We are offering a weekly blog series with a collection of diverse and effective coping techniques and exercises that can help reduce stress, improve mental and emotional well-being, and perhaps make you even more effective in achieving your individual goals. Check back every Wednesday for the newest skill of the week. Try them all out and find what works best for you.
This week, Dr. Chelsea Towler Campbell shares her favorite self care technique:
It’s no secret that exercise is beneficial in managing stress and improving your overall mental health. As a runner, I’ve noticed tremendous benefit in getting outside and enjoying the “runner’s high.” However, I’ve also observed a difference between runs where my mind is distracted and runs in which I am present and mindful of my surroundings and experience. Increasing mindfulness amplifies the benefits of the run, as I am more aware of my body sensations, mood, and thoughts throughout my workout. Below I will detail ways to incorporate mindfulness into your favorite exercise routine.
The key to mindfulness is tuning into the present moment. The easiest way to do this is to connect with the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. As you exercise, try tuning into each of your five senses to bring mindfulness to your workout:
Sight: As you are exercising, look around you and observe the scenery. Notice the leaves on the trees, the green grass, or the blue sky. Take in the scenery around you at every moment. When you notice yourself trying to “zone out,” again bring yourself back to the moment by spotting something in your surrounding environment.
Sound: Often we exercise with headphones so we can jam out to our favorite music or enjoy the latest podcast. However, this actually serves as a distraction and impairs our ability to be mindful. Try taking out your headphones and pay attention to what you hear. Notice the sound of your own breath, or the wind rustling in the trees, or the lawnmower mowing the grass.
Touch/Body sensation: What do you notice in your body as you exercise? Tune into the feeling of your muscles contracting as you lift weights, or your feet pounding the trail as you run. Notice the sun on your skin, or the coolness of your perspiration.
Smell: An often neglected sensory experience, but one that can immediately bring your focus to the present moment. Notice the smell of freshly cut grass, or blossoming trees in your neighborhood. Embrace the scent of your neighbor’s BBQ, or the chlorine of the neighborhood pool.
Taste: What do you taste as you exercise? Maybe it’s the lingering flavor of your sports drink, or your pre-workout snack. Observe the flavor and continue to observe each of your other five senses in turn.
As you exercise, rotate through observation of your senses. Each time you notice yourself becoming distracted with a stressful thought, bring your focus back to the senses without judging your distracted mind. The more mindful and present you are, the more rejuvenated you will feel at the end of your workout.