Day 10 in our ChristmasCalendar2019!
Food for thought, Food for the soul
Over the past two years, I have been interested in mindfulness. My latest therapist recommended it to help me with my mental health. So far, this has been one of the best recommendations I ever got and I couldn’t be more grateful. I can feel the results, how my mind is learning to let feelings flow and be aware of them. I am also learning that I can use mindfulness in other activities that I have been doing for years.
At the beginning, I learned the body scan technique. A very simple method where you bring attention to your body, noticing, noticing different sensations, as you mentally scan down, from head to toe. I used one of the most popular apps (Headspace) and slowly increased my mindful time from 5 min to up to an hour. It was not easy. I fell asleep many times, I got tired, or the time was not right. So, I started to look for alternative ways to do mindfulness. The idea was to apply the basic principles of mindfulness into different activities and hobbies. Here is what I have done so far.
I love walking and Stockholm is my favorite city to walk. I can still remember my first visit to Stockholm in the autumn of 2006. Every weekend I would walk from the place where I was staying to the church on the other side of town (around 7.5 km). I continued doing my walks over the years but as I learned about mindfulness I started to use it during my walks. Usually, I start by doing a body scan, then I will notice my surroundings for a couple of minutes and finally, I will clear my mind from toughs. To help me to keep my mind clear I count my steps and/or my breath. If my mind wanders off to something else, I will gently bring it back to concentrate on the steps or the breathing. So far, my longest walk was of a bit more than 20 km. The best part was that I used mindfulness for at least 80 percent of it.
Last year, I learned how to bike. Yes, just last year. My excuse, too dangerous to bike in a city like Tegucigalpa (Honduras). This experience was about learning a new skill. I went to a course for adults organized by Cykelfrämjandet and it was amazing. In fact, one of the best courses I have ever done. Everything was just right, from the instructors, the bikes and the lessons. My state of mind was so important. The focus on learning the skill, and in a new language – Swedish. Then, after the course, the practice that followed was all about mindfulness even without realizing it. Only after a few weeks, I understood that I was biking in a mindful way. I was so focused on pedaling, and breathing that my mind was clear of my disturbing thoughts.
Believe it or not, I did not know about Lego until just a few years ago. I don’t know why it was not popular in my country or between the people that I knew. But when one of my kids got two big Ikea bags of unsorted Lego, my OCD showed its funny face. With my husband, we started to buy boxes and thought about ways of classifying the bricks by color, shape, and functionality. And while our kid was in Lego heaven building nonstop we were on a lego-sorting crusade. But it was worth it – to see everything sorted in boxes, finding pieces easily and the process itself. Sorting and trying not to think of anything but sorting – it has been mindful.
I love to make my own accessories. I believe that every accessory has a purpose and a story. I have made necklaces, earrings, bracelets, belts, and rosaries. Many times I give them as gifts and I have even sold them. Most of the time I engage with one technique for long periods of time. Some of the work I have done are about following patterns with colors and similar materials. These patterns have influenced quite a lot in finding the peace of mind that I needed in the most difficult times. And again, without knowing I have done it in a mindful way, I have been focusing on the task with a clear mind.
Hama beads are my latest obsession. Ever since my mother in law came to my house with a box with beads and some plates I haven’t stopped. My oldest kid gets bored quite quickly but I can do it for hours. I have even stepped it up and replicated a painting using one of the software available for free, PhotoPearls. This piece of work was 21 600 beads and around twelve hours of great mindful work.
I bet there are more things that you can do applying the basic principles of mindfulness. Let me tell you that what I mention here is what helped me through all my years as a researcher at KI and more recently in my transition from academia. So, what do you do for mindfulness?
Irina Jovel-Dalmau, PhD
KI Alumni that just finished her transition from Academia.