I’m a somewhat high-strung person at the best of times, but recently, my mind will.not.stop.
What day is it? How long can I go without washing my hair? I’m going to make vanilla extract. Social distancing isn’t the worst, does that make me super anti-social? JK, I hate social distancing. I miss Target. AH, I TOUCHED MY FACE.
I feel like I’m trying to do ten things at once, and I’m
probably definitely not doing any of them well. I’m all over the place and my attention span is almost non-existent. Help!
I’m turning to mindfulness to help me be more intentional and strategic in how I spend my time, money, and efforts. Enter: a 5 Day Mindfulness Challenge I created with the help of some mindfulness experts.
I’ve always thought of mindfulness and meditation as sitting silently in a cross-legged position for hours on end. I wrote it off, assuming that I wouldn’t be any good at it. It turns out, being mindful doesn’t have to be that complicated.
“Mindfulness is a form of meditation that intensely focuses on being in the moment,” says Dr. Grand McDonald, a Doctor of Psychology at Chicago’s Clarity Clinic. Dr. McDonald also says that mindfulness is about the absence of judgement and interpretation of your thoughts and feelings- it’s about engaging with your surroundings.
Stress reduction, improved working memory, and less emotional reactivity are just some of the benefits of mindfulness, according to The American Psychological Association. (I can’t be the only one that’s been a little more “emotionally reactive” than usual lately…)
Like anything, mindfulness takes practice.
“The trap that we can fall into is that we start making our meditation practice good or bad, right or wrong, and it’s not really about it being good or bad,” says Chill Chicago’s General Manager and Co-Head of Teacher Training, Darrell Jones. “You don’t even have to like it for it to be effective,” he says. “You just need to do it.”
Before starting any challenge, Jones recommends checking in with yourself.
“How’s my body feeling right now? What’s the temperature of my mind? What’s my emotional base like?” Answering questions like these before and after the challenge can help identify what and how you’re feeling.
If you’re a complete beginner to mindfulness, apps like Headspace, Calm, and Peloton offer a variety of guided meditations. Chill also just launched their new app Chill Anywhere, and new users can get a free 14-day trial. Getting started can be as simple as mindfully eating or going for a walk.
Here’s a 5 Day Mindfulness Challenge to jumpstart your practice and to help you feel more centered and present in your daily life.
Day 1: Eat mindfully
Eat at least one meal mindfully (no phones allowed!). Focus on your food – how it looks, smells, and tastes. What do you like about it? Consider how eating this food makes you feel.
Day 2: Walk mindfully
Go for a walk! This can be as big as walking along Lake Michigan or as simple as walking to the mailbox or front door. Take in your surroundings – what do you notice? Consider the sights, sounds, weather, or anything else you observe.
Day 3: Listen mindfully
Pick something to actively listen to. Maybe it’s a friend, podcast, documentary, or audiobook. Focus on what the speaker is saying – don’t rush to answer or react. Resist the urge to scroll, play, or check-in on your phone. Try journaling along or taking notes if that helps.
Day 4: Breathe mindfully
Sit and breathe for two minutes. “Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body,” says Dr. McDonald. “Sitting and breathing for even just a minute can help.”
Day 5: Meditate
Consider focusing on a specific emotion or goal – anxiety, kindness, or even joy. If you’re getting the hang of things, try a longer guided meditation or yoga practice. If it’s been more of a struggle (don’t worry!), and pick something shorter, or even try a guided walking meditation. You do you!
After completing the Challenge, Jones recommends checking in again with your body and emotions. How and what are you feeling? (Whatever you’re feeling, just naming your emotions can be important.)
Consider reflecting on where your mind naturally wandered to – did it surprise you? Did you prefer meditating on your own or with an instructor? Was there a time of day you found most effective? What worked for you, and what didn’t? Mindfulness and meditation are incredibly personal – it’s all about finding what works best for you!
Hopefully, this Challenge helps you feel more relaxed and ready to take on whatever else 2020 throws at us. If you’re feeling helpless, frustrated, or anxious right now, you’re not alone.
And remember, mindfulness isn’t about completely clearing your mind.
“The goal is to pay attention to something,” says Jones. “The goal is not to turn the mind off.”