By KRISTI DORIAN
Auto pilot and obsessive-compulsive thinking: Two very unhealthy, debilitating activities in my life. Usually, when a conflict occurs or I need to make a significant decision, be assertive or confront someone, my brain spins out of control, replaying thoughts, arguments, plans and possibilities over and over and over. I get completely stuck and am seemingly unable to turn my brain off from these unhelpful loops. Or I go through my day doing the same routine again and again while my mind wanders to the past or the future. Live in the moment? Be mindful now? Ha! Easier said than done!
When the MindWellU 30-day Mindfulness Challenge crossed my path, something twigged inside that said try it. Taking this 30-day mindfulness adventure unlocked me from some of the moments of numbness and stress cycling through my life. I was reminded to bring awareness and appreciation into the present moment with very practical cues.
I accessed the online program on my smart phone every morning, starting with a video lesson and a mindful cue to practice throughout the day. I enjoyed the discipline of sitting every day to watch the message and to reflect on the previous day. This jumpstarted my practice of catching myself when I slipped into automatic brain loops or mind wandering moments instead of being fully present. The simplicity of the interface and engaging step-by-step guidance kept me coming back every morning.
The program is based on their Take 5 practice, which incorporates some common mindfulness techniques, such as focusing on your breath and your senses to draw you into the present moment. I can do this five-step practice anytime without anyone noticing, and I feel the shift into the present moment immediately.
1 – Notice the Cue
2 – Notice Something New
3 – Notice the Body
4 – Notice the Breath
5 – Notice Now
Some of the different daily cues to Take 5 included every time I stood up or sat down, or when I brushed my teeth or read an email. Anything can become a cue in our daily environment that triggers us to check in with our thoughts and emotions. By becoming aware of what is around and within us, we can make better choices, react with intention and live more fully here and now instead of getting stuck in the past or future. We can create new, positive and happy pathways.
The MindWellU program introduced me to a new metaphor, thought trains. Constantly, the voice in our head presents us with thoughts, beliefs and ideas. Most of the time, we automatically board whatever thought train happens to pass by, be they marked negative or positive, close by or far away. These thought trains take our minds off into different directions away from the present moment.
We also believe them to be factual, spending a lot of time and energy riding these runaway thought trains. Mindful practice reminds us to step back, pay attention to what is coming through our mind station and make conscious decisions. By paying attention and picking an intention, we can react differently instead of automatically. We may want to board a thought train or sit to wait for another going in a direction better for us or just watch them all go by. And, of course, we can debark from any thought train we get stuck on. I enjoy this visual!
The program is packed with informational nuggets, like thought trains, including what we resist persists, emotional intelligence and mental exercise. I downloaded PDFs, watched videos and listened to guided processes. I created a professional development type of list filled with links to more articles and videos about mindfulness from their coaching Twitter feed. MindWellU’s concepts are easily understood and backed up with scientific research.
I am still practicing the Take 5s. They make me feel more in control, here and now, lessening my autopilot moments. My main intention for trying this program was to stop or break out of my mind loops. The program helped! I miss the daily message, motivation and discipline I experienced during the 30-day challenge. I found I liked that type of structure and the reminders. I signed up for regular text messages a few times during the week but it’s not the same as a daily routine and reminder.
Regardless of whatever route I take to bring myself into mindfulness, the result of more happiness and focused intention works for me!
Writing for The Aquarian since 1995, Kristi continues her involvement as publisher and webmaster.