What is Mindfulness?

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Mindfulness has become something of a buzzword in our society today. So, many of us may have heard that practicing mindfulness will enhance our lives in some way and we head over to an internet search engine to learn more. What happens next may be unsurprising to us, it may be pretty typical but it is no less disheartening. We search for mindfulness, for this thing we heard is going to help us greatly, and every site, every definition is different. How can we go about “practicing mindfulness” when we aren’t all that sure of its meaning or definition? In our blog today we offer only one of a myriad of possible definitions and we explore the some places within our lives where this definition of mindfulness is applicable (Hint: There are far more places than those we mention…). You may find a definition of mindfulness that you resonate with more sincerely but we offer this definition as a “jumping off point” for your exploration. With that caveat provided, let’s get started!

One Way To Look At Mindfulness

One common definition that we may find for mindfulness is the present moment awareness of our bodily sensations, emotions, and thoughts without judgment.

Why Mindfulness?

When we are aware of our thoughts, emotions, and even how our body feels we may create stories around those experiences and those stories may take us away from the present moment and bring us to a place where we decide a feeling or thought is good, bad, acceptable, or unacceptable. For example if I sit down to take a few moments for myself, I may decide to bring my attention to the sensations I am feeling within my body. I may notice my stomach rise and fall and then notice that I may not have eaten yet today. I may begin to tell myself a story about how “I just don’t have time for anything… I need to be more efficient at work so that I have time to …”. Whether we notice it or not, this bodily sensation created a story, we attended to the story, we created a judgment based on the bodily sensation, and that attention and judgment brought us out of the present moment. This is common and we can do our best not to be hard on ourselves for this behavior as we work to address the impact it has on our lives. Mindfulness practices can help us to address this behavior in our lives because we can create within ourselves a habit of non-judgmental awareness of how we think and feel.

Another way to think about where mindfulness can be of service to us is to contemplate times in our daily lives when we act without much thought or when we react more quickly than may have been helpful. Certainly if we are crossing the street and see a car, we need to react quickly to move out of the way of an on-coming vehicle. Impulsive action is designed for this very thing. However, there may be moments wherein impulsive action does not serve us. When a friend says something unkind about our partner or another friend we may impulsively hang up the phone or say something unkind in the moment. Perhaps those impulsive behaviors cause strife in our relationship and perhaps we feel regret when we reflect on them, even just moments later. Mindfulness practices offer a change to put a bit of space between feeling or thinking something, and acting upon those thoughts or feelings. No doubt, there may be times when this can be of use to us all.

Mindfulness provides us with the opportunity to bring ourselves back to the present, to this very moment, in a place within ourselves without those stories or value judgments and without impulsive action. “I’m in!” you might say. So are we. Below you will find a short mindfulness practice to get you started. Creating a routine mindfulness practice, whether it includes mindful movement, yoga, meditation, or an exercise like the one below, may help you to build space in your life for the thoughts, sensations, emotions in a way that serves you more effectively on your road to recovery.

Do you have a favorite or routine mindfulness practice? Feel free to share it with the Root To Rise Community: We’d love to hear from you!

Sample Mindfulness Practice For The Beginning Of Your Journey

This practice addresses our thoughts, sensations, and emotions. It may help to read through the exercise before beginning to try it out so that you may attend fully to the practice during the time you’ve set aside.

Find yourself in a comfortable seated position. You may allow your eyes to close if this feels safe and appropriate for you in the space you are using.

  • Begin to focus your attention on your breathing. Feel your chest rise and fall as you breathe in and out. Keep your attention here for a few moments as you feel yourself breathing.
  • Bring your focus or awareness to each of your senses, one at a time. For example: What do you see, hear, smell, and so on. Keep your attention with each sense for at least five breaths. Simply acknowledge the sensations you feel. If your attention should be drawn elsewhere, just bring your focus back to your breath, and then to your sensations.
  • Now draw your focus or attention to how you feel within, to your emotions. Keep your focus and attention on you emotion for at least ten breaths. Simply acknowledge the emotion you feel, and should your mind wander, return it to your breath, and then to the emotion on which you are focused.
  • Bring your focus to your thoughts. Allow your thoughts to drift by like boats on an ocean. You see them but you need not “swim out to them” by focusing all of your attention on one thought. Watch your thoughts as they pass: One, and then another, and then another. If you find yourself paying more attention to one than any other, if you have begun to “swim out to that boat”, allow yourself to let that thought pass, and allow yourself to “return to shore” by focusing your awareness upon your breath as you guide your attention back to your thoughts. Remind yourself to watch your thoughts as they pass and allow them to do so without judging their voyage on the sea of your mind.
  • When you find yourself ready, return your attention more fully to your breathing, allow your eyes to open if you closed them, and allow yourself to invite movement back into your body.

