3 Tips for Trying Mindfulness
Author: Ashley Rao
Mindfulness is all the rage these days — and not without reason. It benefits our minds, bodies and spirits.
For those of us who are grieving, developing skills to press “pause” on the spin cycle of our minds is essential — it’s all too easy to go from 0 to 10 on the emotional meltdown scale. Mindfulness promotes an awareness of the present moment and the ability to identify and process our thoughts and emotions without being overwhelmed by them. As a practice, it can be particularly helpful on our journey after loss.
This type of practice can be a lifelong pursuit. Here are a few practical ways to get started no matter where you are in your grief journey:
1. Just breathe…
Of course, if you’re reading this, there’s a fair chance you are already breathing. Try the following activity, however, to practice a simple version of meditation:
Set a timer for three minutes. Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and focus your full attention on your breath. With each inhale, notice the way the air sounds passing through your nostrils. Notice the rise and expansion of your chest. Notice any sensations that surface within. With each exhale, notice the release and the fall of your chest. Again, notice any sensations that arise. When you find your mind wandering, allow the thoughts to melt away and focus again on your breath. Continue to gently shift your attention back to your breath over and over again for the full three minutes.
2. If that’s too abstract — or if three minutes just seems like an eternity — try Square Breathing.
It can be helpful during a grief burst, when you find yourself majorly stressed or when you just feel the need to clear your mind. (Since I’m more math nerd than spiritual guru, I love the practical, formula-like approach of this one.)
Find a comfy position and close your eyes. Let outside distractions fade from your awareness as you focus only on your breath. Breathe in for four counts. Hold it in for four counts. Breathe out for four counts. Hold for four counts. Repeat this exercise four times.
3. For a quick shift in perspective that includes healthy doses of mindfulness and gratitude, try Popcorn Gratitude.
Ideal times for this include when you’re stuck in traffic fuming about the insane driver that just cut you off, when work has you frazzled and the to-do list seems unending or just when you’re sitting around the family dinner table.
Pause by closing your eyes and taking a deep breath in and slowly releasing. Now open your eyes, and find just one thing that you are grateful for in that moment. It may be an obvious thing — like the fact that you awoke to see a new day or that you have a car you can depend on to get to work. As you practice this more and more, however, I encourage you to delve more deeply into the details. You might give thanks for the sunlight filtering through the clouds and into your window, for the smile of a colleague as you pass en route to your office or for that satisfying crunch of the celery you’re snacking on (even though you’d rather it were chocolate).
From the pen of…
Ashley Rao, project manager for TAPS Empowerment Weeks of Renewal, has found healing and transformation within TAPS since her husband Army Staff Sgt. Jack Martin died in 2009. Her passion for survivors and experiences working with women who’ve experienced trauma, as a hospice nurse and as a surviving spouse, provide the foundation for TAPS Empowerment programming.