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Keep Cool by Practicing Mindfullness

cloudwatchThe warm days of summer are finally here! And for many Scarsdalians this means the kids are off to camp, barbeques with friends, and maybe even some adventurous travel. For others though, summer means entertaining kids that are home from school and hot days with steamy commutes to the city. Whatever summer has in store for you, there is a great way to help “keep your cool” ...practicing mindfulness!

Jon Kabat Zinn defines mindfulness as: “Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” With time, people who practice mindfulness learn to slow down or stop brain chatter and automatic or habitual reactions, experiencing the present moment as it really is.

According to Mindfulschools.org, when we consistently practice mindfulness we can “strengthen the parts of the brain that help us improve attention, regulate our emotions including a better ability to engage in tasks even when emotions are activated, demonstrate greater compassion both for self and for others, reduce feelings of stress and improve anxiety and distress when placed in a stressful social situation.”

Ready to give it a try? Here are three easy exercises perfect for summertime that you can do on your own or practice with the whole family:

Mindful Breathing:

First, sit down in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Next, take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale out through your mouth. Turn all of your attention to your breath. How does your breath feels as you draw it into yourself, and then as it leaves. Place a hand on your belly and feel the rise and fall of your breath. Your mind may start to wander while you are breathing and that’s OK! Let the thoughts go and bring your attention back to your breathing. Do this about five times – five inhales, five exhales. Try to take notice of how your body feels after you have completed your five breaths. And for a more enhanced experience, find a beautiful spot outside and breath in the fresh summer air!

Mindful Walking:

Whether you are walking to catch the train or you’ve found a beautiful spot to walk in nature, we can easily practice mindful walking in any environment. As you begin your walk, first start with some mindful breathing and focus on your inhales and exhales. Then turn your attention to anything else your senses tune into in the moment – How does the air feel moving against you? What sounds do you hear around you? How does your body feel as you move? Give your complete attention to the sensations you are experiencing. Again, if your mind begins to wander and you begin thinking about what you need to get from the grocery store, gently let the thoughts pass and bring your attention back to the experiences of your walk.

Mindful Watching:

This is a perfect exercise for the whole family to try on a warm summer's day. Find a comfortable spot to lay down outside where you can turn your attention to the clouds in the sky. After laying down, take a few deep, mindful breaths and feel your body relax against the ground. Next pick a cloud in the sky and give it your full attention. Continue watching the cloud as it floats through the sky and try to keep your focus on the cloud. If other thoughts start to enter your mind, gently let the thoughts go as you bring your attention back to your floating cloud. Try this for a few minutes and when you're done, take notice of how your body feels. Do you feel more relaxed? Do you feel more grounded?

So whether you are an empty-nester or you're chasing your preschooler around the Scarsdale pool, remember to stay cool with mindfulness!

Wendy MacMillan is a former teacher and a proud mom of two children. While her background is in psychology and education, Wendy was recently trained in mindfulness at Mindfulschools.org. She has long been passionate about wellness, and as an active member of the Scarsdale PTA, Wendy helped to bring mindfulness to her children's elementary school. In addition, Wendy helped establish and is an acting member of the school's Wellness Committee. For more information about mindfulness check out this site: mindfulschools.org or Watch the video of Jon Kabat-Zinn explaining what mindfulness is ... or contact Wendy MacMillan at wendymacmillan@gmail.com.

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