Disconnecting to Reconnect

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Technology has become a true part of the American experience and, while it can connect us to loved ones, to sushi delivery, and to yoga classes, the downsides to an “over-connected life” are plentiful as well.

We spend a great deal of time on our phones or other digital devices and can sometimes neglect our daily routine, the goals we’ve set, or even those we care about, while attending to our devices. Even as these devices allow us to communicate with family overseas or a potential employer, we may find that we need a break from our devices to reconnect with the people, activities, and experiences that matter most. Creating a “Tech Break” in our schedule can seem impossible because we feel so connected to our devices, but the following tips may help make the experience of disconnecting to reconnect possible.

Determine Why You Are Taking Your Tech Break:

Are you taking a break because you scroll through a particular social media platform for large chunks of time? Are you finding yourself regularly comparing your lives to the “Best of” social media personas? Are you answering emails during family dinners or reading articles next to a partner who is watching cat videos and feeling a lack of connection as a result? Are you simply in need of a break from the screen?

When we determine why we are taking a vacation from our devices or social media we can begin to design a break that addresses our needs and that works with our lifestyle.

Set Boundaries For Your Tech Break

Setting boundaries for this tech-free time can help you to stick with it. If you are someone who wants to stay off of social media for a while you may be focusing simply on those applications and you may want to decide on whether you want to check the applications a certain number of times per day or not at all for a certain number of days.

Perhaps you find yourself answering work emails unnecessarily during time with loved ones. Maybe your time off from devices will involve turning off email notifications or ignoring them once you leave the office.

Whatever boundaries you set for your time out from technology, be sure that you make these boundaries consciously and work to remain consistent during your break.

Turn Off Notifications You Don’t Truly Need

Turning off unnecessary notifications is a step we may all be able to take, even if we are not ready for a full time out from our devices. Do you need the “Deals on Down Comforters” notifications from a discount app? Do you get unwarranted notifications about “likes” you’ve received? By turning off notifications we don’t need we can free ourselves from feeling endlessly attached to our devices.

Create “Tech Free Zones” In Your Home Or Workspace

While a full Tech Break may not be your cup of tea, designating places and spaces where you will not be using your devices may help you to make some space in your life to reconnect to what matters. Perhaps you leave your phone in the living room when you head into the bedroom. Maybe you decide as a family that there will be no device use in the kitchen or at the dinner table. Whatever “Tech Free Zones” you create, be sure that you can maintain them and that they allow you to reconnect with loved ones.

Designate A Time To Take A Mini-Break Each Day

If going “tech-free” or “social media silent” for days or weeks at a time is not something you are ready, willing, or able to do, you can still create opportunities to disconnect and reconnect. Perhaps you can select time for a “mini” tech hiatus in your day or a few times a day. By planning your day and including these smaller breaks, you may be able to experience greater connection, grounding, and presence each day.

Whether you’re in it for a long-haul break from social media or are creating space away from your devices in your daily life, remember that consistency (not perfection) will serve as a positive goal.

Do you already take “Tech Breaks”? Let us know how they help you to reconnect with who and what really matters and reach out to us for more ways to reconnect to your local recovery community!

Consistency

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consistency

Consistency In Pursuit of Goals

This month we’ll be addressing the idea of consistency.
While describing setting specific goals are excellent steps toward achieving the things we want in our life, we may experience disappointment if that planning is not coupled with consistency. When we are consistent we are acting in the present moment with the future goal as our guide and we are repeating helpful behaviors and thoughts while we build upon them toward our goal. There are some things to keep in mind as we try to act in a consistent manner. Below you will find some tips to make consistency work for you as you work toward your goals.

