If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you’ve probably seen me mention my seasonal depression one time or another. Living in Michigan where the winters are long, dark, and gloomy, SAD (aptly named, right?) is something I struggle with daily. Or, at least, half-ish of a year.
It’s not great.
Mid-2016 I reached a bit of a breaking point. It was August — beautiful, sunny August — and I could already feel the gloom creeping in. I dreaded another winter in this dark mental space. When you’re already there, you’re already in the funk, it feels near impossible to combat it. You don’t have the energy to try to lift yourself up, so I wanted to be proactive before the sun disappeared for half a year, taking my vitality with it.
Max and I sat down and had one of our first serious discussions about it. Anti-depressants were a no from me — at least at that time — having been on them for a brief stint in college and not loving the experience.
We came up with a game plan of dedication to exercise — namely, hot yoga. I spent my ENTIRE life starting and stopping and trying and failing at various exercise regiments and “health fads.” NOTHING stuck. I couldn’t fully throw myself into or dedicate my being to anything. It took me a whole six years to finish Couch to 5k (and I still haven’t ran an actual 5k). I got 11 days into Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred before I couldn’t bother anymore. Our P90X set is now a very expensive dust collector sitting in the basement.
So you can see how “NOW I’m dedicated to yoga!” could have totally felt like just another “yeah, but I’m definitely going to fail at that, just like I fail at everything else.” It’s another post for another day, but a year and a half or so later I’m a happy yogi practicing at my studio a few times a week and looooving it. I can’t get enough. It’s an actual miracle.
In my effort to chase dopamine through insane amounts of sweat, I knew I needed to work on my mental health internally, too. Through meditation, journaling, and self-affirmation, striving for mindfulness in my everyday life has been so so beneficial for my overall mental health and happiness. Embracing the power of the present moment. Feeling myself in my body, on this earth, in this minute.
It’s powerful stuff.
The process is a journey, but I’ve listed three tips to help bring a little bit of mindfulness and grounding in your everyday life.
1. Express gratitude
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” – Gilbert K. Chesterton
I don’t know about you, but I tend to be an anxious person. My brain twists small things into BIG DEALS and I spiral towards the worst case scenario. When I’m going there, I find ease and clarity in recognizing all the good around me; the things I take for granted. Gratitude allows us to really see what we have and remain thankful — and reduce the feeling of wanting more and more.
Another helpful practice when things aren’t great? Ask yourself: what can I learn from this? Things might suck now, but I’m going to leave this situation renewed. I’m not the same person I was before. I’ve grown. I’ve shifted. What will I take from this scenario that will leave me feeling grateful and ultimately stronger?
(I need to write this on 50 sticky notes and put them all over my house.)
2. Take a deep breath
Deep breathing is one of my favorite aspects of my yoga practice. Ujjayi breathing is an ancient yogic technique, and translates to “victorious breath.” Ujjayi is the practice of deeply inhaling and exhaling, connecting your breath to your movements, creating an experience that is both rhythmic and meditative. Not only does it help calm both mind and body, but it’s medically beneficial, too — increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood, building internal body heat, and regulating blood pressure.
For my anxious mind, this practice is grounding, releasing, and ADDICTING.
Breathe deep. Feel yourself living in your body, on this earth, in this minute.
Learn more about Ujjayi breathing and try it yourself! (It’s good. I promise.)
3. Connect with your senses
Take a minute to observe your environment. When you’re lost in thought (or worry, or anxiety, or stress), it can be difficult to separate what’s happening within from what’s going on around you. Your five senses are a path to realizing the present moment and bringing yourself back to center.
I have a distinct memory of meditating on my patio one afternoon last summer. Just breathing deeply, acknowledging my thoughts and allowing them to pass, quietly observing the world around me. When I allowed myself to sit and just be, I was able to take note of things that would normally never cross my frame of consciousness. The warmth of the sun on my back; hearing birds chirping and recognizing the differences in their songs; the smell of sweet summer air with a hint of freshly cut grass; gentle breeze in my hair. I felt a renewed sense of peace and still remember how I felt in that moment (which is a big deal, as someone with a significantly terrible memory). During a busy wedding season full of work and emails and anxiety and work and stress and work, taking a few minutes to ground myself was a gift.
Connecting with your senses is easy, and can be practiced throughout your day. Feel the warmth of your morning coffee as you hold the mug in your hands. Breathe deep and experience the scent of freshly washed sheets as you slip into bed. Simple things can bring so much joy if we allow ourselves to notice them.
Hope this helps, friends. xo