The practice of mindfulness is about increasing purposeful awareness in the present moment and responding to whatever is happening inside of us or outside of us with careful observation and responsibility with an aim for eliminating judgment.
Let’s break down that definition a bit more. Mindfulness is about slowing down, gently observing sensations, thoughts, feelings, events without reacting or judging. From this space we can then respond with conscious action and decision which brings about a greater sense of peace and acceptance as well as a greater sense of personal responsibility.
In an effort to optimize our physical and mental health, we might choose to purposefully observe what we are eating, how much water we are consuming, what kind of strain or stress we are under mentally and emotionally, the amount and quality of our sleep and if/how we are nurturing our bodies and minds. We might become more aware of the thoughts running through our minds and the way we are talking to ourselves and to others. We need not believe everything we think. We get to choose which thoughts we want to hold onto and which ones we may want to release. We get to choose the words we are using in our own minds as well as with other people. All of this ties into the health of our minds and bodies.
I have many of my clients keep a daily journal to help them increase this awareness. I teach my students and clients how to be more aware of how they are nurturing their physical body every day as well as what thoughts and emotions present throughout the day without judging or punishing themselves when they observe there is a deficit of nourishing choices. It never ceases to amaze me how people are transformed by simply increasing their awareness without judgment.
Here are some tips on ways to practice mindfulness with aim to achieve a healthier body and mind during flu season:
1) Stay closely attuned to your body’s signals. As soon as you feel a little scratchy sensation in your throat, or the slightest achiness listen to that message and respond by drinking warm water with 1/2 lemon’s juice throughout the day, get some extra rest, consume nourishing broth-based soups.
2) Observe a regular practice of gentle stretching and brisk walks. Hold your stretches comfortably for at least 30 seconds and breathe long, slow, rhythmic cycles of breath. When you walk, swing your arms and get a moderate raise in heart rate and breath.
3) Increase the amounts of dark leafy green vegetables such as baby kale, broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, and try steaming them just until bright green. Sprinkle some sea salt or pink salt on them and maybe squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Chew slowly and thoroughly focusing on the fact that these foods are loaded with unbelievable amounts of nutrients that will support your health in more ways than I can mention.
4) Drink lots of water and visit the restroom often. 64 oz. of water (herbal teas count) each day is the recommended amount of water – just be sure to spread it out throughout the day! Don’t drink it all in one setting. Think sip, sip, sip throughout the day wherever you go….
5) Observe 10 minutes of silent sitting every day. Turn off your phone, computer, all electronics, sit comfortably, close your eyes, slow your breath and allow your mind to focus on the way your breath flows in and out of your body so naturally. Soften all the muscles in your body – especially your belly, your hands, your face. Drop your shoulders down away from your ears… Just breathe and be for 10 minutes.
6) Try catching those nasty thoughts that pop into your head that are harsh, judgmental of self and others. Tell yourself, “Well, that’s just a thought.” Then, choose whether to let it go and turn it around or hold onto it.
7) Practice the “attitude of gratitude” daily. Make it a practice throughout the day to feel a palpable sense of gratitude for even the simplest things… for the ability to walk, dance, run, get out of bed… for the clean water we have to drink… for electricity that allows us to heat our homes when it’s so cold outside… for the giggle of a baby or a small child… for the taste of an orange… for the song of the birds in the morning… for the unconditional love of your pet… You get the idea…
If one of these winter viruses does sneak by your body’s army of immunity, flow with it. Warm fluids, plenty of rest, soft tissues. Embrace it as a time to hunker down and nourish your body. Remember that fever is the immune system’s way of fighting off microbial invaders. See your doctor for support and approach the experience with awareness, gentle observation and loving self-care.
Lynn Louise Wonders