Tips For Staying Consistent

Start Small:
As we begin a consistency practice it may be helpful to create a small routine that build on each other to help us work toward our goal. This may look like selecting one, two, or three things to do each day, every day. The important thing to consider as we begin a consistency practice is that it is okay to start small. The things we decide to do should be healthy routines, valuable and should be things we can really do every day. Examples might include: Eating three healthy meals a day, exercising for ten minutes each day, and getting a certain amount of sleep each night.

Enjoy The Process:

One way to ensure consistency is to in some way enjoy executing our plan for achieving our goal. This is often easier said than done because some parts of the plan that will eventually lead us toward our goal may feel boring or small. However, even if parts of our routine are arduous at times, it may be helpful to find parts of the process that we enjoy. For example, if we are trying to implement the use of a planner to better manage our various responsibilities, appointments, and family needs, we may find that we enjoy it more if we took the step of introducing more creativity into the process. We may use symbols or colors for certain types of events or activities (Red for work, blue for personal, etc.). By finding ways to make the less exciting parts of our plan work for us we are inviting ourselves to stay consistent again and again over the course of the journey toward our goal.

Plan For A Back Up Plan:

We know that not everything goes according to plan each day. Having a back up plan to ensure that we can remain consistent can truly help us maintain our routine and progress toward our goal. For example: If our goal is to eat three healthy meals each day but our job is one where we often experience unpredictable interruptions, we may want to pack healthy snacks or small meals that we can eat throughout the day, even if its a busy one.

Use An Accountability Partner:

Times may arise when we do not feel like doing those things that would help us to work consistently toward our goals. One way to address or prevent this move toward inconsistency is to have an accountability partner. For example: Some days we might want to skip our after-work exercise routine or have fast food instead of a healthy meal. If we have someone talk to or a person with whom to share our explanation (or excuse), it might prevent us from doing those things that hinder our progress. The other person is not present to judge, but rather to encourage and should be someone whose opinion we trust and value.

Remember That Feelings And Thoughts Are Not Permanent:

Another more mentally focused way to address or prevent a move toward inconsistency is to remind us those thoughts and feelings are temporary. Being present allows us to acknowledge thoughts or feelings without judgment. While presence is important, we may also benefit from a chance to remember our goal and the progress we’ve already made. The point of reminding ourselves that these thoughts and feelings are temporary is to eventually remind ourselves of one important idea: If its healthy, positive, and in the interest of our goal, it will serve us to do it even if we don’t feel like doing it that day.

Keep Going:

One important step in developing consistency is to acknowledge that the process of being consistent will change us. It will, however, require us to leave behind the old thoughts about ourselves that hinder our consistency. These will come up again when we have an experience where we do not necessarily stay consistent, or where our goal seems far away. As we progress, we won’t stop working when we fall short of our daily goals. When we fall short of a goal or are not feeling accomplished we will ask ourselves what happened and how we can improve next time. We might say to ourselves, “Don’t give up! You are doing this!”

As you review these tips find one or two on which to focus for now. As you build consistency don’t forget to track your progress. By noting your progress, areas for improvement, and things that are working or not working, you can improve your process and make your plan work for you! Enjoy the process and stick with it! You are doing this!

Time Management: Making Time For What Matters To You

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Making Time for What Matters To You

For some the words “time management” can be scary. These words can bring up high school guidance flashbacks, or make us feel like our lives must be over-scheduled or busy in order to be productive and meaningful. Once those feelings pass, however, we can begin to really enjoy the task of planning our time. Surely emergencies and unexpected events will occur, and we will need to address them. However, we need not let the possibility of these unpredictable occurrences distract us from what can be a very healthy and productive mental exercise: Prioritizing the tasks of our lives.

When we decide to spend some of our time planning and managing the tasks and events of our lives we are able to prioritize those things that must get done (showering/bathing, sleeping, eating, or exercising, for example) those that we’d like to do (leisure activities or hobbies, for example), and the other tasks or those tasks that fall somewhere outside of the typical wants and needs of daily life (feeling that you should help your cousin move into a new apartment next weekend, for example).

The first task of time management is to recognize that each person finds success in managing their time in different ways. What works for you may not work for your friends or family members and that is completely typical. While some people enjoy keeping their lists and important dates in a paper planner, others prefer to set reminders on their phones. What is most important is not how one decides to manage their time, it is that they decide this task is valuable and that they do their best to remain consistent in whatever method they select. Like any behavior pattern or habit, consistency is often a hallmark for success.

