With studying and working remotely this past year, the pandemic has shone a spotlight on the need for healthy screen breaks and caring for our wellbeing. This is something that Lori Yearwood and Erica Hargreave share in their OERxDomains21 Session, entitled Incorporating Mindfulness, Exercise and Healthy Screen Breaks into Your Online Learning. While the pandemic has shone a spotlight on the need for this, Lori and Erica have been sharing tools and resources around this for a few years now, in response to recognition of their own needs in working and learning remotely. In the post below, that was first published to their digital travel and culture magazine, Roamancing, Lori shares some of the techniques she uses to bring mindfulness into her life while on the go. Lori and Erica invite you, should you so desire, to reuse, repurpose, and / or modify any of the activities shared here for your own purposes.
To those of us not really familiar with meditating techniques, it appears to be somewhat of a powerful tool that requires a oneness with spirit, a special sacred space to sit, and a mind capable of being empty for a while. I know for myself, that I thought I would have to be taught the technique by a guru on a mountain top and that it might even challenge my religious beliefs through chanting, and other ‘scary’ elements my imagination probably made up.
The truth is … meditating and mindfulness activities can be all of those things, but they can also be done anywhere at any time, in very simple ways with the simple purpose of giving your busy mind a break, and your body the chance to slow down with your breath and regain control of your own reactions. Throughout my yoga teacher training and various therapy support sessions for life as it has hit me (We all need this people!), I have learned some very valuable techniques.
When you feel a wave of anxiety coming over you, or any stress in general, (maybe even an anger outburst you are trying to curb), stop what you are doing and pick a colour. Count how many things in the space around you are that colour. Stop reading right now and count how many items in the room are blue … now count how many items in the room are brown…….
Did you notice that while counting, you weren’t thinking about anything else? That is the goal ~ to give your mind a break. You may have even noticed a calming effect throughout your body.
Enjoy this meditative balloon drop video, while practicing somewhat of the same technique. Count how many white balloons you see. Each time you watch the video pick a different type of balloon to count. Notice how your whole system naturally slows down.
We all know the phrase, “Just take a deep breath and calm down!” When your breath feels short due to panic or pain, a simple deep breath can be difficult to find ,which in turn makes us worry more. Having an activity to focus on can help you regain control. One that has worked well for me is breathing around in a square. This video is meant to be followed along and breathed to, but can be done by drawing or imagining your own ‘air square’ wherever you are. I have been told that it is nearly impossible to have a full panic attack while actively focusing on your breath.
Meditating With Open Eyes
You don’t have to meditate alone! The company of a friend can be very soothing. You also don’t need to find as spectacular a scene as this one here in Sedona…your backyard or local park will do just fine.
This is a great way to practice simplifying your thoughts, which once again provides a mental break, while at the same time allowing your brain to remain active. Go sit outside in a place you enjoy. The first time I tried this, I had such a busy mind, full of angst that I had to walk around outside. I couldn’t even get myself to sit! Notice what you see around you. Let your thought patterns stop at just noticing. Let me give you an example, If you see a bird walking around ~ notice the bird and that’s it! I failed my first time around because I went on to wonder where the bird had flow to this spot from, what was he doing here … getting food to take back to others? Where is the rest of his family? Is he cold? … you get the idea. By trying to stop this lengthy thought process, you are actually teaching yourself not to spiral out of control as thoughts and emotions enter your mind. You also provide a break for your mind and allow it to recharge.
Might I suggest (from experience…that you have figured out a safe way down before climbing a big rock like this! When you sit outside to breathe, feel the sun upon your skin … the warmth of it, the gentle touch of the wind that passes by, the beautiful sounds of nature and all the smells that surround you.
It is by this method that we come closest to what feels like traditional meditation. Done while in a comfortable seated position, your eyes remain closed and you focus on the physical sensations of your breath. If done with a yoga instructor, you will be guided to feel the sensations of the air as you breathe it in through your nose, and the sensations of the air as you exhale through your nose. Rather than trying to have an empty mind void of thoughts, you notice that they are there and just practice not reacting to them as you return back to the sensations of your breath. Each time your mind wanders off you return back to your breath. Eventually you will go longer periods of time before daydreaming away. This type of meditation can really be done anywhere as well. Close yourself off to the distractions of the world through your eyes and breathe.