Mindfulness is Key

 

woman meditation on the beach

Written by Chrissy McClain MA, NCC, LAPC

Life is non-stop. We are constantly on the go and ready to move on to the next task. Multitasking isn’t a privilege, but a necessity. My guess is that most days, when you wake up the first thing you do is reach for your phone. From that point forward, you are consistently stimulated until that night when it is time to fall asleep. The problem with this rush is that you may find yourself losing your connection with the present moment – missing out on what you are doing and how you are feeling.

The art of mindfulness is, essentially, paying attention on purpose. Focusing attention on the present moment, observing thoughts, feelings, realities, and then accepting life as it is, in that moment, without judgment. There are now, more than ever, studies examining the benefits of mindfulness. The American Psychological Association (www.apa.org) lists more than 7 researched benefits of practicing mindfulness.

  1. Less Over-thinking. Studies show that people who are practicing mindfulness daily have seen decreases in symptoms of depression and anxiety. Those practicing mindfulness tend to have a clear mind – retaining more information and maintaining attention.
  2. Less Stress. Meditating has been shown to shift peoples way of thinking in a way that allow them to process events in a calmer way.
  3. Better Memory. Findings say that working memory capacity is increased in those individuals practicing mindful meditation exercises regularly.
  4. As you might imagine, taking time away from the constant stimulation of the day and replacing it with a mindfulness exercise has been directly related to increased attention spans.
  5. Stable Emotions. Regularly practiced mindfulness activities help people to disengage from upsetting situations and events in a healthy way.
  6. Flexible Thinking. Meditation activates the brain, which causes more adaptive responses to stressful situations.
  7. Healthy Relationships. All of these benefits of mindfulness help individuals respond more positively to stresses and conflicts within a relationship. These exercises are also able to help develop self- insight, which can lead to affective conflict resolution and overall positivity.

Now, you may be thinking that you simply do not have time to “practice mindfulness”, and this is why I am providing some easy ways to incorporate this practice into your daily life.

  • Deep Breathing- Begin your day with 5 minutes of silence and deep breathing (in through your nose and out through your mouth)
  • Download an app- (example: Headspace)
  • Youtube meditations- (example: TheHonestGuys)
  • Use your senses- Take a few minutes and engage with your 5 senses…notice everything that you can taste, smell, see, hear, and touch in that moment
  • Body scan-(example: https://youtu.be/obYJRmgrqOU)
  • Do something that is out of your normal routine (example: drive a new way to work or school)

Getting in the habit of practicing mindfulness may not come naturally, but stick with it and you will see results!

Happy Meditating!

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Inside-Outside Emotions Mask Activity

Written by Catherine Barton, MA, LAPC

inside-mask

I use the following art intervention or activity with clients in a group as well as individual setting to help the clients identify and express emotions; recognize that the emotions they show on the outside may differ than those within; and to provide a safe platform to discuss internal conflicts. This mask is extremely fun to make and often engages clients due to its tactile nature.

After making this mask, I find that adolescents often want to bring their parents into the session to discuss specific emotions and the weight they carry. This makes it a great conversation tool and allows the client to talk with his or her parent(s) about emotions, which may be difficult to verbalize.

Materials Needed:

  • Vaseline
  • Headbands
  • Plaster bandaging strips
  • Water
  • Paint
  • List of emotions handout (in photo)

Purpose:

  • To identify and express feelings
  • To develop self-concept and self-esteem
  • To identify and process healthy and unhealthy methods of self-expression
  • To develop perspective on how the client feels inwardly in comparison to what he/she expresses externally

Part 1

The activity is usually done in multiple sessions as the plaster takes a couple hours to dry.  It begins by the group or individual brainstorming what colors should be paired with which emotion on the handout.  In a group setting, this activity encourages the group members to compromise in a productive manner.

Part 2

The second part of this activity consists of the client or group members composing their masks (in a group, I recommend being intentional as you partner group members with one another).

The following is step-by-step instructions to making the mask:

  1. Cut the plaster gauze into strips (start with 20-30 strips that are 1” wide by 6” long).
  2. It is important to keep the hair out of the individual’s face. Therefore, tie the hair back and put a headband on the individual (remember that this plaster will stick to hair, so tie it back and put Vaseline on the edges).
  3. Instruct the individual to put a thin layer of Vaseline on his/her face. Make sure you supervise this part closely. The Vaseline keeps the hair from being pulled off the face and makes it easier to pull the mask off afterward, so make sure it is covering his or her entire face.
  4. Place towels or plastic bags on the ground for the individual to lie on. This activity can get messy!
  5. Place a bowl of water next to the individual’s face, and your stack of plaster strips next to the bowl.
  6. If doing this activity in a group setting, focus on the importance of communicating and self-advocating. Ask the person to communicate with their partner if they want their eyes, mouth or nose covered. Instruct the partner to consider going around the eyes, nose or mouth based on the individual’s preference.
  7. Now, working quickly, fully immerse a strip in the water, pull it out, and then remove excess water by running it through two fingers.
  8. Place the strip on the forehead, smoothing out any creases in the bandaging; repeat this step for the whole face. Start by outlining the individual’s face and then fill it in with the plaster strips.
  9. Give the face another layer or two, making sure there are 2-3 layers on the entire face.
  10. Running a wet finger over the entire mask will smooth out any bumps and combine the individual strips.
  11. Let the mask dry for 5-10 minutes. Make sure you tell the group that his or her face will feel warm right before it is ready to be taken off.
  12. To take the mask off, work around the edges slowly pulling away from the individual’s face.
  13. Carefully sit the mask onto a surface to dry for 3-4 hours.
  14. The individual will have to wipe the Vaseline off his/her face with a towel and then wash with water.

Part 3

After the mask dries, it may be painted with Acrylic or Tempera paint. Use the printed Emotions Handout to encourage the individual(s) to pair colors with specific emotions (as he/she or the group has designated). Discuss with the individual or the group that there are some emotions that we choose to show, even though we feel something different inside.  For example, someone might be embarrassed, but instead of showing embarrassment, they show anger.  Another example is that we may feel sad inside, but choose to display happiness.  Using the Emotions Handout, encourage the individual to paint the inside with colors representing emotions that he/she does not always allow others to see. Then paint the outside with colors representing emotions that he/she does allow others to see. Make sure to encourage that he/she is intentional with the size of the colors to represent the intensity or frequency of the emotions.

For parents, teachers, or therapists:

This project gives parents, teachers and/or therapists an insider’s guide not only to how the individual feels, but also to the feelings that they refrain from expressing and the impact of these trapped feelings.  It also opens the door for productive discussion using skills other than talking, such as creative expression. The individual may use this art project as an avenue to help explain internal feelings and conflicts, which may allow insight to complex emotions.