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Mindful : April 2015
But when we’re doing this, where are we? We’re not in the present—and that ’s exactly where we need to be to take charge of our brains and see the choices to make a cha nge by using mindfulness. Mindfulness is about balancing the brain’s implicit agenda by tra ining it “to be” with what ’s there instead of needing “to do” something about it. In using mindfulness to learn how to be with our feelings, we send a message internally that we’re worthy enough to pay attention to. This closes the gap between where we are and where we think we should be (which ma kes us feel unworthy), and that disrupts the depression loop. Right now you ca n choose to stop what you’re “doing ” for 30 seconds and practice this state of “being.” Just take a breath and acknowledge how you are. Is your mind racing, or is it calm? Is your body tense any where, or is it relaxed? Are you feeling anxious, bored, restless, excited, tired, or any number of other emotions? Breathe in, breathe out. You have arrived. Here’s an opportunity to stop reading a nd begin working on developing mindfulness. It’s a short exercise that you ca n immediately start using to help move away from the conditioned loop of depression and into a space of hope a nd possibility. Lea rning how to be is a one-minute practice that can be done anywhere and anytime as a barometer of how you’re doing. As best you can, treat this as an experiment in your life. Try it out at first in the moments when you aren’t sinking a nd see what you notice. Like any habit, the more you integrate this into your day, the stronger it becomes in your short-term memory, and the more likely it is to be retrieved during the difficult moments. Note: First, see if you can set aside any judgments of whether this practice will or will not work for you. Engage this just with the goal of being awa re of your experience. Breathe: Take a few deep breaths. Notice your breath as you breathe in and out. You might even want to say the word “in” as you inhale and “out” as you exhale. This is meant to pop you out of autopilot and steady your mind. Expand: This is the process of expanding your at tention throughout the body a nd just feeling your body as it is. You can start by noticing the posi- tioning of your body. Then you can move to being curious about how your body is feeling. Imag ine that this is the very first time you’ve ever felt your body. You may feel warmth or coolness, achiness, itchiness, tension, tightness, heaviness, lightness, or a whole host of sensations. Or perhaps you notice no sensation at all in other a reas. When you’re here, also be aware of how emotions are being expressed in the body. Calm may be experienced as looseness in the back or face. You might also notice painful feelings. Maybe this comes up as tension in the chest or shoulders. If there is physical pain, see what hap- pens if you get curious about the sensation of it a nd allow it to be as it is. If it gets too intense, use this as a choice point to become aware of what mat ters in the moment or what you need. Maybe you need to get up, move a round, and roll your shoulders. Awareness is the springboard to getting in touch with what mat ters. That’s it! It may sound too simple to be impactful, but, again, set aside your judgments and let your experience be your teacher. Just practice being, breathing, and expanding into the body in mini moments throughout the day to train your brain to be in that space of awareness and choice that will lead you to a more balanced and mindful life. To help you remember, you might consider post- ing signs in your environment that say “Just Be.” Just as signs on the road remind us to slow down or watch for children crossing, signs a round the house or office can remind us to be how we want to BE. Or maybe put a note in your digital calendar to pop up a couple times per day as a reminder. Or the best way to remember may be to share the idea with a friend to remind each other from time to time. The benefits are enormous—it just takes intention a nd practice. ● From Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mind- fulness and Self-Compassion. Reprinted by a rrangement with Atria Books, Copyright © 2015 Elisha Goldstein. Like any habit, the more you integrate mindfulness into your day, the stronger it becomes in your short-term memory, and the more likely it is to be retrieved in difficult moments. April 2015 mindful 63