5 Meaningful Moments to Create Mindfulness

A mindfulness checklist

A young woman sits back from her computer, arms folded behind her head, satisfied in her present moment.

As the mindfulness miniseries keeps winding down the road to wellness, let’s pause to ask one simple question: what are we learning? It’s incredible how small changes today can lead to big transformations tomorrow, but we can get deep into our heads when we’re faced with self-improvement or self-care.  Being honest about what we need is very different from the effortless way we take care of people around us, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible!

One major challenge is that we tend to take on everything at once. We binge, we marathon, and we get it done! So when you find out what you need, it can be tempting to roll up your sleeves and take a flying leap into the thick of it all. But it’s important to build a base, so let’s talk about grounding. Not mental grounding, more like something you can see every day: grounding wires.

Why are literal grounding wires so important? Well, they can protect you, your appliances, and your home from surges of electricity caused by lightning strikes or power surges. While it can be tempting to tackle all our challenges in one go, if we neglect our metaphorical grounding wires, there’s a chance a surprise lightning strike or an unprecedented power surge could ruin all that work and even hurt! Here are five quick and easy things you can do today to help you cultivate your metaphorical grounding wires.

A female figure sitting on a swing, watching a sunset

Ask: “What do I need right now?”

Goals are an excellent way to have something to work toward, but we also need to listen to what our minds and bodies need along the way. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed or frustrated, take a second to ask one simple question: What do I need right now? What you need right now could be a nap, a walk, some time with friends (or some time away from them). This has nothing to do with being productive. It has everything to do with you and can help you avoid burnout.

Feel what you feel.

You asked yourself what you need, but this one is about how you feel. Are you frustrated by a setback? Feel it. Are you excited by some good news? Feel it! It’s OK to feel everything you’re feeling, no matter what it is. When you give yourself room to feel, you can answer the question up there at #1 more easily, and give yourself space to figure out your next step.

An athletic woman standing in a mirror, lifting dumbells.

Celebrate all the small things.

It can’t be all work and no play. Recognize your milestones along the way and celebrate them! Treat yourself to something nice, like a night with friends or family, a date night with yourself and/or your partner, or even a day under the blanket with a furry friend and a whole lot of Netflix. Our work will always be there, so try and treat yourself along the way!

Move it!

If you’re feeling froggy, hop to some exercise. Whether you’re going low impact with walking, swimming, or hiking or high impact by hitting the weights or the bag or dusting off those running shoes, get on up! Even taking a few minutes to dance to your favorite song can have a lasting impact throughout the day. When we move our bodies, our brains release lots of good stuff like serotonin and dopamine. It’s not just a state of mind, it’s science!

An open journal on a table with some coffee

(Re)design your narrative.

Have you ever made a mistake and called yourself “stupid” or chided yourself because you “should have known better”? If you have, it’s nothing to be ashamed of (see #2), but our narratives shape our days from moment to moment. How we talk to ourselves in times of loss or triumph is more powerful than you realize. In fact, it’s a whole neural situation that can quite literally rewire our brains. If we see ourselves as “stupid” we’re less likely to seek out what we need and more likely to miss opportunities for growth or even happiness. If you’re calling yourself names or putting yourself down, it may be time to start shifting that narrative so you don’t shut down yourself or your feelings. That mistake you “should have known better” about can instead become a moment of self-care: “I’ll try again later,” “It’s OK to make mistakes,” or “I’ll see what I can do next time.”

Each of these choices takes minutes, but over time, those minutes add up. They can build into something greater, something more exciting. We can shape our worlds—the mornings that greet us and the evenings that leave us. It takes time. And just because we commit to these mindful practices doesn’t mean bad things just stop or that we’ll feel better overnight. We’re buying ourselves more time and giving ourselves more tools for when lightning strikes.

The Absolute Certainty of Uncertainty

Leaves blossoming from a lightbulb against beams of wood
A woman with red hair sits sadly between two masculine head statues
Because so much really has changed.

To say we have all been through a lot would be the understatement of the year. The COVID-19 pandemic tested our resolve, compassion, and nerves. We were all affected in different ways, but one thing we all share is the formative impression the pandemic has left—and continues to leave—on all of us. All around the world, some countries are “finished” with COVID, but COVID is not finished with them. Meanwhile, in our own country, different states are in multiple phases of lifting quarantines or adjusting protocols. As we transition to the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, how do we handle life after trauma? How do we handle how much has changed, even if we feel like we are transitioning to a place where we want to say: “It’s over”?

Last year we experienced an ever-changing flood of information and had to adjust and correct for every surprise or turn the virus took. Our country and states had to adapt on the fly to keep public safety and integrity intact. While these decisions were made with our well-being in mind, the effects were just as mutable as our microscopic foe. Our normalcy became unfamiliar; our work, home, and personal lives changed. The tapestry of everything we knew was restitched with such alacrity that we all felt whiplash as we faced down ever-growing uncertainty.

