mindfulness

Three Good Habits To Get More Grounded

I drove myself all over the state of New Jersey and way up to Boston in a flurry of five days last week, so you can bet I was feeling a little disoriented come Monday.

I love being in constant motion. It makes me feel alive and vibrant, the opposite of stuck and stagnant, and I thrive on it. But it also creates some chaos to my habits and patterns that help me feel more focused and grounded.

So once I got back home, I started doing three things that always help me get my feet under me. And maybe they’ll help you, too, if you’re not already doing them or needed a reminder.

  1. Prioritize sleep. From all the driving around and late nights and different sleeping arrangements, my rhythms got thrown off. And sleep deprivation or disruption is a recipe for decreased immune system which can lead to getting sick. Since I already got sick three times this winter (!), I am not having more of that. So as soon as I could, I reestablished my sleep schedule and put myself to bed on time. I also changed my sheets which ALWAYS guarantees a great night’s sleep for me.

    Sleep is the best medicine: it’s cheap, free and extremely effective to help our bodies heal themselves.

  2. Eat greens. When I’m on the road like I was last week, it was hard to find enough greens to meet my daily goals. Greens include kale, spinach, broccoli, etc. and I’ve gotten pretty good at getting at least two servings of them in each day. But last week I got all thrown off from the choices available to me, so I immediately bought myself two big containers of greens and have been gobbling them up the past few days. Greens cleanse the blood, increase our alkalinity and are just generally great for good gut health.

  3. Practice breathing. The frenzy of running from one thing to the next is fun! I love it! I was so impressed how I pulled off such incredible feats of time management to squeeze so much in! I made everything work perfectly time-wise, including a full coaching schedule and lunch meetings and meals with friends. I did screw up one time and overbooked dinner plans with coaching sessions and had to disappoint myself and my friends. But we pivoted and will reschedule for another time. Can’t do it all perfectly, of course. But I noticed when the frenzy tipped the scales a bit and I started forgetting things because my brain was just fried. So I immediately forgave myself and started to practice breathing. The breathing brings in more oxygen and actually helps my brain calm down so I’m not in flight/fight/freeze mode (even in GOOD conditions, the brain just reacts the same) and can think more clearly and consciously. Just breathing helps me practice mindfulness to make the next best move.

Those three habits always help me get more grounded, even if I haven’t been running all over the place like I was last week. Life demands pull us out of alignment constantly and it’s up to us to practice good habits to find balance from one moment to the next.

See if these habits help you do this in your life. Which one can you practice starting right now? Taking action is always the best way to get grounded ASAP.

The way meditation works.

I’ve been meditating since 2001 or so. So about 17 years.

It’s been a long journey figuring out what I needed to really understand about meditation. One of the biggest misconceptions I had, and I hear other people having, is how meditation is actually supposed to work.

I was at a wellness event last week and met person after person who, when I asked if they meditated, responded with, “oh no way. I can’t make my mind that still. It just never stops. I’m too busy to sit and do nothing like that.”

Then there was the person who scoffed a bit and said, “well, I pray. Which is…more important.”

Listen, in America we get to have different opinions. We get to choose our religious path or spirituality that serves us. We also get to decide what works and doesn’t work for us. But I think it’s unfortunate when people make assumptions about something or form fixed opinions based on misinformation.

Meditation isn’t about turning off your brain. It doesn’t work like that. Our brains are designed to process information to keep us breathing and keep us alive. So if you’re brain stopped, that would be a bad sign. I told those people last week, “if your brain stopped, you’d be dead."

Meditation isn’t about being dead. It isn’t about being numbed out. It isn’t at all about shutting down the constant stream of thoughts that run through your mind. It doesn’t work like that at all and isn’t meant to. But perhaps people think that because they desperately crave that kind of feeling to escape the prisons of their minds, which never stop and hold them hostage and cause a lot of fear and suffering.

I can see why people would want to shut that shit down. I KNOW why, because my mind can be a dangerous place to wander around. I am extremely intelligent from a lifetime of wonderful education and I also pursue information like it’s my job, because it IS my job. I am an overthinker by nature and an over-analyzer from a tumultuous childhood. I learned from an early age to strategize and sort things out to survive.

