May is Mental Health Awareness Month and this month I am sharing small habits that have had a major impact on my mental health. These are 10 quick and easy mindfulness practices to connect your mind, body and spirit. There are thousands of practices out there to explore so find what works for you!! You will find that even just a few moments of mindfulness can have a big impact on your day. Let me know in the comments which best resonate with you!
1. Food. Not only is food important to nourish your body AND your mind but the way we consume food can help with our mental health. In our fast-paced society, we are in a constant rush. Not only does that cause us to choose quick options for our meals, some that may not be very nourishing, but the way we consume our food has an effect on how we digest it.
Try this: (5 seconds) Before you consume anything, take a moment to pause and bring gratitude for whatever you are about to eat. Notice if there are any emotions associated with eating. Are you in gratitude, or are you in guilt or shame? Our bodies have a much harder time digesting food in a state of guilt. Bringing thanks for your food raises the vibration within you and around you. This help you slowdown, which helps you digest food better, and it will create moments of your day where you can pause and be grateful. Your mental state effects your digestion, so take the time to create a safe space filled with gratitude when you consume your food.
2. Water. We are connected to water in so many ways. Our bodies are made up of approximately 60% water, and our brains are around 80%. Staying hydrated helps your heart more easily pump blood and keeps your systems working properly - both physically and mentally.
Try this. (1 minute) Put a glass of water by your bed at night. When you wake up in the morning, before touching your phone or checking social media, drink the water. Drink slowly and mindfully. For the first few moments feel the water enter your body and start to awaken you. You can bring in an intention for the day and connect with that intention as you drink. This sets a foundation for your day and nourishes your water filled body and brain.
3. Breath. If you have ever experienced anxiety, you may have noticed shallow breathing. When you are not breathing properly, there isn't ample oxygen moving throughout our body and brain, usually causing tense muscles among other things. The practice of breathing is called Pranayama in Yoga. This means "lifeforce". This Lifeforce has the ability to shift your mental state and connect you deeper into your body. A well oxygenated mind is a clear mind.
Try this: (1 minute) Find a comfortable seat and check in with your body. Notice how you are breathing naturally. Then start to elongate each breath, and take 10 rounds of breath, inhaling and exhaling. Notice your body expanding during each inhale, and relaxing deeper on each exhale.
Bonus Tip: Try incorporating the mantra "So Hum". As you inhale recite "so" quietly to yourself, and as you exhale recite "hum". This mantra can help break through mental tension to reduce anxiety.
4. Sunlight - Vitamin D is a proven necessity for our bodies health and mental health to thrive. Even just incorporating the ritual of opening the blinds and windows in your house every morning will literally "brighten up" your day.
Try this: (2 minutes) Step outside at least ONCE a day with the intention of just stepping outside.Take a moment to practice mindfulness. What do you see, hear, feel? Enjoy the little things like the warmth of the sun, the fresh air, maybe the sound of the birds. Getting outside even for just a moment can reduce stress by lowering the stress hormone, cortisol. Muscle tension, blood pressure, and brain activity shift just minutes from being outside, especially in nature.
5. Meditation - There are entire schools and lifelong studies of the benefits of meditation for mental health. This has been the biggest game changer in my life personally. We are constantly being pulled in a million different directions with work, TV, social media etc. With all of this stimulation, your brain is constantly trying to recalibrate to the ever-changing information it's receiving. We are spending a TON of time focused on what's AROUND us versus what's WITHIN us. Meditation is the process of turning the external focus, inward, and exploring yourself at a deeper level.
Try this: (10 minutes) Out of the 1440 minutes in your day, choose 10 to just sit. Close your eyes, and start to just OBSERVE - how you feel, what feels good, what doesn't. Remember: our bodies and mind are constantly communicating to us, and this is the time to listen. A great meditation technique is to choose a focal point or a "home base".
One technique is to watch your breath, in and out.
Another is to imagine the flicker of a flame in your mind's eye,
Or you can choose an intention, word or mantra.
Once you have a "home base"; focus on it for some time. If you find your mind wandering, let it wander, observe where it goes, and then bring it back to your "home base". You will find even in a short amount of time your brain waves will start to shift. Some days are better than others but if you stick with this practice, you might surprise yourself with how productive, clear, creative, or connected you become.
6. Movement - Movement breaks up stagnant energy. There are several studies on how exercise positively correlates with our mental health. Moving your body releases feel good hormones like endorphins and dopamine. Movement also gets us connected to our bodies, and communities.
