by LaQueshia Jeffries, Guest Contributor
Military life can be quite full of adventure, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and new beginnings. Discovering dozens of American locales, sightseeing overseas and networking with other brilliant military spouses can often have you singing, (in the words of Big Sean) “Waaaaaaaay up, I feel blessed.”
But of course with all the glitter of this life comes the regular day-to-day grind. Multiple moves with school-age children, the general stress of being the anchor of a family and the seemingly never-ending personal career sacrifices can weigh down even the most seasoned among us.
This is where mindfulness can be such a boon.
You may be asking yourself “What is this mindfulness you speak of and how can it help me in this #MilLife?” Well, please allow me to introduce you to this timeless concept.
Mindfulness (also known as meditation) has Buddhist roots and is the simple practice of being present with your self. It sounds so basic many wonder how it can be effective.
But effective it is!
Mindfulness only requires one to pause and reflect on hie or her feelings, sensations and thoughts without judgment. At its most elementary this practice is about stillness. In the hustle and bustle that is our life it can be hard to take a moment to breathe and reflect. However, the benefits of dedicating a few (5 to 10) minutes a day to be completely present with your self is backed up by science.
According to research by Drs. Davis and Hayes of the American Psychological Association (APA) a daily mindfulness practice reduces stress, rumination (a.k.a. worrying) and increases focus (Davis & Hayes, 2012, p.64).
In a study comparing a mindful (or meditating) military group to a non-meditating military group prior to deployment, there was an increase in working memory in the mindful group. There was also a significant difference in self-reported positive versus negative thoughts and feelings within the mindful group over time (Davis & Hayes, 2012).
We, military spouses, don’t deploy, but #TheStruggleIsReal. “Adulting” can be tough and a mindfulness practice can help take the edge off.
Here are 4 simple ways you can start your own mindfulness practice:
This particular practice is integral to all others. It can occur anywhere and you need nothing but yourself. You can be surrounded by others or alone.
You are simply taking in air and releasing it back. Your focus is on the breath and the sensations around it. If you’ve given birth, chances are you’ve already experienced this practice as you worked through labor. Runners use it as well.
When your mind wanders from your breath you redirect it without anger or judgment. Over time you will catch your wandering mind more readily. This practice only needs 3 to 10 minutes to have a relaxing effect.
Come back! Hear me out. I am referring to tea or coffee.
For this practice it is most beneficial to be alone or at least be in a quiet space. Prepare your drink and sit comfortably.
Wrap your hands around the cup and feel the sensation of holding it.
Breathe in the aromas and sit with them.
Taste your beverage.
Note and savor the flavors.
As your mind wanders to laundry, dinner or to-do lists gently guide it back to your cup until you are done. (Side note: as wonderful as a glass of wine is at the end of a hectic day drinking alcohol is not included in mindful practice as its consumption alters the mind.)
3. Walk outside.
This practice has additional benefits, as it is not only mindfulness but also exercise. The concept of mindful walking is to walk without a goal or intention. It is to simply feel your body as with moves in the world and across the grass, pavement or parking lot. Mindful walking can be done alone or with company. One strives to become aware of what they feel.
Is there stress or tension in the body?
You acknowledge and observe the feeling as you move and become mentally present. Remember there is no judgment, time limit or distance in this practice. 5 to 15 minutes is a great interval to take time out and become mindful while walking.
4. Sit outdoors.
If you’ve ever lived on an installation you know fire pits and lawn chairs are a housing staple, and with good reason. Sitting outdoors gives neighbors a chance to connect and families an opportunity to escape tight quarters.
Sitting outside is an excellent mindful practice. Nature can be observed up-close and without worry. When a mind wanders it can be guided back to the scenery, sensations and smells.
This is the way I most often practice mindfulness. It never gets old and little ones can be included in the practice.
***Mindfulness CANNOT replace any professional, therapeutic or mental health treatment assessment, but it can help in combating the ordinary stress and tension military spouses deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Do you practice mindfulness to reduce stress and tension in your life? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section.
LaQueshia Jeffries is an educator and author. As a military spouse of 14 years she’s learned the value to setting aside time to practice mindfulness. You can visit her personal website LaQueshiaJeffries.com to find links to her 3 published children’s books and educational blog. Like her Facebook Page, Ms. Jeffries’s Desk, to get tips and inspiration for helping your school-age learner.