Enclosed herein are some ways to manage your time and create a life that is balanced, productive, and joyful. As mentioned above, not every strategy is effective for every person. However, in any time-management process it is important to first discern what events, activities, and behaviors fall into the categories of “I need to”, “ I want to” and “Other”. Listing tasks according to importance within each category can also be helpful. Beyond that, this month we invite you to review these strategies, to discern which if any can be of help to you, and to try them out. We welcome your feedback and are excited to begin the conversation about creating lives for ourselves that acknowledge our needs, our wants, and our priorities.

-The Root To Rise Team

Do what matters first: Select your most important tasks and attend to them first. Spend some time each morning going over what needs to get done today and adding to that list of “needs”, when possible, those things you’d “like” or “want” to get done as well. Taking time to plan your day, even for a few moments in the morning, can prevent you from being overwhelmed by unforeseen circumstances or distracted by unnecessary or low priority items. If you planned your day by respecting your own priorities you’ll have a reminder to focus on what is really important.

Simplify and stay organized: While organization and simplification surely warrant their own blog post (perhaps sometime soon) they also bear mentioning here because these approaches can help prevent wasted time. Organizing one’s clothing, for example, can prevent wasted time looking for a particular shirt or other garment.

Make Self-Care A Priority: Taking care of yourself (sleeping enough, exercising regularly, finding calm moments for reflection, eating right, and the like) is essential and keeps you healthy and productive.
Be present as you complete tasks: Multitasking is not always a fully negative behavior, but we must be aware that there will be times when doing too many things at once prevents us from meeting with success or wastes our time. Giving your full focus to the task that you’re completing now reduces the likelihood of mistakes, “redo’s”, and lost time.

Don’t be afraid to literally manage your time: Set a time limit or make an educated guess about how long something will take you to do. Get to know this time frame for each task and give yourself a few minutes between tasks in case your estimate wasn’t exactly correct or you need a break before moving on. (Extra Perk: When you list tasks like you might find yourself able to use random pockets of time better. A good example of one of these time pockets is the time that you have while your laundry is washing and/or drying and before it will need to be folded or hung.)

Recognize your common “time wasters” and work to address them as needed: What tasks do you spend more time on than you feel is necessary or warranted? Why do you spend that extra time on these tasks? How might you be able to get it done well but in less time? These questions can help us see where we are losing time that we need not waste. If you feel you unnecessarily spend a good chunk of your day checking and responding to emails, for example, perhaps you can carve out one or two times during the day to check /respond to email so that your entire day is not monopolized this task.

NOTE: Again, these are all suggestions and the strategies described above are by no means a one-size-fits-all set of recommendations. The most interesting part of time management is finding the methods that give each of us as an individual the feelings of success and joy.

Trust the Process: Goal Setting

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This month our blog post will address the idea of goal setting. You can use the information provided here to create your own short or long-term goals and to draft the steps you will need to take to achieve them. The goal setting process allows us to develop the roots of our own personal successes because we can decide how we would like to grow in different areas of our lives: Personally, professionally, spiritually or otherwise.

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Setting SMART Goals

One of the keys to beginning any journey or creating change in our lives is to set goals. The goals that we set for ourselves can be deeply personal, but generally we will find the most success if our goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. As we discern our goals we might ask ourselves things like: “What exactly do I want to achieve?” “How am I going to do this?” “How long might this take me to do?”, and “Why do I want to achieve this goal?” Answering these questions may be the first step toward achieving our goals and may help us to be more driven and successful on our journey.

Setting Specific Goals

Our goals are most helpful to us when they are clear and precise. To make sure we have specific goals we might answer the “Who, What, Where, When, And Why” of our goals. We might also give ourselves time to consider multiple ways to the same goal. For example, we might start with a goal of “I want to be less stressed”. Though this is a good goal, it needs some more specifics to be most helpful. “I want to set aside 15 minutes a day to relax” is a bit more specific. “I want to spend 15 minutes each day journaling” is even more specific. Further, “I want to learn to meditate to ease stress” “I want to exercise each day for at least 30 minutes” “I want to start playing guitar again” are all other, more specific, ways to the same goal.

