When thinking about mindfulness and meditation, people generally imagine themselves sitting cross-legged on a floor, eyes shut and “omm”ing until their thoughts come to a screeching halt. This is an extremely common misconception, but the good news is that you don’t have to hold onto it for long! By definition, meditation is an umbrella term that encompasses ultimate concentration and consciousness by self-regulating the mind; mindfulness is a form of meditation where the act is focusing on being fully present. Meditating can even be done through everyday acts such as listening to music, doing yoga, or journaling. Keep in mind that the goal of meditation is not to “turn off” the mind; rather, the goal is to acknowledge thoughts and feelings that arise without getting stuck in them. Below are three simple ways to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into your routine:
Engage in a 3-minute journal exercise.
Keeping a journal allows you to track patterns and growth over time. Set a timer and spend three full minutes free-writing and recording every thought that you’re able to catch, doing your best not to control your thoughts. Maybe you’ll notice a pattern or a specific theme that arose. Multiply the number of thoughts that you recorded by twenty – this is about how many thoughts you have in an hour, and it shows how quickly our minds operate without us being aware. I recommend engaging in this activity almost every morning or evening before bed; it may give you insight into how you’re truly feeling and what you’re truly thinking before the day starts, or how your day impacted you when it’s finished.
Make a Sponge list.
I am subscribed to Shine, a self-care app that sends me a research-backed mindfulness tip every weekday for struggles like stress, anxiety, time management, and more. One of the tips Shine sent me this past summer was creating a Sponge list. Good vibes and energy come from two places: what we do and what we soak in. When we solely focus on what we want to “do” in a given week, we forget what we can “take” from a week too. I begin each week by either writing down these three questions or making a mental checklist: What do I want to feel? What do I want to learn? What do I want to unlearn? This helps me start my week with an intention that I aim to align myself with.
Practice mindful eating.
Eating is one of the ultimate self-care practices because it’s necessary for our survival, energy, and peak levels of functioning. Our current society leaves little room to enjoy meals and actually taste the ingredients and time that went into them, especially during the week when schedules tend to be busier. Our current society also leaves little room to notice effects that food has on our feelings, figures, and hunger triggers (it takes the brain up to 20 minutes to realize you’re full) . Engaging in mindful eating can be helpful in understanding physical cues and cravings when eating. If we all we engaged in mindful eating more regularly (cue a “slow dowwwwn” echo), our brains and bodies would most certainly thank us later.
Juliana R. Collins is a licensed social worker practicing in Philadelphia, and received her Master of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania. Currently, Juliana works as a substance abuse therapist for an intensive outpatient program at Center City Recovery LLC. Juliana is skilled in DBT practices and sexual assault counseling. To contact Juliana, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org