Mindful Driving

In order to be a safe driver, it is vital to remain conscious of the world around you so that you can keep both yourself and others alive.  Some of the easiest things to do while driving are to zone out and worry about the future, or to get angry about the actions of other drivers surrounding you.  This is why it is super important to remain calm and aware while on the road.  Here are five tips to stay in the zone while driving:

  1.  Listen to music that keeps you alert, motivated, and confident to be driving.  Listening to songs that have sad undertones or deeper meanings (which we can appreciate at times) can cause the mind to wander which can negatively affect your driving.  So my advice is to pick songs that are real “bops.”  Songs that will make you feel good and therefore drive good.  Some of my favorite songs to drive to are Everybody Wants To Rule The World by Tears For Fears, The Nights by Avicii, When You Were Young by The Killers, and Love Grows by Edison Lighthouse.  Basically, pick anything that makes you feel in the moment and ready to drive.
  2. Sometimes when we drive we might get sleepy and stop paying attention, so one thing that I like to do is keep a peculiarly scented air freshener in my car that is guaranteed to keep me awake.  If this doesn’t work, give yourself a pinch or blast some music.
  3. One of the hardest times to be mindful is when we are angry.  It can be very easy to say things that you might regret in the future, which is something that you will want to avoid.  Road rage is very common, but in order to stay mindful you need to accept that you are feeling upset without interacting with that feeling.  Try some deep breathing exercises (check out my previous “5,4,3,2,1” post) and turn on some soothing music.
  4. We all feel ourselves zoning out sometimes when we drive.  This can be dangerous to both yourself and others, so it is important to stay mindful and aware of the fact that you are operating a vehicle with dangerous potentials.  Take in your surroundings if you feel yourself fading away, and check your mirrors to see if there are any pedestrians (which you may feel free to observe for a second).  Reminding yourself that you are in the real world is extremely important.
  5. Most of us make the unconscious choice to interact with our thoughts while we are driving (it gets boring sometimes), which can distract us from the task at hand by making us too excited or distressed.  This is why it is important to be mindful of which thoughts we are interacting with, and when we ought to think about something different.

 

Hope this helped anyone who is stressed about driving!

Love,

Sophie

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Mindfulness / / Today in the Park / / Mindful Eating and Exercise

Today in the park I had a wonderful time.  Walking beneath a curtain of leaves with the sunlight shining through, I felt as radiant as the stars.  I thought to myself, “If I smile, I will be like the dandelions looking up at me.”  I wanted to be a part of nature so badly.  The best feeling was knowing that I was walking on Earth next to a man who loves me with as much fire as I love him.  I danced in a muddy meadow with him and we appreciated the sun on each others faces.  Going home, I felt amazing.

 

Mindful eating has always been something that I have struggled with.  Between ages 14 and 16 I struggled with being underweight due to restricting my calorie intake and exercising for hours every day.  I wanted to be perfect.  I wasn’t enjoying my food or my workouts.  About a year ago I went to therapy and learned about how to apply mindfulness to pretty much anything, including eating and exercise.  However, these things are much easier said than done.  After having gained the weight I lost back (I am now a healthy size), I found that I simply could not stop eating.  It sounds funny to say it out loud (butter biscuits are always calling me), but its something that I’ve been struggling with for a while now.  Though I am not overweight, I’m not the healthiest I’ve been and haven’t been to the gym in ages.  One thing that I’ve learned about exercise is that it has to be fun for it to be mindful.  When I was working out in the weight room and on the treadmill, all I could think about was how many calories I could burn.  But now, thanks to my parents and friends, I’ve found a new love for bicycling, which I do almost every day.  I ride my bike and enjoy feeling the wind in my hair.  That is true mindfulness.  Find something that does that for you is my advice.  As for eating, I think that we should make every meal something special so that we are able to feel proud, and therefore mindful about it.  If you put a lot of effort into creating a dish, you’ll be super excited about eating it.  Also, it doesn’t hurt to snack and have donuts and biscuits – as long as you’re not doing it every day.  I struggle with this.

Love,

Sophie

Mindfulness Mantras

Today was a pretty average day for me.  I went to school and then came home.  Nothing particularly stressful happened, which was nice.  I was thinking about things to write about and then I remembered a book that I read by Thich Nhat Hanh called No Mud, No Lotus.    In it, there is a section devoted to mindfulness mantras, and I recalled how much it helped me in my darkest hour.  I like to say these mantras when I am having trouble accepting myself or others, and find myself judging people.  In addition to helping you remember to offer respect to the world, saying mindfulness mantras also calms your breathing and allows you to be more aware of your surroundings.  You can look up a mindfulness mantra and memorize it, or come up with your own.  Here is my favorite one (taken from No Mud, No Lotus page 108):

May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.

May I learn to look at her with the eyes of understanding and love.

May I learn to look at him with the eyes of understanding and love.

May I learn to look at them with the eyes of understanding and love.

 

Something about this mantra rings a bell in my soul.

