Archive of ‘mindfulness’ category

Mindfully Combating Those SAD “Winter Blues”: Seasonal Affective Disorder

Tomorrow’s predicted temperature is 44°F. Personally, I find that temperature to be less than ideal. I will handle it though, because on Thursday the temperature is expected to bounce back into the 60s, which I find much more desirable.

This fall has blessed the Philadelphia area with what seems to be warmer than average temperatures. I have not hesitated to take advantage of it by walking to my destinations whenever possible and taking part in outdoor activities. I’m doing my best to be mindful of the warm weather now because, as my mother always says, I’d rather be warm than cold, but also because I am secretly dreading the annual case of the Winter Blues. It comes when the weather stays consistent at freezing temperatures and makes mindfulness a bit more difficult, as I am forced to wear a puffy winter coat and suffocating scarf while people in other parts of the world get to wear shorts and lay on the beach if they so please.

The Winter Blues is a commonly used expression for feeling down when the weather becomes cold enough to keep people feeling cooped up in their homes and distracted from mindfulness. It is also used casually as an alternate term for Subsyndromal Seasonal Affective Disorder, a milder form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (otherwise known as SAD). Symptoms include prolonged feelings of lethargy; intense fatigue; negative thoughts such as guilt; abnormal sleeping patterns; a craving and indulge in carbohydrates and sweets; and difficulty concentrating, remembering, and socializing. SAD affects a few million of American adults, and happens to be more susceptible in northern regions, particularly in women ages 18-30.

Subsyndromal SAD is a result of a chemical imbalance caused by lack of sunlight. Sunlight is difficult to catch between December and March. In the Northeast region of the United States, there are less than four hours of sunlight available those months outside of the typical nine to five workday – that is 1/6 of the day, which is not a long time.

There are natural treatments for people with Subsyndromal SAD. For those with the opportunity to spend a part of that 1/6 of the day outdoors, walking for about 30 minutes in sunlight is a great way to boost one’s mood, and get vitamin D. If walking is not possible, sitting near a window where sun shines through can also do just fine. Additionally, eating a balanced diet can contribute to an improved mood. While carbs and sweets can serve as comfort food, it is best not to binge on either of the two. Instead, be mindful of what is being put into your body, and try reaching for fruits, vegetables, or protein first. (Tips on combining mindful practices with both walking and eating can be found earlier in my blog!)

Another natural treatment with additional benefits is socialization. Socialization gives one the chance to create a sense of belonging in the world; by establishing connections with others that are satisfactory to you, the individual involved, a comforting feeling of belonging and purpose is developed. During the cold winter months, getting bundled up to trek in the cold can be an unpleasant hassle. However, it is important to make the effort with the goal of achieving happiness in oneself. Make simple plans with friends or family to go shopping, see a movie, get coffee, or wander around a museum – something that gets you into a different environment with a person you care about to spend a couple of mindful hours together. A great way to socialize with familiar faces and strangers is to volunteer through community service. With the holiday season quickly approaching, there is an abundance of opportunity to do good for others and oneself at the same time!

If natural treatments are not enough to combat the effects of SAD, that is okay! Another popular treatment for SAD is lamp or light box therapy. Bright light boxes or lamps can be purchased without a prescription for less than 50 dollars. Studies have shown that spending about 30 minutes under a box/lamp over the course of eight weeks bettered the moods of those diagnosed with SAD. Psychology Today contributor Christopher Bergland takes using a light lamp to the next level by using his time under it to practice mindful meditation (a basic breathing meditation can be found earlier in my blog, too.)

The above treatment suggestions have been proven to lessen the effects of SAD, but are by no means substitutes for true medical assistance. SAD can sometimes be a facet of a more serious depression or bipolar disorder. If SAD symptoms persist despite these natural treatments and throughout the year, contact your doctor for professional medical assistance.