A feminine, broken statue's face is in an overgrowth of plants, leaves, and flowers
What you went through is valid.

In our post discussing stress management, we noted how some factors are outside of our control, but we can alter our position in that kind of uncertainty by expressing ourselves and acknowledging how we feel. This may seem simple, but how many times over the last year have you told yourself things like, “Others have it worse than me,” “I should toughen up,” or “I shouldn’t be feeling [insert totally valid emotion you are feeling but dismissing here].”?

Believe it or not, our personal narratives shape how we weather our uncertainties. Our bodies affect our minds and our minds affect our bodies. When you dismiss yourself, you dismiss your experience, and what you went through this last year is nothing to be dismissed.

A feminine head sculpture masks someone at a white table, a red flower grows from the sculpture's braided hairline
Stages of growth will be different for all of us.

While we should not diminish ourselves, we also need to understand and practice compassion for the world around us, and that can be a delicate, bold act. The delicacy comes from how we relate to experiences that run parallel to our own, and the boldness comes from the patience we choose over impatience when we are faced with experiences that run counter our own. The spectrum of reaction and survival throughout this pandemic is vast and complex. As we explored in our previous posts, there will be times when you will need to breathe or step away and both are acceptable. Rushing yourself or others to keep pace with recovery standards, internal or external, ignores all the work and hardship you faced. Everyone you meet, including the person you see in the mirror, will be in a different stage of dealing with the trauma of total life upheaval and uncertainty.

But in a new chapter of uncertainty, one thing is certain—there is another side to all of this. Your work, compassion, resiliency, and patience are part of a brilliant endgame. This does not just apply to COVID and readjusting to reopening, it can also apply to a breakup, a loss, or an injury. The road is long and challenging, but accepting that your position and experience on this road are valid is a step in the right direction. Even if everything around you is uncertainty, there is certainty in the fact that you keep going. That matters, you matter, and what you say to yourself and to others during this time matters as well. There is nothing uncertain about that.

The Power of Love: “Love Languages” in the Office

A team meeting

You’ve probably seen many online quizzes floating around. No, not the one that tells you which Hogwarts house you belong to, or the one that claims your answers make you a perfect fit for Idris Elba. We’re talking about the one that asks: “What’s Your Love Language?” With love in the air and half-priced chocolates just around the corner, we thought we’d answer that question in our own way.

Four coworkers having a meeting around a table.
We all show love and respect differently.

So, what is a love language? Love languages describe how we receive and give love to others—from our friends, family, partners, you name it. The love is there, but it looks a little different from person to person. Love languages include acts of service, gift-giving, physical touch, quality time, and words of affirmation. Love languages were developed over 25 years ago by Dr. Gary Chapman and the concept is still popular to this day. Recognizing these patterns in ourselves and those around us can leave a lasting impact.

But what does this look like in the workplace? Love languages can apply to platonic and professional relationships as well. That “warm fuzzy feeling” looks more like a lasting impression or a positive, motivating experience. So how can you apply love languages to your workplace, whether you are on-site or remote?

A remote worker at their desk having a virtual meeting and taking notes.
Even when we’re remote, giving someone our time carries a lot of impact.

First, if you haven’t yet, give one of those love language quizzes a whirl, or simply take a minute to review the ones listed above and see which one applies to you the most.

Now that you’re familiar with love languages, let’s look at how you can apply them to your day-to-day routine at work.

· For an “acts of service” person, this can look like buying the team lunch or bringing in donuts. An act of service can also be running charity events or setting up a PPE station.

· For a “words of affirmation” person, this could be giving positive and insightful feedback on someone’s idea or contributions to a project.

· For someone who prefers “quality time”, this can be listening to coworkers and really learning about them, or getting the most out of a scheduled meeting. It can even be something as simple as asking: “How was your weekend?” or “What are you watching these days?”

· The generous “gift-giving” coworker may like sending memes between tasks, giving out gift cards around the holidays, or having a Dr. Scholl’s insert up their sleeve if they hear a coworker’s feet are hurting.

· The “physical touch” love language might manifest as respecting boundaries and social distancing, and washing and sanitizing hands thoroughly. In a safer setting, a good handshake can go a long way.

Two coworkers outside in masks giving each other a social distance elbow bump.
We are all connected and expressing that is so important, even if it looks a little different these days.

So as you head into Valentine’s Day weekend, open your mind to all the ways love can show up in the world—how others communicate love and how you can put more love out there. Try not to worry too much about your fluency in love languages—that comes with practice, time, and even personal insight. The more you know about yourself, the more you can give back to the world around you. At the end of the day, it’s all about the love.