by Tracy Zboril and Cara Hewett
Ahhhhh… summer is finally here after what we can collectively agree has been a challenging recent past. We feel ready to indulge in some much needed and overdue worry-free days. The catch? Try telling our minds that! Shutting off the chattering mind is a feat that even monks dedicated to endless days of mountain top meditations sometimes fail at. How are we modern-day moms, career women and wives supposed to possibly achieve that?
Thankfully, this is where mind exercises come in – directives that any of us can follow simply and easily, and before we know it, we’re getting our own little mental break. This mind exercise involves visualization and imagination. The first time, dedicate 5-8 minutes to the process. After that, the visual can be used anytime, anywhere in quick increments to allow a mini-mental break.
Find a quiet spot in your home where you can sit comfortably and not be distracted or interrupted for 5-8 minutes (c’mon people, no excuses, hide on the toilet for 5 minutes if that’s the only way to get some privacy). Now, close your eyes, and take five deep slow breaths. In your mind’s eye, imagine a time that you were relaxed and at peace. For me, I’m a child, I’m floating on an inner tube at Bass Lake in Northern Michigan. For my husband, he’s mountain biking and seeing all the beautiful wildflowers, a sea of color. For my sister, it’s having an afternoon cup of tea in her sunroom.
Now, put yourself in that moment. In my visual, what’s the temperature of the water; are there waves or is it calm; what does the sky look like? Clouds? Sun? Breeze? What are the sounds? Birds? Water splashing? Any smells? Scent of pine trees? Fishy smells? Really engage all senses and allow yourself to be immersed in that memory. Once you fully get to that relaxed happy state, set that memory as a picture or snapshot in your mind.
This snapshot is now a symbol representing a quiet, relaxed, happy mind. Now how to use this: Every time you find yourself stressed out, such as in traffic or middle-of-the-night sleeplessness, pull up this representation of calm and peace, allow yourself to engage your senses, and breathe in the visual image. Practice this enough and you’ll get to a mental break more and more easily. Athletes have been using visualization for decades to get in their zone. This works! Become a mental athlete this summer and enjoy getting in your zone.
Tracy Zboril, M.S.W., and Cara Hewett, M.A., are both seasoned therapists who have been practicing in the field, in private practice, hospitals and clinics, for more than 40 years collectively. Within the past 10 to 12 years, major breakthroughs in neuroscience led them to develop, practice and enhance what is now the Soul Happy Technique. soulhappy.com
by Jill Hamilton Buss
Doesn’t it seem nearly every minute of every day is spent striving to ACHIEVE something? We’re working out to be thinner or fitter; listening to a podcast to be smarter or more conversant; eating to be healthier or to reduce cholesterol; and on and on. We even sleep to beat exhaustion. No wonder, right?
What if you spent a day just being? Reading for pleasure, sleeping in, sitting and looking out a window. Dreaming. And not waiting for a beach vacation to do it. Whatever is next on your to-achieve list can probably wait. Because what if your inner wise self is trying to speak to you and you can’t hear it because you’re running too fast?
Try this – slow down and simply walk. Feel the sun on your face and listen to birds. Don’t walk to count steps or to achieve a daily exercise goal. Just walk (my favorite stress reliever) because it’s pleasurable. And unplugged, mindful walking is meditative and restorative to weary souls like ours – especially after a long season of COVID.
We know unplugging and un-doing is harder than it sounds. Families, bosses, and your over-achieving tendencies may try to snap you back to your to-do list. So maybe ease into it for an hour or an afternoon. Mark your calendar for nothing at all. Downtime. If you’re tired, nap. If you’re feeling blue, watch Nate Bargatze on Netflix. Guaranteed laughs. If you’re lonely, call a friend. Maybe you can walk together.
And see if you can be still long enough to let the noise settle – to remember who you are and what your dreams are. What you really love to do when you’re not doing all those things you must. House cleaning can wait. The kids won’t starve, and you’ll survive if you don’t cook a healthy meal tonight. Give yourself a break. It’s been a hard year. Take a day or an hour to breathe, dream and just be. And say to yourself: I am okay, just as I am.
Jill Hamilton Buss is a licensed psychotherapist whose orientation for working with people is warm, supportive and holistic. She believes we must tend to our whole selves (physical, mental, spiritual) as we strive to gain health, happiness, balance, love and/or peace. jillhamiltonbuss.com