Drafting Measurable Goals

Our goal setting is helped a great deal by making our goals measurable. Our goal of “I want to be less stressed” is valid, but it is more attainable when we set up a way to see ourselves grow. We can ask ourselves what we will experience when our goal is achieved. Will we see, hear, or feel something different? When do we want to experience this change? What we often find when we work to make our goal measurable is that out big goal (In the example we’ve been using, “Be less stressed”) is achieved only through achieving smaller goals along the way. For example, if we were to say we want to spend 15 minutes each day journaling and increase that to thirty minutes the next month. We may realize that we need to schedule that time into our day and creating that space in our day might be a smaller goal that happens before the larger goal. If we would like to learn a meditation technique within the next two months, for example, we would need to find space in our day to look for places or resources where we can learn such techniques. We may also need to schedule time for ourselves to learn and practice meditation. Each of our larger goals then, through measurement, becomes more specific. (And we won’t forget celebrate the steps we make along the way!)

Creating Attainable Goals

Goals we set for ourselves should be attainable. This means that we should be able to spend the time, make the effort, and spend the resources to make our goals a reality. We can weigh the time, effort, and cost against the benefits of reaching the goal. Setting attainable goals also means that the goal fits with our other priorities, values, and abilities. As goals are often quite personal, only we ourselves can determine if a goal is attainable for us. If you have a back injury, perhaps “ I want to complete a back-bend in yoga” is not an attainable goal for you. However, “I want to exercise twice a week for thirty minutes” might suit you better. (Once you consult with your doctor, of course.) Setting attainable goals does not mean we do not take the chance to challenge ourselves, nor that we limit ourselves more than necessary, but it does mean that we understand what we can reasonably accomplish given our unique circumstances, abilities, and resources.

Designing Relevant Goals

Setting a relevant goal for ourselves requires some personal reflection. One way to find out if a goal is relevant is to ask, “Will the goal really get us closer to our larger objective?” For example, if we want to be less stressed but don’t enjoy writing, the goal “I want to journal for at least 15 minutes each day”, though a good goal for others wishing to relax, may not be the best way for us to achieve that goal. Sometimes we find that we are doing things out of habit, obligation, fear, or for others. Setting relevant goals requires that we set goals that are important to us and that have meaning for us. While it would be wonderful to have our friend hit the gym with us every Tuesday, our desire to be healthy will bring us to the gym even if he’s not tagging along. While it’s wonderful that our sister introduces us to meditation, our interest and desire for the experience is what will enable us to learn and practice with more commitment. Setting relevant goals ensures our success because we are selecting goals that matter to us.

The Importance of Timely Goals

Making sure we set deadlines for ourselves or deciding how long it will take for us to reach a goal is important. Setting timely goals means creating a reasonable timeline for getting to your goal. While the timeline should be flexible (things don’t always go according to plan) the creation of a deadline or timeline will allow you to stay on track toward your larger goal as you hit the smaller goals along the way.

Goal Setting Works

Goal Setting is a great way to increase your motivation about a particular change you’d like to make or experience you’d like to have. Research has shown that the simple act of creating a goal creates incentive and also increases the likelihood that you’ll reach your goal. (Turkay, S. (2014). Setting Goals: Who, Why, How?. Manuscript.) This is especially true of goals that are challenging, relevant, and specific. As we work on developing ourselves further we can set goals to measure our progress toward how we’d like to feel, think, and be.

Keep The Focus On Your Goals

As we set and work toward achieving our goals we can often become side tracked. Life events, the needs of others, and our own feelings about ourselves often offer us challenges along the way. When we acknowledge these challenges and reflect on how to best deal with them, we can renew our focus on our goals increase our motivation to achieve them.

When we set goals for ourselves we might find that our goals take multiple focuses. For example “I want to work out each day for 30 minutes” may begin as a goal that focuses on improving our health but we may find that the time spent exercising builds our self-confidence and allows us to manage our stress better as well. We can welcome the different benefits that come from a goal that began with a different focus.

Evaluate Your Progress

As we work toward achieving our goals it is essential that we take a few moments, whether it be each day or each week, to evaluate our progress. We can celebrate our victories in achieving smaller goals, reassess timelines for achieving larger ones, or even adjust our goals if we find that something isn’t working to our benefit. Re-evaluating our goals regularly allows us to see how far we’ve come and to reflect on whether our methods are truly effective. As we find that our goals are close at hand we are often further motivated to press on!