Month of Mindfulness

January 4, 2016

CIHT_11.12.15_020High on my list of goals for 2016 was to take better care of myself. Being a mom you can get so wrapped up and focused on caring for everyone else that you put yourself on the back burner. Balancing work and motherhood brought on a new kind of stress in my world last year (read more about it here) that at times made me feel like a fish swimming upstream. When I was invited to be part of Aetna’s Month of Mindfulness I jumped at the chance to learn a few things about managing emotions and practicing mindfulness. Over the course of January I’ll be sharing tips on the topic while taking part of a 30-day program Aetna created to help people experience how mindfulness reduces stress and boosts health. I’ll share how I applied them in my everyday routine and the result I got from. CIHT_11.12.15_010

Tip #1:  Start on the path to mindfulness by being aware of your emotions and thoughts. Today, take a few moments to pause and be with yourself as you are. Start with paying attention to a few breaths as they move in and out of your body. Notice thoughts and feelings without self-judgment or criticism. And keep returning your attention to your breathing. This practice can help you have less anxiety and feel happier now and in the long run.  

The first time I read this tip I thought it sounded a.) too easy and b.) I questioned how affective it would be. After a whole weekend of practicing it—a weekend that came with a lot of angst about getting back into the swing of things post holidays—I’m 100% convinced it’s the simplest way to adjust your mood and emotions. One of the first thoughts that popped into my head when incorporating this method into my daily routine is that I’m too busy. But the reality is, it takes maybe a minute or two and afterwards you become more productive and clear headed. Setting the stage for a more productive day.

Since mornings are typically a time when I wind myself up with a flurry of to-do’s, errands and juggling a toddler, I made sure to put this tip to work. While sipping my coffee instead of sitting down and opening my computer right away, I relaxed in the chair and took a few breaths. At first I found it hard to not let my mind run with negative emotions and feelings but after approaching each new breath it became easier and easier. I immediately felt more calm, collected and relaxed after each time. The rest of the day I did it a couple more times. Once in my car, and at night when I got into bed. Each time the main thing I noticed was my overall mood became more mellow and physically my body relaxed—my shoulders dropped and heart rate slowed. CIHT_11.12.15_039

After doing this for 3 days straight I realized that I’m a bit of a perfectionist and can be downright hard on myself at times creating my own stress in the process. My mind races with what the day should look like versus living in the moment and taking on each challenge with a clear mind. I can’t wait to approach this year with this mindful tip.

Photography by Arna Bee // This post was sponsored by Aetna, who believes health is about the body and the mind. Stress can affect emotional and physical health, and reducing stress can boost wellbeing. As part of their #Mindful30 challenge, the views and opinions expressed in my posts on the topic of mindfulness are my own, not Aetna’s. To learn more about mindfulness, visit aetnamindfulness.com.

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