Mindfulness Apps: Gimmicks or the Real Thing?

MeditationWith “mindfulness” having become such a buzzword over the last few years, it could be easy to dismiss mindfulness apps as gimmicks. But mindfulness has become much more mainstream and validated as not only a healthy way of living, but the practice of mindfulness meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction have become integral components of corporate wellness programs and mainstream healthcare. And now, mindfulness apps for your portable devices have entered the arena. Rather than being gimmicky, they are useful and accessible tools to help both beginners and current practitioners stay on track with mindfulness practice.

These apps are available on Apple and/or Android devices, and offer opportunities for everything from just chilling out to some relaxing music for a brief period of time, to practicing various types of mindfulness meditations through guided meditations. Read on……

Mindfulness at Work

job stressI see it all the time: friends, family, colleagues and clients who are valiantly trying to cope with the excessive demands of their jobs. Their departments are under-staffed, their workload is off the charts, their colleagues are irritable, no one seems to really listen to anyone, and everyone is working as fast as they can and still feeling as though it’s not fast enough.

Does any of this sound familiar? Read on……

Be Aware – Opening Your Senses to Your Inner and Outer Worlds

AwarenessTo some people, the word “awareness” may sound like one of those buzz words that are thrown around without much meaning.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Awareness is the key to effective and supportive communication, in developing compassion, in reducing stress, being assertive without being aggressive, developing and maintaining healthy relationships, and mindful living, to name a few. If you open your senses to the world around you, your awareness will bloom.

When you begin to pay attention,  focusing on something or someone, you are already developing awareness. Read on……

Life Transitions

CHANGEThere are many times during our lives that offer us the opportunity for life transitions – to move from a state of unhappiness to a state of fulfillment.  In fact, every moment of our lives offers that opportunity if we are aware and paying attention.  But sometimes the possibilities of these transitions become more obvious to us than at other times. For example: when adult children leave the house; when a long-term relationship has ended; when a job has become  stale or unhealthy, when retirement is on the horizon; when we realize that a course of study does not reflect our true passion. Read on……

Mindfulness – How to Stay Sane in Our Crazy, Multi-tasking World

water dropYou’re at work, trying to complete a project on time.  The phone rings, and you stop what you’re doing to answer it.  Your email chimes to let you know another email has arrived in your Inbox.  You sneak a quick look and then see another email that you forgot to answer that needs immediate attention. You start typing a response to the email while you’re still trying to carry on a conversation on the phone. Then someone walks in to your office to ask a question, and you cut your phone call short to answer their question, leaving your email half-finished. After that conversation is over, you stop for a minute, certain that you have forgotten something, but can’t remember what it is.

Does this sound familiar?  It happens everywhere, and not just at work. Read on……

Laughter – It Really IS the Best Medicine

SmileI remember how, as a child, I would read through my parents’ Readers Digest’s.  I thought they were the neatest things – like a child’s portion of a grown-up magazine.  I loved reading just about everything, but my favorite columns were the ones that were all about humor.  They always made me feel good, and there was a variety in the type of humor. Sometimes the humor came in the form of a story, sometimes in the form of a joke.  It didn’t matter – I loved it all. It made me laugh, and I was totally engrossed in the humor – nothing else mattered.  It was always a very present-moment experience for me. Read on……

Breathing Through The Holidays

Happy HolidaysI’d like to share a few experiences with you that I had in the last few days. As I was driving in my car to do some holiday shopping,  throughout the day I was constantly plagued by drivers who insisted on driving so close to the rear end of my car that our cars should have been on a first-name basis.  Of course, the thing that really scares me about this is that if I had had to stop suddenly, they would have rammed into the back of my car, doing who-knows-what damage to me, them and our cars.  (This is why I always leave a nice buffer between me and any vehicle in front of me.  But that’s another story.)

So eventually, in each instance, these cars that were tailgating me finally saw their chance to pass me, which they did with much flourish and speed (and in the past, sometimes a significant hand gesture).  All I could think of is “What’s the hurry?”  It’s not as though I’d been driving below the speed limit.  In fact, sometimes I was actually (shhhhh) driving a few miles above it.  But these people were REALLY in a hurry, and they wanted me to know that I was in their way.

I realize this type of behavior happens all year round, but it seems to be the worst during the holidays.

Now, let’s go back a few more days to Black Friday.  My husband and I had decided to brave Black Friday just for kicks. (It was HIS idea, really, but I went along with it.  I know, what a strange sense of fun we must have.) Anyway, I walked into a local department store chain while my husband drove around the fully-packed parking lot, looking for a parking space that was closer than 100 miles away.  As I made my way through the store, I noticed the incredibly long line that snaked around the entire perimeter of the store.  This is no mom and pop store we’re talking about – it’s a big one.  What was even more amazing was the happy, even jolly mood that everyone in line seemed to be in.  I didn’t hear one bit of grumbling.

