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Mindfulness and Self-Awareness: #1Tool for Improving Quality of Life

the Inner Fitness Challenge Tool #1 — Mindfulness and Self-Awareness.When you begin any fitness routine, you first work on your mobility so you can execute each exercise properly. If your mobility is limited, you can injure yourself. How do you strengthen your Inner Fitness mobility? By practicing the Inner Fitness Challenge Tool #1 — Mindfulness and Self-Awareness!

Our brain likes to give us shortcuts, so it saves energy. As a result, we do so many things automatically… from tying our shoes to conversing with our loved ones. And often those automatic responses can get us into trouble. We eat things we shouldn’t. We say things we regret. We react in hurtful ways. To turn this around use mindfulness and self-awareness.

What are Mindfulness and Self-Awareness?

Mindfulness is the practice of slowing down and paying attention on purpose without judgment. It’s that pause where you get your feet firmly planted into the gym mat and you become hyper aware of your surroundings. You become fully present as you nonjudgmentally unfold the experience moment by moment. This involves becoming aware of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surroundings without thinking if it’s right or wrong for you at this stage. Mindfulness eventually leads to deeper self-awareness.

Self-Awareness is the ability to be aware of your own thoughts, feelings, actions, and behaviors. It involves understanding how your actions, thoughts, and emotions align with your values and internal standards. This awareness helps you evaluate yourself, manage your emotions, and understand how others perceive you. Recognizing that your self-perception may differ from how others see you is a key aspect of self-awareness.

Why is Mindfulness such a powerful tool?

Our minds like to tell stories about the future, the past, or the present; and these stories determine how we feel. It’s like there are movies running all the time in our brains, and we’re doing the voice-over commentary, adding our opinions and judgments. When we are mindful, we stop the automatic reactions and the voice-over commentary and develop a kind witness. This enables us to give our full attention to what is actually happening. Finally, you get to experience the fullness and richness of the moment. This gives you the space to make well-reasoned choices; therefore change becomes possible. 

Mindfulness needs to be practiced daily, especially when you’re not in crisis. After all, it’s difficult to learn or refine a new skill while in crisis. 

  • Start where you are, not where you think you should be. This is the act of developing patience and staying power. 
  • Maintain a positive attitude — be willing to remain open, attentive and curious. It includes cultivating loving-kindness and sometimes even a radical acceptance of what is instead of what you’d like it to be. 

Here are some brief exercises you can use to increase your mindfulness: 

Inner Fitness Challenge Tool 1 is revealed - Mindfulness and Self-AwarenessMindful breathing. 

The simple act of focusing the attention on the breath for a short time every day calms and connects the body and mind, without judgments or opinions. Just observe the natural rhythm of each breath. You can do so without forcing it to be longer, deeper, or slower. With attention and a little time, your breath will deepen naturally on its own. 

Occasionally, your mind will wander off. When your mind wanders, name what it wanders to and come back to breathing. Your practice is simply to take note of this distraction and to bring your attention gently back to your breath. 

Mindful eating. 

Eating mindfully means eating with exquisite awareness of the experience, through all five senses. Mindful eating is being present, moment by moment, for each sensation that happens during eating, such as reaching for the food, holding it, chewing it, tasting it and swallowing it. When distracted, keep returning to the awareness of that taste, chew, bite or swallow. 

Bringing mindfulness to your eating practice results in a healthier relationship with all foods by becoming more deliberate in your choices and ultimately brings more happiness to all aspects of life. 

Simple first steps towards introducing mindfulness while eating: 

  • Eat with your non-dominant hand.
  • Eat without TV, newspaper or computer. 
  • Eat sitting down. 
  • Slow down your usual pace by 20%.

Mindful Emotions. 

The most powerful mindfulness practice is the observation of thoughts and emotions as they arise, coupled with an attitude of acceptance. For example, when we deliberately focus our attention on an emotion such as anger, without trying to change it, the transitory, insubstantial nature of the emotion becomes evident. We release the tension that prolongs the emotion so that it cannot persist. However, if attention slips to the reason for the anger, then the emotion is sustained. Following the ebb and flow of that emotion on purpose, noticing the intensity, frequency and quality, allows you to participate in the experience as if you were just a bystander without getting attached to it or trying to push it away. 

You can do the same in relationship with your thoughts, by noting that you are having a thought without identifying with it. This simple practice will undoubtedly increase your sense of awareness, clarity, and insight. As you continue to foster and reinforce these new and healthier mental patterns your sense of mental stability, balance, peace, and happiness will continue to grow ever stronger. Try practicing mindfulness during every activity — drinking tea, doing dishes, walking, and sitting, etc. Use the same principle of gentle awareness to explore each activity through your senses and then you can introduce more purposefulness in every moment. 

Also, the idea is to get out of your mind and into your body’s awareness. Being tuned in to understand how your body works, empowers you to make adjustments to continue to be exquisitely present every moment. 

Your “Dream Big, Start Small” here’s the one thing you can do today.

Inner Fitness Challenge Tool 1 Mindfulness and Self-Awareness

Mindfulness takes consistent practice. Choose one activity where you would like to be more present and mindful and chart your progress. Journaling about your experiences will accelerate your ability to slip into mindfulness even under stress. You’ll be amazed when you review your progress in this permanent record.

Mindfulness Exercise for (choose one activity) 

Use a 10-point scale to chart your mood: 1= feeling centered 5=neutral 10=really activated 

What is your mood before you do the exercise? ____________

Do the exercise for a few minutes. Notice changes and write down what changed using sensory-based information like, “My heartbeat slowed down,” or “My breath deepened.” 

What is your mood after you do the exercise?_______________ 

Don’t worry if not much happens the first few times you practice the exercise. At the beginning, the progress might be almost unnoticeable. Trust the process, give it a couple of weeks, and you’ll see results. 

What To Do When Worry Threatens to Overwhelm You 

If worry and anxiety tend to derail your efforts to be mindful, think of giving these emotional states “Office Hours.” Think about it: professors hold office hours once or twice a week. They don’t give students 24/7 access because they wouldn’t get anything done otherwise. Honor yourself by setting aside a brief time period every day to do some focused worrying and problem-solving. When worrisome thoughts arise outside of “Office Hours,” remind the worry that it was dealt with earlier and there will be a chance to deal with it again tomorrow. This quiets the urgency of the worry and helps you be more productive. Mindfulness gets us in the habit of setting aside worry to come back to the present. 

Why You’ll Need Mindfulness in the Inner Fitness Challenge

Mastering this tool gives you a foundational skill that unlocks all others. A practice of mindfulness expands your capacity for being in the present moment. This, in turn, gives you more choices during critical times. The nonjudgmental approach lightens your load and puts you into a curiosity and learning mode. Once you’ve learned all you can from the experience, you can then switch into adjustment mode to modify your response. Instead of reacting to events or people, you’ll more easily respond resourcefully from your core values. Then you can accept whatever happens for what it is instead of suppressing it or harboring negative feelings. 

I’d love to hear from you during the Inner Fitness Challenge. I’ve created a special event on Facebook where we can share our experiences during this challenge. All the tools will be posted there, so please bookmark it and visit every Monday and Wednesday for updates. And to follow the Inner Fitness Challenge on my website, bookmark my blog

Mindfully eating photo by Pablo Merchán Montes

Inner Fitness Challenge

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