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Life Lessons

Mindfulness, Does it Really Matter?

by Christina Pettinato, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

RING! BUZZ! RING! BUZZ!

There is a moment when you realize the sudden pulsing light is not part of your sweet, slumbering dream. Grasping at the air with foggy uncertainty, you reach out in a flopping seal like motion to silence the sound of your morning wake up call. Rolling out of bed you manage to overcome the almost Quixotic task of lumbering into the shower, and within a blink of an eye you are sitting at your work desk wondering “How did I get here?

More often than you’d like to admit, you often find yourself pointlessly functioning in the world around you. Looking back at the days, weeks, and even months, life sometimes seems to be a blurry mess. With all the modern-day challenges, you try to stay afloat within the abyss of past missteps and worries of an uncertain future. It’s no wonder you may feel like your life is moving at the speed of light. So what can you do to slow things down and enjoy the present or maybe even remember what happened last week? Folks, there is a reason this is called auto pilot, and we need a way out!

Most of us have heard about mindfulness, but what is it really? When you think about Mindfulness you want to create a state of consciousness in which you are solely aware of the present moment. With a calm mind, you acknowledge and accept your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. The focus is on the present moment, and releasing your past and future dwellings. In short, you can look at yourself with intention and in a nonjudgmental way to integrate mind and body and spirit.

What I have for you today are three simple techniques you can use to introduce Mindfulness into your daily routine.

1 – One Minute of Mindfulness

Mindfulness doesn’t require hours of meditating like a Tibetan monk. Instead, you want to create mindful moments throughout your day. You are going to need a timer for this exercise. What you want to do is take a seated spot with your feet flat on the floor, your back resting comfortably, and your hands in a relaxed position. After you start the timer, it is your task to focus on your breathing for one minute.

You may close your eyes or keep them open during this exercise. There is no wrong or right way to breath. If you find yourself getting lost in your thoughts, bring your attention back to your breathing. Remember, if you notice a thought creeping in and you begin to move away from focusing on your breathing, it is Okay. Bring your attention back to your breathing as many times as you need. Refocus on connecting your body and breath. Move within the moment back and forth to bring your attention back to your breathing.

2 – Mindful Eating

As you sit down to eat a meal, do attempt to remove any distractions to bring full attention to your eating experience. You want to connect your body with each of the five senses during this exercise.

Before eating your meal, visually explore your food noting the colors, shapes, and textures that you see. Next, call attention to the scent of your food. Notice the aroma and the sensation you feel as the scents move through your nose. Then bring your attention to touch, listening, and lastly introduce taste. Be mindful for the first 3 bites of your meal. Focus on the smell, texture, taste, and any changes you may experience as you chew your food. Explore each of your senses. Savor the moment with an intention to experience solely through your senses.

3 – Pause and Observe

Choose a moment of the day and find a place that feels right for you. Once you feel you are ready, take a moment to pause and look at your surroundings. In this moment, you are intentionally choosing to focus on your environment.

Simply observe. Notice where your attention brings you as you use your eyes to observe your environment. Try to notice without judgment, without critique.  Continue to observe for as long as you like, and stay present in the moment. During this exercise allow enough time for your body to naturally adjust and relax.

Whether you are attempting to learn a new technique, to be more productive, or to find alternative ways to ground yourself in your busy lifestyle using mindfulness is a great tool to help you stop smell and the roses. Next time we will explore three additional steps to help you on your path to self awareness.

Avanti,
Christina

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Five Ways to Stop Feeling Stuck

by Christina Pettinato, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

How do I move away from feeling stuck to feeling, well, unstuck? What slammed the brakes on my inner most desires and choices? How am I responsible for all of this when so much of it seems to be beyond my control? What decisions could I be making right now to help alter this cyclical outcome? Do I really deserve to be living out my life as I desire and finding my authentic self? Ah, the haunting, swirling questions surrounding missed opportunities, isolation, loss, and feeling stuck in life that plague us all when we are at are most vulnerable.

I believe there are a few contributing factors. For one, we continue to make the same mistakes. If we continue to answer the same question over and over again in the exact same way, then the outcome cannot possibly be any different. If we know the answer to something then perhaps it is the question that needs to be different. Procrastination is lives in our day to day being. “I will do it tomorrow.” How many times have we told ourselves that lie? That tomorrow might happen in a week, a year, if at all?

Most importantly though, the underlying notion of feeling “stuck” is what I like to call the “Cycle of Comfort.” What drives this we possess a safety net of predictability. It’s known, it’s reliable, and yes, it might be making us miserable as all hell, BUT misery feels safe, knowable – it is secure and won’t rock the boat. Familiarity can be breed complacency. No surprises here. Anxiety does not live here, yet. What is difficult is venturing into the unfamiliar territories of your wants and desires. You will need to start taking risks and making life changing decisions. Yikes, not that! Venturing into a dark room is always scary. It feels unsafe and I’m betting just thinking about change can poke the bear in anyone’s cave of anxious thoughts. You are unsure of the outcome and that outcome can either yield a positive or negative experience. The unpredictability, the feeling of anxiety, keeps us stagnant, or “stuck” in this cycle.

So what can we do? If I really desire change and want a life worth living, what do I do? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Understand that feeling anxious is a part of the process. There’s good anxiety and bad anxiety, just like good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. I know this might sound crazy, but welcome this feeling with open arms and know that if you are feeling anxious about change you are on the right track.
  2. Do not focus on the past. Dwelling over the possibility of choosing differently in the past fosters feelings of guilt, sadness, and even more “bad” anxiety. It is about learning from the past, not living in it.  Also, remember that every single day you are making choices so make every single one of those decisions count.
  3. Alter your pattern of choice. Choose the unfamiliar and detach from mediocrity.  Your choices should be derived in an authentic fashion and centered on the life you want, and you should find yourself liberated after walking down the unbeaten path. Who knows what you might discover!
  4. Take action. Commit and follow through with your choices. Set a deadline. Make a list, if it helps. Do what you are going to do, mean what you are going to say going, ESPECIALLY if following through has kept you from truly living and being honest with yourself.

What is really important about change is that there has to be meaning, passion, and purpose behind every single choice. I would rather complete one meaningful act than 100 meaningless actions. In short, we need to sacrifice what we already know to truly get unstuck.

Mark Twain said it best, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Avanti,
Christina