Although winter has its beautiful moments – think snow days and the holiday season – it also has its debilitating cold that can potentially strip us of our mindfulness. The temperature will inevitably drop in the coming weeks, but that does not mean our mindfulness has to go with it. Remember to take care of yourself physically with exercise and balanced eating, and mentally with various mindful meditation practices. Both will lighten your mood and remind you to be mindful of the present moment as well as help to see the positive side of winter (because somewhere in the cold, it’s there).

“Wherever You Are…”

Dr. Richard Alpert, otherwise known as Ram Dass, offers a positive reminder to be mindful of current surroundings and situations.

Excited to be home with the family for Thanksgiving? Can’t wait for Friday to roll around again? Wish it was summer on the beach once again? None of that matters right now. There is no need to live in anticipation for the future, yearn for an experience built upon imaginary expectations, or long for the past.

All that is important is being mindfully immersed in the great things the present moment has to offer. Be aware of and appreciate all things that contribute to make up the here and now.

 

Mindful Positivity

If there is ever the need for motivation to make one’s self mindful, @TrainingMindful on Twitter is the place to turn to.

@TrainingMindful regularly provides positive quotes from notable, mindful figures. Such quotes are short yet powerful in reminding people of their personal worth and how mindfulness adds to a worthy feeling.

Below is a sample of Buddah quotes that promote love for one’s self to live a mindful life.

These lines let people know that mindfulness is key for living a fulfilled life. This mindfulness can only come from one’s own self, and not without respect and appreciation for the life one has.
@TrainingMindful also includes challenging quotes to remind its audience that a mindful life is not always attained so easily. Living mindfully forces people to examine the purpose of actions. While this may be tedious on a daily basis when communicating with others or making simple decisions involving different people, it must be done to  ensure, ultimately, only mindful action is taken. Additionally, @TrainingMindful acknowledges the hardship that is to be inevitably faced in life. Struggles are bound to appear on small or large scales, however it is up to the individual to either embrace such present or wallow in the negativity it brings. The former, of course, is preferred, and encourages a mindful lifestyle.
Occasionally checking in with @TrainingMindful is a useful tool when looking for an extra boost in staying mindful. Short quotes take almost no time to read, and are sure to provide a bit of motivation to upholding a mindful lifestyle.

 

Happiness Comes From Within

Recently the Dalai Lama and author Elisha Goldstein, PhD. shared some wisdom through their respective Twitter accounts.

 

Both figures provide a nice reminder that we are the only ones capable of achieving our own happiness. 

The Dalai Lama points out that there is not a thing — money, designer clothes, five star dinners — that can bring a person true happiness. Goldstein mentions that there is a power inside of us that is more powerful than anything the world can provide to us.

What are things, experiences, other people, and places without our interpretation of them? Nothing. It is ourselves who assign meaning to the things of the world, and sometimes we foolishly convince ourselves that these things are what make us happier and overall better people.

What makes us happier and better people is our own ability to be happy in the present. Being mindful of our current situation and finding the good in it is enough to make us as happy as we can possibly be.

That is not to say it is wrong to indulge in the things of the world. Instead, realize that the things of the world are what create our surroundings, and it is our choice to appreciate how they contribute to the good around us.

Let the Dalai Lama’s and Goldstein’s reminder instill in us the confidence that we are our own sources of happiness. Through our mindfulness, we can realize the good and the happiness that is always found somewhere in our surroundings.

 

Mindfully Making the Best of an Uncontrollable Situation

This morning, my astronomy professor sent my class an email informing us about the lunar eclipse estimated to occur after the sun was to set.

He made sure to mention that an event like this is not going to happen again until January 2018. I thought such an uncommon opportunity would be cool to check out, plus, I would be able to put real-life application into action.

At about Mindful Meditation10:40 PM, my roommate and I walked outside of our building to witness the couple-of-times-in-our-lifetime event. I was feeling excited; the anticipation of seeing something on a universal scale that I had recently learned about in class was fairly high. The two of us stood in the middle of the parking lot, our necks bent so we could take in a fuller view of the vast sky. Unfortunately, my hopes of seeing the eclipse were left unfulfilled, as the Philadelphia skies had not cleared of clouds that had been lingering for most of the day.