It’s taken some hard lessons and a lot of discipline to figure out how to turn the machine of my mind to a different setting. Meditation helps. That’s how it works, actually.

Meditation doesn’t work overnight. It takes practice. It’s meant to help us actually understand what we’re thinking about, not to stop the thoughts. It works by helping us see the way we get hooked on a thought and get carried away by it. It works by seeing how we live our lives in reaction to people or events instead of responding from a place of power and balance.

That’s the way meditation works.

When we sit on a cushion or a chair for one minute or five or an hour, we are practicing how to sit still and watch our thoughts like our favorite Netflix show. We learn to watch the thoughts like they are a sitcom or crime drama and not what we think they are, which is REALITY.

Still with me?

Our thoughts are not REALITY. They are like a tv show, created from our fears and perceptions and the stories we tell ourselves—not necessarily what’s really happening.

Meditation helps us practice this so when things happen to us in real life, when we aren’t sitting still on a chair or cushion, we apply that same awareness.

What’s the point? Well, when we start to see that our reactions to life cause us stress or unhappiness, we want that to end. We want to change things. We want to think differently to feel differently. We want to learn how to have a more loving and fearless approach to life.

That’s the way meditation works. It actually helps us do that to feel better.

But only when we stop saying things like, “I could never just sit there and turn my mind off, it’s too busy.”

Meditation isn’t meant to turn you off, it’s meant to turn you ON to what you’re doing that’s keeping you struggling and feeling stressed out.

So when you’re ready to sit yourself down and be brave enough to do something different, that’s the way meditation works.

Make room for it all.

Last week I told a client struggling with anxiety and depression about a tactic I've come to find very helpful in battling my own anxious and depressed reactions.

I told her to make room for it all.

Often we feel anxious or depressed because we're consciously or subconsciously choosing to hold down or repress or suppress something we are feeling. Maybe we don't feel comfortable feeling it. Maybe it doesn't feel safe to express it. 

So we try to say, "sorry, not now. There's no room for you (feeling) at this moment."

And the feeling doesn't like that. So it waits for another opportunity to be heard and seen and felt. And if we don't make room for it, it demands our attention in other ways. 

Like insomnia. Or illness. Or anxiety. Or depression. Or some other ways.

What happens when we make room for it all? All those feelings we feel and all those thoughts we have? Who wonders that it would horribly scary and horrible? Who wonders if it would work to feel more relief?

Have you tried it? Do you know what would happen?

After years of unconsciously doing other things, I've practiced making room for it all.

I make room for feeling like a failure.

I make room for feeling lonely.

I make room for feeling confident and inspired.

I make room for feeling depressed and rejected.

I make room for feeling uncomfortable in my body one day and completely dysphoric the next. 

I make room for feeling annoyed at opinionated people.

I make room for feeling sadness about racism and sexism and all the other isms.

I make room for feeling hopeless and helpless.

I make room for feeling competent to educate and inspire others toward change.

With each day and month that I practiced this, making room for all of it, I saw that it got easier. It's not easy, but easier. Sometimes I have to sit down to do it because it feels like being on a ship at sea during a massive storm without any Dramamine. Sometimes a few tears fall. Sometimes I need to give myself a pep talk. Sometimes I do nothing and just notice the complicated nature of consciousness and how our minds work.

Deep thoughts by Dillan DiGiovanni. LOL.

The truth I've come to know is that I don't disappear down a big hole. I don't fall apart at the seams. I don't cry forever.

I don't die.

I just feel it and when the wave washes over me, I'm still there. Sitting and breathing. Really doing ok. And, like my client on the coaching call, I actually feel much better. Much lighter. More able to breathe and open my eyes a bit wider. 

Making room for it all actually helps us get better at making more and more room. More room for us leads to making more room for others.

But start with you. Because you make an impact each day on the lives of many people.

Start with making more room for all of what's happening for you. It's a good place to start.

 

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