6 Ways to Achieve Mindfulness

30 March 2020
Woman in MELT class at Dodge YMCA

Weekly wellness tips from Leah Love Palmer, Healthy Living Director at the Dodge YMCA

This week we are starting to be more accustomed to the new world we are living in, although it is still strange and scary. Hopefully we have managed to set up some routines that give us a sense of normality as we navigate through this chapter of life. As we roll out more activity options for you via YMCA at Home, we want to also remember that healthy living encompasses more than our bodies. Without the usual social distractions, now can be a great time to develop a deeper mindfulness and connection to ourselves.

Mindfulness is about practicing being present and observing ourselves, our inner thoughts and feelings, without judgment. It’s about being more present in our moments, interactions and environments. As a 9 months pregnant mom of three teenagers, I can really relate to any eye rolls as many of us entered the world of homeschooling and one endless meal that starts in the morning and ends after midnight. But I promise, it can be done! While I am not speaking directly to any parents, I do want to mention that kids can certainly be incorporated into mindfulness practices and encouraged to create their own. (It can look different for everyone.) This week’s experiment in mindfulness in our home is an hour of quiet time. What might that look like?

  1. Meditation. There are lots of guided meditations to be found on YouTube, as well as a number of great apps. Meditation can also look like a cup of coffee by yourself where you just observe your thoughts, feelings and your breath. How does it look for you?
  2. Journaling. For those of us who have difficulty sitting with our thoughts, journaling can make it easier to remain undistracted.
  3. Painting/Knitting/Hobbies. Taking time to be with yourself as you take up an old or new hobby is a great way to connect to yourself!
  4. Music. In 2020 there are so many ways to listen to music, as well as to discover new music. If you have free time, you can also create new workout playlists! I asked a few people (including teens and my parents) how they discover new music, and here’s what I’ve found:
    • Teens tend to crowd source via social media, asking for recommendations.
    • My parents use Spotify, and when I went browsing Spotify I discovered some really cool things. For one, you can follow many people and their playlists, from your favorite singers to your favorite Zumba teacher. Many playlists are public. Just like with Apple Music and Pandora, you can also type in a genre of music and the software generates playlists for you. For instance, you can type in, "Pop Music 2020 Workout Playlist," or "Best Meditation Music" and a whole bunch of pre-curated playlists will come up. One other cool feature of Spotify is the "Discover Weekly" section, where they highlight different new music. I encourage you to check out all these different options!
    • One other way is tried and true YouTube. YouTube has many playlists all ready for all kinds of musical taste.
  5. Other activities: Cooking can be a great de-stressor, and requires a lot of focus, which helps our mindfulness. Just like with painting or knitting, focus on that time with yourself.
  6. Deep Breathing: Two simple tactics can greatly calm our minds. The first is belly breathing. I like to do this laying on my back. Place your hands on your belly and breathe deeply so that your belly rises. When you exhale, feel your belly release. Sound too simple? This is truly very calming! Another option is box breathing. Breathe in deeply and slowly through your nose taking a full four count, hold your breath for another four count, exhale for four, and hold your breath for four. This simple move can decrease anxiety, expand lung capacity, and save marriages when our short quarantine tempers interfere.

We would love to hear more from you about what is working for you! How are you practicing mindfulness?

Until next week!

Leah Love Palmer has been in the health and wellness industry for over 15 years, teaching fitness classes and training clients. She leads the Dodge YMCA's health and wellness initiatives, where she mentors a team of 50 fitness professionals, and helps New Yorkers achieve their health and wellness goals as a coach for the Y's Weight Loss Program. Leah also loves reading and spending time with her three sons (which will be four sons any day now!).

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