Be Better with Mindfulness

Back in April, as part of my Leadership Menomonee Falls program, I listened to a by Kathy Menard-Rothe, a nurse who works at Froedert present on how to be better with mindfulness. This reminded me about my New Year’s Resolution to be more present. Since 2019 is almost half way gone, I thought I’d share what I learned and how I’m doing with my resolution.

I have adopted some daily habits that are part of just taking care of myself, and I have to say that so far, it’s been really positive. Don’t just listen to me though, here’s more about Why you Need a Self-Care Plan.

Okay, onto the presentation and my own experience.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.

Jim Kabat-Zinn, Founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness

There’s A LOT in that definition to unpack. It speaks of intention while paying attention and being open to the current experience, or living in the moment without distractions.

Isn’t that something that we could all work on? As I type, I am also listening to my seven year old share parts of his nature book, and taking some breaks to look at pictures. I’m multi-tasking, like any mom does, but I’m learning that multi-tasking is not as productive, efficient, or respectful to others.

Rewire your brain

The concept of neuroplasticity is essentially that you can rewire and retrain your brain. Here’s a brief presentation on what is neuroplasticity from the Center for Healthy Minds founded by world renowned neuroscientist Dr. Richard J. Davidson at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Author of Emotional Intelligence and Focus, Daniel Goleman defines neuroplasticity in the article We Should Be Teaching Emotional Literacy in Schools:

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to continually grow and shape itself through repeated experiences, throughout life and particularly in childhood.

Daniel Goleman

Okay, so why does that matter? Why should I care?

We can change our thoughts and behavior to change our brain to be more present in the moment.

The presenter broke it down into three steps for us:

  1. Notice
  2. Shift – think: what would my best self do?
  3. Rewire

Ideas for training your brain

It’s important to start your day with intention and positive thoughts.

First, notice your three most important priorities. My to-do list often has MANY things on it, but I find it easier to focus on the top three. Write down those top three to help focus your day’s work. This is shifting to a more proactive approach to your day compared to reacting to what has popped in your inbox. Rewiring occurs when this action becomes more of a habit.

It takes time to train your brain to be more positive. To help with this, the presenter shared a daily gratitude practice, where you write down three good things for the day. This is a daily exercise being utilized at Duke University Medical Center as a way to help reduce stress and burnout.

Think about the good things, why they were good, and how you felt. A few other questions to help with reflection include:

  • Who supported me today?
  • Who did I connect with today?
  • What was the best part of the day?
  • What brought meaning to my day?

I’ve been doing this since early April, and I have found myself thinking more positively. It has been easier to separate my work day from my evening time with my family.

A few other websites and resources on mindfulness to check out:

Lessons from youth sports

I’m trying to model positive behavior for my kids as well, and I just had an opportunity to do so this week.

My 9 year old daughter’s softball team had a rough game. They lost 11 – 3. I helped my daughter gather her things and headed to the car.

My husband, who was not at the game, called us and asked her how it went.

She replied, ” We lost. I got on base, and I ALMOST scored a run. We had fun though!”

Wow…and all of us parents and fans were a little down, thinking more about their losses and things that the team needed to work on instead of celebrating their successes.

On the plus side, I was able to sit in the warm sunshine – a welcome change from watching earlier softball games dressed in my winter coat. I’m also able to watch the girls improve and learn the game each time they step on the field. They’re also making friends with teammates and learning to be resilient with each strike out, error, or loss. I’m so proud of them for working hard and showing up; isn’t that what we all need to do as adults too?

Because mental health matters

Have you thought about how to be more mindful or take care of yourself? What has been your experience?

It’s also #MentalHealthMonth in May (that’s what the green ribbon represents), so take some time to talk to family and friends about it and help #EndTheStigma. Learn more at the National Alliance on Mental Illness website.

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