-Sophie

Mindfulness Exercise – Safe Space

When I was in group therapy, I learned about a mindfulness exercise called “safe space.” This exercise is best done lying down with the eyes closed, but it can also work if you rest your head against a surface in a private place.  Once you are comfortable, begin to build a calming space in your mind.  You can start with something as simple as a plain, white room.  When I was building my safe space I thought of it as my very own blank canvas.  Once you’ve got your base layout, you can begin to think of certain things like the temperature of your safe space and if it is inside or outside.  You can put friends, pets, favorite books, and anything else you want to in your safe space.  Make sure that you think of your safe space in lots of detail so that you can come back to it later when you want to.  Once you’ve finished building your safe space, the only thing left to do is to relax in it and enjoy.  My safe space is actually based off of a fictional location in The Giver by Lois Lowry.  It is a cozy cabin at the bottom of a snowy hill in the middle of the pine-covered woods.  There is a certain golden glow (sort of like the one emanated by the streetlamp from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe) that falls upon the sparkling ground.  Smoke is coming out of the chimney. In this fantasy, I am never actually inside of the cabin, but rather sitting in the seemingly warm snow just outside of it, completely aware that everyone I love is inside, and that I am about to go in.  Usually, when I visit my safe space, it feels like I am eternal.  Sometimes I go to my place more than often, but I usually come to it a few times a month.  The cool thing about safe spaces is that they will always be there for you.  You can stay there for as long as you like, and do whatever you want.  Give it a try!

-Sophie

How mindfulness helped me today (getting out into nature)

Today was a hard day for me.  I was having trouble dealing with an ex who won’t let the past go.  The difficult part about it is that I have to see him every day.  It has been several months since I ended it, but the entire situation seems to be dragging out.  Seeing him every day and having him and his friends invalidate the things that happened to me causes me lots of pain (I will make another post detailing the situation in the future).  I left school today feeling distraught and used up.  I needed to take my mind off of things.  My current boyfriend phoned me and we decided to go on a bike ride in the park.  This is something we do on the regular, but I think that it is easier to appreciate nature on certain days than it is on others.  Riding into the woods I felt the cool breeze on my face and the wind in my hair.  I stood up on my bike just to feel like I was flying.  The scent of rain reminded me that I am a part of this world like the trees are.  Just being outside allowed me to be more mindful.  I know that this was a short post, but I think that a huge part of being mindful is being in nature.  We shouldn’t forget about the Earth and how it gives us life.  Sometimes, the simplest things can bring us the most peace of mind.

– Sophie

How mindfulness helped me today (“5,4,3,2,1.”  exercise)

I have always been a very prompt person.  Usually, I show up to appointments ten to fifteen minutes early.  In extreme cases, I allow myself to arrive at an event five minutes late.  My promptness has never been a problem in my professional life, but it does affect my personal relationships on occasion.  With the need to be exactly on time comes the need to have all get togethers scheduled at least a day beforehand so that I am able to prepare.  I like to have a loose idea of what will be going on (as most people do) so that I don’t make any other plans.  However, with close friends and family, this can be a great burden, as not everyone is so rigid as I am in these aspects.  Last night, my boyfriend of one month and I agreed to hang out today.  We talked about how we could cook a dish of some sort together for the first time.  I went to sleep peacefully because I knew for sure that I would be seeing him.  This morning, excepting a hello, I heard nothing from him.  I was sure that it was fine, as he has a small job watching a dog that often takes up some of his time.  However, as midday rolled around and the afternoon progressed, I had yet to hear any news from him.  This was strange to me, and I wondered if he was upset with me.  Having been too tied down and attached in previous relationships, I decided to loosen up and go clothes shopping.  I received a call from him on the way to the store, and he apologized for not texting me more frequently.  I couldn’t help wondering if he had forgotten about our plans, which rattled me a bit.  Later at night, I texted him (after sending him a long stream of annoying messages) asking if he was upset with me.  He quickly responded and said no. In fact, he was at his D&D group with his friends.  Though I was glad to hear that he was okay and not upset with me, I did become distressed by the fact that he had chosen to go out with his friends instead of hang out with me (after we had discussed meeting up).  At this point, you might be asking, “How does mindfulness tie into this?”  Well, after wracking up tons of anxiety about a change of plans, I was having a hard time calming down.  For those of you who know, small worries can turn into “He doesn’t love me anymore,” and “He’ll find out who I really am soon enough and hate me” in an instant.  At this point (after crying quite a lot), I remembered the mindfulness skills that my therapist, Felicia, had taught me.  I decided to not interact with my worries for a moment and do an exercise called “5,4,3,2,1.”  The cool thing about this exercise is that you can do it anywhere at any time.  All you have to do is name five things you see, four things you hear, three things you smell, two things you taste, and one thing you touch.  It doesn’t matter what order you do it in, just make sure that you are including all five senses.  Taking the time to think about each of these things is sure to slow your breathing and to ground you in the present moment.  After doing this exercise I felt much more relaxed, and was able to look at my worries and analyze them without interacting with them on a personal level.  This helped me to calm down.  I’m definitely going to do it again before I fall asleep tonight.

– Sophie