You Can Use Mindfulness to Improve Your Running, Health, and Mental Wellness.
What is mindfulness? It is the act of choosing to focus your mind on the present moment, non-judgmentally, and without attachment to the moment. Being aware. Being engaged in what you are doing, where you are, what you feel, and who you are in this moment. Mindfulness is intentional. It entails observing yourself and surroundings, describing yourself and your surroundings, and participating in your experience and your surroundings, all without judgment. Mindfulness promotes flexibility, and an ability to move through things like water, rather than rigidly attempting to keep a moment going. Everything is fluid.
I do not believe that you must sit down and decide, "I'm going to be still and practice mindfulness now." I truly believe that you can practice skills of mindfulness almost any time. It doesn't necessarily mean that you need to choose to sit still and meditate. And if you have read Running with the Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham, you might agree that you can employ meditation skills while moving.
“What” Skills of Mindfulness: Observe, Describe, Participate.
Observe-pay attention on purpose to the present moment. This step. Not the next mile. Not the 25th mile. Not how you might feel later or how you felt earlier. This exact moment. Choose this moment to observe.
Describe-put what you observe into words. Words are really important for our understanding of our situation. Describing is important to gain understanding of our experience and being able to more fully participate in it.
Participate- Enter your runs fully, entirely, with your whole self. Truly engage in what you are doing. This is important for everything, not just running. Be an active participant in your life.
Sidenote: Practicing these skills is extremely important for me. Especially while running and after my runs. Often while running, innumerable thoughts come up regarding everything going on in my life. Practicing these skills helps me to identify, understand, and take action on the things that come up for me.
“How” Skills of Mindfulness: Nonjudmentalness, One-Mindfulness, Effectiveness.
-being nonjudgmental means not evaluating something as good or bad. Accepting each moment as it is. Acknowledge the difference between what is helpful for you, and what is harmful, but don’t judge them. Acknowledge your values, wants, emotional reactions, but don’t judge them. When you find yourself forming a judgment, don’t judge your judginess, just acknowledge it. I don't think judginess is a word. But that's what I'm going with. That sounds funny, but it's actually really hard to do. When you catch yourself being judgmental, try to acknowledge it without passing further judgment on yourself for having a thought. We are all works in progress, and giving ourselves grace is important for the learning process.
Another sidenote: This feels really important right now. I notice that I become more judgmental of myself and others when I have slacked in caring for myself and giving myself what I need. That may be something as simple as giving myself enough time to eat before I rush out of the house, or going to bed when I start to fall asleep on the couch, or taking a breathe and letting myself think when I need to. The less I care for myself, the more judgmental I become of others. I find myself seeing things on social media and the news and saying, "What the fuck is wrong with people" on the regular. I don't really like to then embody that toxicity, but I still like to be informed and know what is going on in the world. In order to accomplish both being informed, and not becoming enraged or frustrated in a way that is unproductive, I know I need to manage how much I take care of myself in all aspects: physical, mental, emotional, nutritionally, everything.
-one-mindfully (per Marsha Linehan) means being present in the now. Do one thing at a time, and notice if you have a desire to be somewhere else, to be doing something else, to be done with your run, to be running differently. Let go of those thoughts and gently bring your attention back to what you are doing each time you are distracted.
-effectively means being cognizant of your goals and doing what you have to to achieve them. Focus on what works. Act skillfully, means do what is needed for what you are doing, not what you wish you were doing. Give yourself what you need to achieve your goal.
Mindfulness skills can be practiced while doing anything simply by paying attention to what you’re doing on purpose. Meditation can be useful for you to structure mindfulness practice by choosing a duration of time to focus your mind. You may begin by bringing to your attention the sensations in your body, your emotions, thoughts, your breathing. You can also meditate by opening your mind, rather than focusing your mind. Allow yourself to pay attention to whatever comes into your awareness without building an attachment to it.
Practice Mindfulness While Running!
Mindful movement can be done while doing anything…yoga, washing the dishes, walking, running. Be engaged in each step, nonjudgmental of your experience, being with yourself on your run. No matter how you feel physically, and what that brings up for you emotionally, simply acknowledge your feeling without being hard on yourself for what you are experiencing.