Wednesday, February 29, 2012

FitCity: Mindfulness

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I’ve taken a renewed interest in my health.  I’m currently in my 4th week on Weight Watchers, have joined my local YMCA, and am considering training for some events coming up this May (Dirty Girl 5K Mud Run & Obstacle Course) and June (Fishers Freedom Festival 5K- it was my first ever 5K back in 2010).

I’ve taken an interest in trying new things with this renewal as well.  As I continue on this ever-evolving journey, I want to share my new experiences with you.

In the past, healthy living has primarily meant making good food choices and being more active.  Most recently, it meant being focused on running and achieving goals through running that I never imagined would be on my list of accomplishments. 

This new evolution of healthy focus is proving to be threefold.  I am rediscovering my love of and passion for real food.  I am eager to try new workouts and new events and do things that I’ve simply never done before.  I want to be more mindful of my body and my health.

I was recently introduced to the idea of Mindful Eating and that has led me on a journey to being more mindful of my health in general.  Mindfulness is simply the idea of being attentive, aware, and careful about something.   By being aware and attentive, I am finding that there are nuances to food that I hadn’t appreciated before, that there are moments when my body shifts from warming up to ready to go, and times when deep breathing is all it takes to bring back my sense of calm.

Here are a few exercises you can do to be more mindful of your eating, your activity, and your stress level.
  • Select a food, like an apple, and take a moment to hold it in your hand.  Pay attention to its weight, color, any marks on the skin.  Think about the tree that grew the apple.  Hold the apple to your nose and think about how it smells and what the smell is telling you about the food experience you will soon have.  Hold the apple to your lips.  Be aware of the feel of the smooth skin and tha tyou are still able to smell the fruit before you bite into it.  Bite into more slowly than you are used to and pay attention to the sensation of your teeth and gums as they encounter the apple.  Let the fruit sit on your tongue for a moment.   Slowly begin to chew.  Notice the way the juice comes from the apple to your cheek, your tongue, your throat.  Chew thoroughly, paying attention to how the feel of the fruit changes as you chew.   Even as you swallow, pay attention to the food as it travels down your throat.  Before you bite again, sit and feel and taste the sensations in your mouth and nose from that one bite.
  • Go for a walk.  As you walk, focus on your body.  Start with your head.  Feel the weight of your head as it sits on your neck.  Move your attention down your body, focus for a moment on each joint, each muscle group.  Feel what your body does as it is moving.  Notice when your joints become more fluid, when your heart rate begins to increase, when your body temperature rises.  Take time to pay attention to your surroundings and make a mental note of the air, the sky, the scenery around you.  At the end of your walk, take time to notice how your body cools, how your buscles and joints feel, and how you feel about the activity you’ve done.
  • Stressed out?  Take a few minutes away from the stress- somewhere private where you can be alone to focus.  Simply close your eyes and focus on your breathing.  Being mindful of your breathing can immediately help reduce your stress level.  Instead of simply taking a few deep breaths, take the time to pay attention to all the changes that happen when you inhale and exhale.  Feel your lungs expand and collapse.  Pay attention to other part sof your body that move while you inhale and exhale.  Notice how your heart feels when breathing in and when breathing back out.
Making time to focus on mindfulness means slowing down, being purposeful, and staying focused on the present rather than worrying about the past or planning for the future. 

When I am more mindful of my healthy living choices, I make better choices.  It is so easy to get lost in the constant craziness of life.  A big part of why I gained back weight I had worked so hard to lose, why I had stopped running, why I was losing my fitness level was because my focus was on my busy-ness.  We are all familiar with the hectic pace of life when we have days of endless meetings, the kids have homework and sports and playdates and activities, we have our own commitments to family, friends, church, community.  It is very easy to lose yourself and lose your “now” when the focus of life is on all that chaos.

Try to find a moment of mindfulness in your day.  Just 5 minutes of focusing on the present, on the details, and slowing down your pace can make a huge adjustment to your mental health and the choices you make in taking care of your body.


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