“I had no control over the forces of nature that decided whether or not to allow me to see the lunar eclipse.”

Initially, I was a bit disappointed — a potentially beautiful sight was right above my head and I was missing it. On all nights of the year, why does tonight have to be the cloudiest? Why do the weather conditions have to be nasty tonight instead of tomorrow night, or the night after that? If I could, I would trade a full week of clear skies in order to have a perfect night tonight!

Alas, neither I nor my roommate have special ties to Mother Nature. I was missing the lunar eclipse, and there was nothing I could do to change my situation.

I continued to gaze at the sky with a feigned hope that a blood moon would reveal itself to me. In searching for a sight I knew, deep down, I wasn’t going to see, I got a good look at what the sky above me had to offer. The clouds were full and fluffy; Their centers were a dull orange, but the color grew brighter as it reached the edges of the clouds. Behind the randomly strewn, thick chunks of clouds lay the sky, a light shade of indigo that had a noticeably purple hue. The clouds, constantly manipulated by the wind, created a dusty effect that made the sky seem, truthfully, a touch dirty. No stars were to be seen, but the city sky looked unique compared to any other time I had seen it.

Although I was not taking in the sight of a lunar eclipse, I was taking in the sight of a beautiful sky. In my time living in the city, I have noticed the particular colors and characteristics that the Philadelphia sky possesses, and I realize that no two nights ever look quite the same. Tonight was no exception, and I experienced yet another captivating variation the sky has to offer.

I had no control over the forces of nature that decided whether or not to allow me to see the lunar eclipse. I did, however, embrace the situation I was dealt with, and in a state of mindfulness, I was able to appreciate the sky that took shape before me. I forgot about the what could be or what should be, and focused instead on what purely was. As a result, I was reminded to be aware of the present beauty of nature. After taking a last good look at the sky, I walked back into my apartment for the night with another mental image of the ever-changing Philadelphia sky in my head.

Using Mindfulness to Make Memories

If you’ve been meditating with your eyes closed this whole weekend, the Pope spent this past Saturday and Sunday in Philadelphia.

I was in the area as His Holiness Pope Francis made his final drive down the normally busy City Avenue. I pulled out my iPhone in preparation to document my last look at the Pope. To my dismay, the battery had died, and I was without a camera to capture the nearing moment. A pang of disappointment rang through my chest; I had grabbed an ideal spot close to the street, and now I would never be able to share this moment in the future with friends and family who were not present.

I had no other option than to slip the glass and plastic object into my back pocket and direct my focus on what was unfolding in front of me. I readied my awareness for the black SUVs decorated with flags on their mirrors and the Pope’s Fiat wedged in the middle of the Secret Service fleet. To have this sight vividly embedded in my brain forever, I directed all of my senses toward becoming fully conscious of the sounds of engines running and people cheering excitedly, seeing black vehicles drive by at about twenty miles per hour, feeling the cool autumn breeze poke through my flannel, and feeling the anticipation of witnessing a historic event race through my bloodstream.

As voices to my left grew louder, I knew the Pope was about to pass. I spotted his right arm, covered by the sleeve of his white robe, waving out of the passenger-side window. I impulsively raised my arm, unattached to a smart phone, to return his greeting. Then, almost as quickly as he came, he was gone again, on his way to lead mass in Center City.

After seeing Pope Francis in the flesh, I was astounded. Having the opportunity to experience one of the world’s most powerful people is a memory capable of withstanding not just a technological lifetime, but a human lifetime. Becoming fully aware of the event was far from difficult, and I fell easily into a state of mindfulness. I am endlessly grateful for the chance I had to see Pope Francis — I will never forget the memory, and I am completely confident that I can use my mind just as well as any picture or video to describe my perspective of the incredible event.

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