. Just go off of what you think it means.
Now, ask yourself, how do you practice Mindfulness or reflection in your own life? What habits in your life are mindful or reflexive? Make a list or freewrite for 5-10 minutes.
Great job. Now, let's talk about the meaning behind the terms. To me, mindfulness and reflection go hand in hand. Let's start with Mindfulness: mindfulness, quite simply is a practice of awareness. If you Google It, you'll find this handy definition:
Isn't that a lovely idea -- focusing and being aware? And I mean really focusing and being aware, not like just saying we are focused and being aware. You know what I mean. While the practice started in the late 70s, it's become a much more popular term over the past few years, especially since 2010. Some people like to practice mindfulness as a way of life, with meditation as part of that practice. Being mindful-- truly as a practice reduces stress and actually rewires your brain.
There are so many reasons to practice mindfulness: it reduces stress in your life, reducing your body's susceptibility to illness. There are studies linking positive results of mindfulness and combatting depression, it increases gray matter in our brain linked to learning, cognition, and memory. It helps with focus: allowing us to tune out distractions and pay better attention so we can get our work done. And one of the greatest benefits is that mindfulness improves our compassion toward others and ourselves. For more benefits, visit the Berkeley Greater Good Site
I'd like to tell you why I came to Mindfulness as a form of practice in my life. Over the past year, I came to the realization that I spent a lot of time doing and not a lot of time reflecting. I noticed that I wasted a lot of energy on the way I reacted to things: situations that were out of my control, emotions, or just life in general. I internalized, I anguished. In the interest of transparency, I suffer from anxiety and depression, two best friends that go together to make life all about playing your best hits of failure when life has got you down. I dwelled on bad things that happened. I was constantly criticizing myself. I was paralyzed by my own fears and self-doubt.
I knew I needed a change. It was important for me to figure out a system for dealing with my stress and anxiety in a positive, proactive way that helped me to actualize that we live moment to moment, and these moments are fleeting. Enter Mindfulness.
One of the key elements to practicing mindfulness is being in the moment when the moment happens: experiencing emotions as they come, but realizing that those emotions do not define you. Thoughts and feelings are fleeting: if we experience them and then let them go, we can benefit greatly, because we won't dwell on the negative. This is not to say we shouldn't FEEL things: definitely, feel and take it all in, take in every moment, embrace it, hold it close -- experience it fully. And then let it go. It sounds really easy, I know, but it takes a lot of practice because it's hard.
When you're feeling those intense emotions-- like stress, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, angry, et cetera: practice deep, even breathing. Take a moment to take each breath in and let it out, and just focus on that act.
Take the time to notice the world around you and the senses that it brings. We lose sight of this so much, don't we? The everyday gets lost because it's just "everyday," but that is part of being mindful. Take a moment to at least relish one thing every day. Your cup of coffee in the morning, the birds on a branch out on your lawn, the way your scarf feels around your neck. Take it one step further and write about it in your journal.
Reflection is a key part of Mindfulness because it asks us to tune into those thoughts and feelings and ask why. Why are we feeling them? What is going on in our lives that caused them? If something goes right in life, we often celebrate fleetingly. If something goes wrong, though, we tend to dwell. We spiral on negative thoughts. But we often don't reflect on what happened -- the WHYs of failure. What can we do differently next time to avoid it? How can we improve our outcomes next time?
Go back to your list -- the one you made about being mindful and reflection, and pose this question: how do you WANT to be more mindful and reflective about in your daily life moving forward?
For a free class on the MSBR system, visit here: https://palousemindfulness.com/
There is a class starting on Wednesday at Vanderbilt if you are local to me: https://clients.mindbodyonline.com/asp/main_enroll.asp?fl=true&tabID=103
(to find one for you, google "MSBR and your location")
The original system is tuition-based, with one starting on Jan 24: ww.umassmed.edu/cfm/stress-reduction/mbsr-8-week-online-live/
I will be posting regular mindfulness and reflection in everyday life posts. I keep it mindfulness-lite, but challenge you to try some of the practices on the sites I mentioned. It may change your life for the better!