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Savouring Summer

Summer has just begun and many of us have our calendar filled right to September. We can see the summer slipping by before it even gets into the swing of things. Practicing mindfulness is one way to keep grounded and ensure the summer days are savoured. 

A quick review of what is mindfulness.
There's many definitions of mindfulness floating around, but here I'll share the definition I use in the therapy room. Mindfulness is expanding into the present moment, with acceptance and non-judgement. Acceptance referring to accepting what comes up in the moment, whether external or internal. So if you're trying to be mindful and a beach-ball or kid plops in your lap, mindfulness would be keeping an accepting mind instead of one that's agitated by the upset, which helps you get back to your intention. Sometimes the thing we need to accept is that, the nature of our own mind doesn't require external events to be distracted from the present. Accepting that our mind has thoughts, and our attention flows, instead of fighting this nature, is part of mindful practice. This is where non-judgement comes in. Typically when we have an intention and life doesn't work out that way, it's natural for us to feel frustrated and critical. Mindful practice, includes non-judgment of our thoughts and ourselves for following a thought, sensation or getting distracted. Think of it as, when you notice, that IS mindfulness. 

Here are some ways you can practice mindfulness this summer:

Mindful Breathing: Any moment can be a mindful moment. Connecting to our breath is a great way of engaging in mindfulness and creating a mindful moment. Our breath is always there. When I lead guided mindful practice, I frequently begin and end with reminders that our breath sustains us, bringing us to this moment, carrying us forward through good and bad. Expanding awareness of breath, can help us emotionally regulate and slow down enough to remember our goals/intentions for the moment. This is where the cliche's such as "just breathe" or "take a deep breath", come from. To engage in mindful breathing take notice of the natural rhythm of your breath. Notice the in-breath, the pause in-between, and the exhale. Notice the sensations of the in-flow and out-flow. Repeat as needed. Staying with this and gently coming back to it, whenever you notice your mind has taken you away. 

5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique: This grounding technique can help remind you of the current context. Too often we get caught up in our mind and miss out on what's happening externally. To use this method, when you feel you need to connect back to the present moment, take note of 5 things you see, 4 things you feel, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell and 1 you taste. 

Mindful Eating: There are so many eats and treats that are unique to summer, mindful eating is a great way to savour flavour and memories. Mindful eating can support healthy eating, however it's cautioned against for those who have a history or disposition to eating disorders. Mindful eating involves expanding into the awareness of the foods we eat. Notice the food as it is before you, take time to notice texture, look, smell, feel etc. Afterwards bringing in the sense of taste and other sensations (chewing/swallowing/emotions) as the item is consumed.

Mindful Walks/Swims/Body Movement: As you take part in summer activities and weather, take time to expand into awareness of these moments. Notice how your body feels, notice what's happening within and externally around you. It's all part of your experience. Mindfulness brings the unconscious, conscious. Whereas you may notice the beauty of summer on your first few summer walks, it may quickly become something you do on an unconscious/autopilot level. Mindful movement encourages you enter into activities with the intention  of taking notice as you engage in them.

Mindful Conversations: From weddings to barbecues, play dates to patios, summer can be full of social events and gatherings. Keep in mind active listening skills while spending time with others. Notice what happens when you pay attention to what's being said, over what thought is occurring in your mind. Connect and notice what else is being conveyed with the words of others - emotions, tone, volume, body language. Remember the keys of mindfulness are acceptance and non-judgement. When you notice your mind reacting or interpreting, try being open and curious. Share your thoughts, ask questions, allow the other person to help you better understand what they're expressing. Listening in this way enhances communication and connection. 

Wishing you all a wonderful safe summer!