Mindfulness Exercise #1:
When we started Dynamic Souls, we made a promise to be dedicated not just to your physical health, but to your overall health. In keeping up with that promise, we wanted to give you a little introduction to the concept of mindfulness. And we couldn’t think of a better week to do it than this one, where a little mindfulness around gratitude might not only be helpful, but also in the holiday spirit.
What exactly is mindfulness?, you might be asking. Mindfulness is the act of being fully present—of taking account of your current physical place and emotional place . As Mindful.org puts in, “The goal of mindfulness is to wake up to the inner workings of our mental, emotional and physical processes.”
The benefits to regular mindful practices stop nothing short of altering the physical structure of your brain. That’s right: Research has shown that consistent mindfulness meditation—specifically the heightened amount of focus required for the act—releases neurochemicals that enhance the growth of neuron links in the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala.
Science talk aside, this isn’t just some brain-origami superpower. The physical change (what the science world calls “neuroplasticity”) that mindfulness causes results in emotional change, translating to reduced stress levels, increased focus and better overall wellbeing.
Time to try it:
In honor of Thanksgiving, we thought it perfect that this first mindfulness exercise centered around gratitude.
Note: This is adapted from Mindful.org’s gratitude exercise. Check out their full version, with guiding audio, here. The website is a great resource for guided mindfulness exercises to help you get in the swing of the things.
- Steady your breath. You may be in any place, in any part of the day, in any position. Just focus on your breath or the way it moves through your body as you draw your attention away from distracting thoughts or the events of the day past or future.
- When you have cleared your mind, find something in your line of sight that brings you gratitude. It can anything: a color, a shape, a movement. Focus first on seeing it, then on being grateful it is what you are seeing here and now.
- As we begin to move through the senses, shift to scent—find an aroma in your space that is comforting or brings a happy curiosity. Is it new or familiar? Think that scent. Appreciate the smell and time to linger on it.
- Next, open your ears and listen as you gently quiet your nose. Take stock of all the sounds around you and even within you. Can you find gratefulness for this act alone? What sound do you enjoy most?
- Thank the sounds you have enjoyed before moving on to touch. Now dive into the luxury of feeling the world around you. Perhaps this means savoring a hug with a pet or person near you. Perhaps it means letting your fingers stray a little longer on the texture of something around you. Perhaps instead it is the repetition of a touch, a stroke. Take time to be grateful for being among the world you see, for being able to touch the world.
- Lastly, return to sight. Take stock of the physical objects around you. What are you grateful to be near? What thing’s creation, its mastery, are you in awe of? Find gratefulness for what you have.
- As we begin to exit this practice, wrap that gratefulness up in an ornate box and tuck it into your brain. Carry it with you throughout the rest of your day or week. Open it when you forget about it. Show it anyone and everyone.
- One last piece of gratitude: Be grateful of yourself, for taking the time to do this exercise.
Happy (early) Thanksgiving, Soul Squad!