Yesterday, I came across Aetna’s Tumblr, which features posts proclaiming they’ll help you to 30 days of mindfulness. Mindfulness is something that’s been hard-won in my life. I always find myself rushing, looking forward to what I’m doing after work, or tomorrow, or this weekend, or next month. I find it very hard to find peace with myself in any particular moment, and my guess is that this comes from my longtime issues with anxiety and my inability to ever sit still. However, due to an onslaught of personal mental, physical and emotional health issues in recent months, I’ve taken it upon myself to stop and smell the roses more often. So when I came across Aetna’s #Mindful30 challenge, I thought I might just take it.
Let me just start by saying I’m horrible at this stuff, from those photo-a-day Instagram challenges to giving up sweets for Lent to juice cleanses and everywhere in between. I basically just do what I want with no rhyme or reason and usually no filter, but this seems like a good one to stick with. I do a lot of yoga and meditation, which requires a lot of the aspects of mindfulness, so it’s not like I’m going whole-hog here from the get-go.
Anyway, Aetna’s day one challenge reads as follows: “Today, take a few moments to pause and be with yourself as you are. Start with paying attention to a few breaths as they move in and out of your body. Notice thoughts and feelings without self-judgment or criticism. And keep returning your attention to your breathing. This practice can help you have less anxiety and feel happier now and in the long run.” I took a few moments alone last night, in between shutting my book and turning off the lights to go to bed, to do this. Lately, it’s been easy for me to flip on the TV and fall asleep to the sound of “Friends” episodes I’ve seen a dozen times, but I declined doing this last night, instead choosing to do a little nighttime meditation I learned in a yoga therapy session two months ago in which I count my breaths with my fingers, which distracts my mind from traveling beyond my breathing and my body. It worked, and I slept better than I have in weeks without the aid of alcohol or melatonin or Monica and Chandler.
Today’s challenge is “Bathe in mindfulness,” meaning: “Practice being aware of the here and now. A great way to get started is during the morning shower – when you’re usually thinking about the day ahead of you. So for today, focus on the experience: the smell of the shampoo, the feeling of the water as it hits your shoulders and the touch of your fingers on your scalp. You’ll enjoy your shower more and take in an everyday moment, making it mindful.” I didn’t have time for a shower this morning because I had to run to the post office, so I’m going to give this one a shot tonight, but I will say the shower is my favorite place to relaxed. The aforementioned yoga therapy session helped me take longer showers to use as “me” time — to reflect and enjoy the water flowing over me, and to even do some stretching to ease sore muscles either at the end or beginning of a long day.
I’ll keep track of my progress here as best I can, mainly because if I do, I know the handful of family members and friends who read this will continually ask me how my mindfulness challenge is going, which will keep me *just* determined enough to hopefully stick it out.
(This is in no way sponsored by Aetna, even though they’ve partnered with several other bloggers I follow, which is actually how I found out about this and thought it sounded beneficial to me in many ways. Just so you know.)