Refuge – a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger or trouble. Day 4 of the Mindfulness Challenge was creating an environment that is both positive and inspiring. This includes your physical space, the activities you participate in, the people you surround yourself and your social media. There was a lot to be learned for me here and some was reinforcing what I was already working on.
First, where is your refuge? For me, it is most definitely home. This is my space to recharge my batteries. Being out in the world “doing” requires time to recharge as I’m sure with a lot of us. I have to say that being with people and “doing” is the MOST energizing thing for me, yet I resist it. My new attitude of saying yes as often as possible made this abundantly clear. As much as my social life was giving me energy, I also need that time to recharge. And I need my environment to be a place of inspiration and calm. This also falls into the change I made regarding improving my home life. Small things can make a big difference. Clean something or removing clutter can bring instant calm and happiness.
This presentation reminded me so much of Gretchen Rubin’s book Outer Order, Inner Calm. A fabulous read! You can find it here. https://www.amazon.com/Outer-Order-Inner-Calm-declutter/dp/1473692687/ref=sr_1_5?crid=BWI3TPK0SEDW&keywords=outer+order+inner+calm&qid=1585062485&sprefix=outer+order+inner+%2Caps%2C157&sr=8-5 Clutter creates anxiety and I certainly didn’t need any more of that in my life! The goal for me was to do small things DAILY to boost this sense of calm and happiness. Here’s just an example of some of the changes I made.
Keeping the sink clear of dirty dishes
Filing away all papers and mail as soon as I open them
Taking the trash out immediately
Making my bed every morning
Your environment also includes any activities you are involved in. Trying something new creates all kinds of benefits like the thickening the cortex of our brains. You can learn more about the science behind that here. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-happens-to-your-brain-when-you-learn-something-new_n_5890b0bfe4b0c90eff0021fc The goal here was to find an activity that brought me happiness, I found interesting, and was satisfying to my soul. I decided yoga would be my thing. I had practiced yoga on my own, at home, and probably doing the poses all wrong. In fact, I know I was. But at the time, I was not a “class” person. After discovering the importance of group exercise with an EDUCATED trainer, I was off and ready to try new things. I LOVE YOGA. My first class was a free outdoor class which checked a couple of boxes for me. One, it was outdoor exercise, two, it was a group setting, three, it was with a skilled instructor and four it was a form of exercise and meditation. How could I not go? I’m so thankful to a friend of mine who suggested this class for me. It really got the ball rolling for exercise outside of the safe zone of my therapy and fitness center. Which had to happen eventually. I needed to see what I could do out in the world. First of all, yoga, real yoga, is hard. Let’s make that clear. I was not the best at yoga in the beginning. But what I loved was that I could do it, modified in the beginning and I was learning correct form, which is the most important thing in the end. I did those classes once a week for an entire summer then signed up for the membership at the studio that offered the summer program. I fell in love with this studio and it’s instructors immediately. These classes were a little harder, but I felt so safe there. It was painful at times. I really had to call in my practice of “exposing myself slowly”, telling my body this is the new normal, get used to it. It took a long time, and after about a year of yoga three or four times a week, I have seen huge progress. So much tension has left my body. Yoga provides two other benefits that were so important to what I am trying to achieve in my life. One, mentioned here on Day 4 was learning something new. I had to really concentrate on what the instructor was saying. I was learning new poses and positions for 75 minutes. Mindfulness is a MUST! It was serious brain retraining! And two, the meditative side of being in a yoga class. When you are holding a pose you have to stay mindful to maintain it. Outside distractions just slip away. Every class ends with Savasana, a total relaxation pose to end the practice. Sometimes my instructor would read a poem, other times just quiet music, but I always felt transported during this time in class. My body is wiped out, I’m completely exhausted, it’s hot, I’m extremely sweaty and now I’m just lying there taking it all in. It’s SO GRATIFYING. It’s hard to explain how much I love it.
Your virtual environment is also important, I learned. I didn’t take this action seriously until about a year after I did this workshop. Recently, I did a digital de-clutter, which I will talk about later, but at this point in my life, I was just wasn’t ready to hear it or do it, so I made small changes, like changing my home screen to something inspiring, I deleted a few apps to de-clutter my phone’s home screen, and narrowed down some pages on my facebook feed. These were all positive changes, but the big digital declutter came later..
And then came human connection. This is were I learned about tribes and how our social connection is the key to happiness and longevity. Even though I have talked about my tribe earlier, like I said, that was something that happened and I realized later that I was building my tribe without knowing it. This is where I learned the importance of social connection. Tribes make us feel safe, reduce stress and bring us joy! So, one of the actions suggested here, which I did immediately was to “curate your social circle”. Literally make a list of the people you see most often, because emotions are contagious and weed out (I know that sounds harsh) and decide who we really want to keep in our circle. We need to keep the positive energy flowing around us. If we surround ourselves with negative people, it will drag us down and zap our energy. Finding inspiring people became a goal. In my notebook I wrote the following:
All of which became focuses for me over the next year. And I still am always on the hunt. I recently discovered hiking. It’s a new passion of mine. I’m in the process of researching hiking groups but at the same time, I’ve been hiking with my husband on Sunday’s and it’s been really nice. My plan is to keep that up, but also find a group of ladies to hike with during the week when I have time. Like yoga, this will give me social connection, exercise outside, connecting with nature and mindfulness. Yay!
How can you change your environment to be more positive and inspiring? Try the following:
Try something new (maybe a class)
Thin out your social media feed to what inspires and uplifts
Curate your tribe. Make a list of the people you surround yourself most often and decide who stays and who goes to keep positive energy around you. Find new groups and volunteer opportunities that fit your goals.
I can’t wait to hear about it! Thanks for being here!