Monday, June 09, 2014

Mindful S.T.O.P

Do you take time out to stop and smell the roses? Are you aware that creating space in the day to stop, come down from the worried mind, and get back into the present moment has been shown to be enormously helpful in mitigating the negative effects of our stress response?

Last month, I participated in a "Mindful in May" event with the Mindfulness Coach John Shearer, where
I learned about one especially useful and simple mindfulness practice that I started to incorporate into my busy routine. It’s called the Mindful S.T.O.P. Here’s how it goes:

S – Slow down (slow down your breathing; or slowly press your feet into the floor; or slowly stretch your arms; or slowly press your fingertips together)
T - Take note (with a sense of curiosity, notice your thoughts & feelings; notice what you can see and hear and touch and taste and smell; notice where you are and what you are doing)
O - Open up (open up and make room for your thoughts &  feelings, and allow them to freely flow through you; use any defusion or expansion skill you like)
P - Pursue values (reconnect with your values, and let them guide whatever you do next)

According to Russ Harris, author of the international best-selling self-help book 'The Happiness Trap', and a world-renowned trainer of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), a regular Mindful STOP to slow down, take note, open up and pursue values works wonders to our health and well being. The whole point of the exercise is practise, practise and practise some more! It is so worth it!

Here is my Mindful Stop experience today:

S - Slow down. After meeting a friend for some brunch in a cafe where we sit outside to have some delicious food, I start walking mindfully around Southbank in Melbourne city. I take a deep breath and then take in the beauty that is "Marvelous Melbourne", as I slowly press my feet into the floor. I slow down happily and enjoy my city.

T - Take note.  With a sense of curiosity, I notice the air temperature, the way the sunlight hits the river, the expressions of people's faces, the smell of winter breeze and the sound of an endearing Chinese elderly man playing an instrument with a smile. I stop and take a video of his performance. As I continue walking, I notice how my arms swing and how I hold my hands. I am aware of my sensation & feelings of gratitude that I am blessed to live in this great city.  I am smiling at the beautiful surroundings.

O - Open up.  I notice my thoughts starting to wander around my 'life purpose' and my 'breakthroughs'. My silent observer makes room for these thoughts and then I gently allow my mind to come back to the present moment. Then I walk back to my car to drive home, and realise as I am driving I try to remember the 6 core mindfulness processes. Interestingly that thought in itself is a distraction because it doesn't allow me to engage fully in what I am doing in the hear and now. My silent observer notices that and reminds me to be aware of awareness itself and I open myself fully to experience the feelings of happiness and joy that are in my heart as I drive home.

P - Pursue values. I value health and well being, and this winter I have made a commitment to take positive actions to be involved in "Winter Wellness" as I find that in Winter months it's easier to get sick. I have made a plan for balanced self-renewal in the four areas of my life: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Here are some examples of activities I focus on in "Winter Wellness" in these areas.

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