September 24, 2014

Mind Full or Mindful?



Sometimes my blogs are inspired by others (power of suggestion), by local events, by articles I have read, or by things I see in the community and sometimes they are a reminder to myself that hopefully, others will benefit from as well.  Today’s blog falls in the latter category but was also inspired by this image posted on the amazingly mindful Peter Twist’s (Canadian uber trainer) Facebook page.
One thing I was struck by in the first few years I moved here (gasp, almost 20 years ago), after living in both New York and Washington, DC, was the 24/7 lifestyle of the Bay Area.  Not just that people trained for their sport or sports 365 days a year without a marked period of recovery (like winter on the East Coast), but that people worked 24/7, they vacationed often, they needed to be engaged in something all the time. Who would have thought that as quickly as we transplants adapt to the weather (yes, we ALL become weather wimps), we seem to just as easily get sucked into the 24/7 lifestyle vortex.  Now, don’t accuse me of complaining, I love the Bay Area as much as they rest of you, and really, what is not to love?  But, no place is perfect and one of the things that seems to be making us increasingly less healthy is technology, which is the foundation of the Silicon Valley.  How ironic!
As Apple unveiled their Apple Watch a couple of weeks ago, it occurred to me that it would just be one more thing telling us what to do – telling us when we need to workout, when we are “ready” to work hard, how “hard” we should work, when we should sleep, how we should eat, when we have a meeting, when we need to be at hot lunch, heck, it probably tells us when we need to take a poop!  😉  How much more do we need someone or something telling us when we need to be somewhere or when we need to take care of ourselves, isn’t that why we were given 5 senses?  But according to the experts in my field, this is where the industry is headed.  Yikes, what does the use of all this technology do to our nervous system and how does that effect our neuroplasticity?
Technology has increased our sensory input to an unhealthy level – it started with “you’ve got mail” and now we have a barrage of messages from not just email, but Facebook, texting, Instagram, Twitter, and many many more.  It’s not just the rapid firing of messages that can get overwhelming, it’s the pressure to keep up, not only personally, but also professionally and socially.  We have calendars that are so over scheduled, we all could use a full time assistant to manage our kid’s activities and parental volunteer responsibilities alone and this seems to be the case whether you have 1 child or 10!
OK, maybe I am exaggerating just a little, but it brings me back to our 5 senses. When I feel overwhelmed by what is on my plate, it really helps if I take a step back and inhale deeply through my nose (belly breath as I call it) and exhale sharply though my mouth and start the mindful process of focusing first on my breathing and then identifying what I see, feel, smell, hear and can touch at that moment.  Just quieting the mind and getting in touch with your senses can take you from “Mind Full” to “Mindful” in seconds and life is so much more peaceful and enjoyable in the Mindful place.  One of the best gifts you can ever give yourself is the gift of really listening to your body, really paying attention to the cues that you are tired, hungry, over trained, overwhelmed, feeling happy, sad, or even depressed.  This is different than listening to what your head is telling you.  Your body is almost always able to handle more than your head is telling you.  So, quiet your brain and listen to your body. Once you start paying more attention to your own body and really listening, you will be able to take care of yourself in a way that technology will NEVER be able to do.  So start paying more attention today, spend a few minutes quieting the mind, paying attention to your breath and really listening to what your body is telling you.  I think you will be surprised by what it has to say.  You might even become more “mindful” of those around you, the people you really love and care about the most.
This is a great article about the effects of negative emotions on our health if you would like to expand on this topic:
We are now in week five of our Back to Basics Shape Up Challenge.  How are you doing?  Please continue drinking alcohol in moderation (1-2 drinks) only on the weekends, refraining from white flour and sugar, keep your extra workout, and make sure you are drinking a glass of water in the morning upon rising.  Have you been able to cut your snacking to two snacks only per day – one in the morning and one in the afternoon and try to keep them around 200 calories?  This is a great rule for snacking as snacking can easily turn into a 4th, 5th, or 6th meal of the day.  Remember, it is best to make your snack contain protein, fat, and fiber.  I am not adding anything for this week, as I think it is best to focus on the challenges that you have already been given and try to get them incorporated into your lifestyle first.  As always, let me know if you have any questions.
Here is the schedule for the week, please let me know if you are coming to class – and don’t forget to bring a buddy as the buddy’s first class is free until the end of the month.