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7 Ways to Let Mindfulness Change Your View of the World

7 Ways to Let Mindfulness Change Your View of the World

As paradoxical as it sounds, mindfulness is a way to escape from your problems by addressing them. But contrary to what you might think, it doesn’t just happen in a quiet room. You can be mindful in any situation. Like a jedi, it helps to train yourself. Begin practicing in a meditative setting with no distractions. Then, take your practice into the world.

Immersive activities are a perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness. An immersive activity is one in which you concentrate on process. You’re putting one foot in front of the other. While you’re doing this, any type of thought might come knocking at your door, unbidden.

Don’t judge your thoughts. Thoughts, when they surface from the subconscious to the conscious mind, are equivalent to things that appear in the field of vision. This rock has its particular texture, its color, and its shape (even its taste!). That thought has its particular context, its substance, its subject, and its associations. A thought is not good or bad unless you judge it. If you judge a thought, hang on to it, and brood over it, that’s when it affects you negatively.

Try these activities and practice monitoring your breathing. Practice being mindful of your thoughts and setting.

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1. Write a poem.

writing

    Poetry facilitates mindfulness because it’s the act of recording your thoughts. In this case, the thoughts you write down can center on your surroundings — but they don’t have to. They can be thoughts about your thoughts. This act of poetry is an exercise of mindfulness, translated onto the page. Just as you don’t judge your thoughts, don’t judge what you’re writing. The more mindful you are of your body and surroundings, the more thoughts pop up. This is the wellspring of creativity.

    Having trouble getting started? There are poetry writing exercises that can help.

    2. Take a walking tour.

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    Venice_002

      Vacations can be full of frenzied efforts to do as much as possible. But on your next vacation, consider taking a walking tour. The slow pace will help you immerse yourself in the movements of your body and your surroundings. There are some excellent cities for a walking tour, such as Venice, which is primarily vehicle-free. Copenhagen, Seattle, Paris, and Florence are also well-suited for walking tours. New surroundings are excellent for mindfulness, because they don’t present old associations.

      3. Ride a horse.

      horseback

        There’s a reason why equine-assisted therapy helps people who suffer from PTSD, as well as drug and alcohol dependency. Interacting with a horse helps lower blood pressure and stress levels. It helps people cope with anxiety and anger. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) victims, in particular, can’t help but return to thoughts associated with trauma. Riding a horse helps them focus on the present. Take a horseback ride and pay attention to the feel of the animal, its muscular movement, and its breathing. Study the trail as it passes. Note your posture and how you hold the reins. This will improve your mindfulness.

        4. Adopt a dog.

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        Young_boy_petting_his_dog

          There’s been plenty of research on why pets make us happy. They make us more conscientious — more mindful — and more social. Specifically, petting a dog causes your brain to release the neurotransmitters dopamine and oxytocin, as well as the hormone prolactin. Dopamine and oxytocin are both associated with rewards and pleasure. In one study, adopting a dog helped bring down blood pressure levels in hypertensive New York City stockbrokers. The very act of petting a dog requires you to be mindful of the animal. Taking a dog for a walk will help you focus on the world as a dog sees it — and we all know dogs are some of the most mindful, aware animals in the world.

          5. Watch birds.

          birding

            Birdwatching (or “birding,” as some like to call it) is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the environment. You’ll concentrate directly on the plumage and movements, as well as the space where birds come and go — just like thoughts. In a way, birding is mindfulness incarnate. The Audubon Society has some tips on how to begin birding. It helps to consult a field guide to learn about the birds and where they live. Make sure you have binoculars. And most importantly, just go do it. I recommend simply immersing yourself in an area where you know there are plenty of birds.

            6. Take a hike.

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            hikingrocks

              This is the classic activity for mindfulness. Walking in the woods is great for your health. It promotes awareness of your surroundings and relieves stress. Like horseback riding, hiking is a form of therapy for PTSD. Take your time while hiking, observe the trees, undergrowth, and wildlife carefully. If your thoughts start to stray, let them. But let the woods bring your thoughts back to where you are.

              7. Plant a garden.

              16338-a-woman-enjoying-gardening-outdoors-pv

                If you’d like to know how to plant a vegetable garden, it’s key to find a good location that will get plenty of sun and has the right soil. Uproot weeds, and turn the soil about a foot deep. Make sure it’s fertilized. Plan where you want to put your plants. The point is this: all of these activities are helping you concentrate on the space. You’re focused on the process, and the practice of mindfulness encourages you to focus on that process. After all, if you focus on the results — the hypothetical future — you’re not there with the garden, growing with it.

                Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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                Dan Matthews, CPRP

                A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

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                Last Updated on July 10, 2020

                How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

                How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

                We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

                We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

                So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

                Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

                What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

                Boundaries are limits

                —they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

                Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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                Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

                Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

                Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

                How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

                Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

                1. Self-Awareness Comes First

                Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

                You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

                To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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                You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

                • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
                • When do you feel disrespected?
                • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
                • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
                • When do you want to be alone?
                • How much space do you need?

                You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

                2. Clear Communication Is Essential

                Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

                Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

                3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

                Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

                That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

                Sample language:

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                • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
                • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
                • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
                • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
                • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
                • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
                • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

                Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

                4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

                Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

                Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

                Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

                We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

                It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

                It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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                Final Thoughts

                Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

                Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

                Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

                The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

                Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

                Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

                They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

                Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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