Try this: (10 minutes): Meditative movement. This is any sort of movement without any plan that connects us to our body. Walking meditations, yoga and dance are some of my favorites. Choose to either get on your mat or outside. If you choose to walk, get moving. Take a different route and let your body lead. If you choose to step on your mat, start in a child pose or tabletop position and start making small movements. Get super mindful about the movements by moving super slow and let this build. The purpose is to not have to THINK about what you're doing, but to feel and explore. This is going to connect our mind with our breath and our body, and when those three are together, they create the most beautiful dance.
7. Cleanse -This is an important one for me. If you want a peak into my mental health, take a look inside of my closet. Cleansing is also important for your body and your mind. Cleansing is about eliminating the things that are not serving us, physically, mentally and spiritually, so we can create space to bring in more of what lights us up.
Try this: (5 minutes) Choose 1 area you want to cleanse today.
ENVIRONMENT: a spot in your home, a drawer, a corner of your closet, etc., dating)
BODY: Your fridge, a meal, (my favorite: a hot bath when I'm anxious)
MIND: Journal/Free Write. This practice asks you to just free write your thoughts and get them from your mind to paper. You can then see clearly what thoughts serve you, and what thoughts we need to work on to eliminate
Spend just 5 minutes in one of these activities daily. The more we can eliminate stagnant energy from our lives, the more space we have to flow free.
8. Nourish: like to think of "nourish" as indulging. This is all about finding ways to give back to yourself. This can look like a warm cup for cacao, getting lost in a good book, taking a long bath, cooking with friends, cuddling with a partner, ordering your favorite meal, a massage before bed; anything that makes you feel warm and loved.
Try this: (30 minutes) Make Haldi Doodh or "golden milk" before bed. This is filled with warming spices that have anti-inflammatory properties, reduce anxiety and helps us sleep.
Recipe: Make over stovetop for 5-10 minutes
1 ½ cups whole milk, or your favorite whole nut milk (can substitute 1/2 cup for water)
½ tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground ginger (or 1 tsp freshly grated ginger*)
1 whole cinnamon stick (or 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon)
1 Tbsp of ghee or coconut oil
1 pinch ground black pepper
Honey or maple syrup to sweeten
Dash of Cardamum
9. Ritual: Rituals are a beautiful practice that we get to create with ourselves. Similar to setting an intention, something we can come back to, a ritual is a way we honor ourselves daily. Rituals can take anywhere from 10 seconds to hours/days. They can be a gratitude practice before bed, your skin care routine, an hour on your mat each night, or even how you spend your time in nature.
Try this: (10 seconds). When you get in bed for the night. Bring to mind three things you are grateful for. Something that happened, a place your grateful for, a challenge you got through. Bonus points if you can choose 3 new things each day. This practice is a beautiful way to bring your life back into perspective. It's normal to get caught up in the daily to-dos or the stress at work, and a gratitude practice is perfect to leave those things behind and connect to what's important - you.
10. Sleep: Lastly, Sleep is one of the most important puzzle pieces to good mental health. This is the time for your brain to recharge, your body to heal, and your conscious mind to rest. You need this time for your brain and body to regulate. If you don't get enough, you operate on a low battery. You may find it more difficult to make decision, or focus and many daily activities becomes more difficult if we're not recharged.
Try this: (5 minute) After you NOURISH yourself for the night, Give yourself a "turn down" service. Set up a sleep space that's ideal for a good nights rest. Here are somethings I do before bed, especially if I'm having trouble going to sleep:
Put your phone to bed first (an hour before).
Unmake your bed. Turn down the comforter, and take down the pillows.
Get your glass of water for the morning
Light a candle and read or journal to clear your mind
RITUAL practice of 3 things I'm grateful for.
Kiss your loved ones, send love to your family, close your eyes and "so hum" yourself to sleep.
There are so many things you can do to create an environment for your mental health to thrive. The same way you must care for our body you must do for our minds. The outside world creates a lot of challenges for our mental health - social media, constant stimulation, and the rat race of our society. The outside world is not likely to slow down anytime soon, but we can. Even if just a few minutes. I hope at least 1 of these practices can help you connect your mind with your breath, body and spirit.
You deserve to feel good, clear and happy. Life is a ever changing ebb and flow. We will all go through really hard times, and enjoy beautiful moments. I am here to support you through all of it.
So it flows,
If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, please be encouraged to reach out to a mental health professional. This information is for educational purposes only and is coming from my personal mental health experience. This is not intended as a substitute for treatment or consultation with a mental health professional or business consultant.