Now, this was the time when I most expected to hear all kinds of complaining going on about long lines, not enough cashiers, and so on.  But everyone seemed to be on his or her best behavior.  I wondered why.  Maybe it was because they already knew what to expect, so they weren’t let down by the reality.  I don’t know.  But what I do know is that there was a huge contrast between the shoppers’ behaviors and the drivers’ behaviors, which really helped me come up with my Lucky 7 Tips for surviving the holiday scene.

  1. SLOW DOWN.  When you drive too fast, and tailgate the cars in front of you, you’re endangering my life, your life, and everyone around you.  Is it worth the risk just to get to your destination a few minutes ahead of everyone else?
  2. KEEP IT REAL.  Come on, you know that you’re going to have to wait in interminable lines, or you’ll be on hold for a while if you call in a phone order.  And it will take forever to find a parking space.  So go with that flow, and don’t sweat what really is the small stuff.  And if you are trying to squeeze in some shopping on a half hour break, it might be time to re-think that strategy.  It’s most likely doomed.
  3. ENJOY THE MOMENT.  Sure, I know that you want to get your holiday shopping done as quickly as possible, but if you just relax and be in the moment, you might actually enjoy a friendly conversation or two with a fellow shopper.  It helps pass the time.
  4. JUST SAY NO.  The holidays are built-in pressure cookers for a lot of people.  You might be juggling last-minute work responsibilities before your holiday break, or trying to plan a holiday meal for 20.  Whatever it is, be realistic about your limits and don’t be afraid to say “I’m sorry, not this time”.
  5. TAKE A TIME OUT.  No, not because you’ve been bad.  Because you need it.  Holiday stress is a given for so many people, so make sure that you actually plan breaks for yourself where you can just breathe, drink a cup of tea (or a glass of wine), listen to some relaxing music, and let your body and soul regenerate.
  6. GET SOME SLEEP.  Speaking of regenerating, sleep is the time when your body does it best.  It’s easy to get caught up in the “have to’s”, and before you know it, it’s 2am and you have to be up in 4 hours.  You’ll not only feel better, but do everything better, if you get your ZZZZZ’s.
  7. MODERATION, MODERATION, MODERATION.  One of my father’s favorite phrases was “everything in moderation”.  It’s true.  It’s so easy to do everything in excess during the holidays, and we often feel lousy afterwards (physically, emotionally, and financially).  So when you eat, if you slow down to really enjoy your food, you’ll find that you may not eat as much.  If you slow down and savor each sip of wine or whatever your alcoholic choice of beverage may be, that might just pre-empt that holiday hangover the next day.  And my one final thought on moderation is with regard to gift giving.  More is not better.  Try to make your gifts thoughtful, not excessive.  Appreciate the quality, not the quantity.  And when it comes to gifts for kids, consider the message that you’re sending by heaping huge volumes of gifts on them.  What expectations does that set up?  And where does it end?

So please, take a deep breath, and take good care of yourself so you can enjoy time with family and friends this holiday season.

P.S.  If you have some other tips to share, please share your thoughts below.  We’d love to hear ’em! 

Self-Care: Taking Care of You

MeditationThe other day, I was lying on the floor of the Quite Storm Dojo in Wilmington, Delaware, experiencing my fourth Kokyudo class.  (If you’d like to learn more about Kokyudo, check out my interview with Ryan Fisher in the Expert Pages).  Kokyudo (or the Natural Breathing Method), is a breath-based version of Aikido which, as described on Ryan’s Facebook page, “…… retrains the connection to this vital source of energy by way of removing every restriction to the natural breathing process. Stress-reduction is one of the many byproducts of a consistent practice in breathing re-education.”

As I lay there on that wonderfully spongy, comfy, floor, feeling like one big “AHHHHHHHHHHH”, I reflected on how often I put off doing something like this for myself.  It’s ironic, since I’m such a big proponent of self-care, especially since I have so many self-care “tools” at my disposal: meditation; physical therapy exercises; massage therapy; relaxation recordings and music; and yoga DVD’s. I can also nourish my soul and take care of myself by taking a walk outside, or taking a break to sit quietly with a cup of tea.  So the question is: why is it so difficult to make the time to take care of myself on a regular basis? Read on……

Relieving Your Stress – Balancing Your Life

Yoga on the beachYou wake up to the sound of a blaring alarm, catapulting you out of bed.  Heart pounding, you try to slow down just enough to mentally run through the day’s “To Do” list. It’s overwhelming.  You can’t imagine how you can face another day that feels just like the day before, and the day before that.  You’re already exhausted, and it’s only 6am. Read on……

Labor Day – A Mindful Transition

HappyLaborDayLabor Day is intended to pay tribute to the working men and women in America and Canada.  However, it holds other meanings for many of us: a day off of work, backyard barbecues, Labor Day sales at local stores, parades and the symbolic end to summer.

Although summer doesn’t officially end until September 21, many of us have just returned from our last summer vacation, and if our kids haven’t returned to school yet, most of them will by this week.  So Labor Day has become a pivotal transition point for lots of folks.  It often signals the end of what has felt like a more relaxing time, and the start of getting back to the “real” world.  And for those with younger children, it may mean getting back into a more manageable “groove” (as opposed to the reworked summer schedules that are needed to manage kids’ summer activities). Read on……