With the growing influence and popularity of social networks, and with our smartphones and all apps overtaking our daily lives and our activities, we have reached to a point where life without technology and the World Wide Web seems almost unthinkable. This is like we are constantly looking for someone or something to assist us and approve of us for everything we do.
Unfortunately, we need to admit that we have become quite addicted and dependent of these technologies which can put a toll on our mental state and wellbeing in the long run.
More people are beginning to feel the stress of this technological and other overload from our daily hectic lives, and are looking for ways to re-introduce more mindfulness in their lives.
This is the reason why there is a growing interest in ways to incorporate mindfulness in our everyday activities, by engaging in exercises such as mindful or meditating running for example.
Ideas how to incorporate mindfullness into running:
- Get to understand the concept of mindfulness
If you are a regular runner, or exercise often, you may find that your mind gets carried away into various types of daydreaming sequences while you are at it. Whether you choose to imagine that you are relaxing alone on a tropical beach or attending a huge rock festival – different people find different escape exits in their minds in order to get away from the everyday stress. These types of mindfulness often are confused with ways to deal with the physical and mental strain of running or exercising, but the truth is that the mind needs way to relax and “run away” from the stress overload as well as the body.
A great way to prepare for a mindful run is to take a few moments beforehand to do some deep relaxation breathing, and to try to shut off the mind from any distracting thoughts, such as the ones mentioned above. The idea is to turn your brain into a “blank slate” and direct it inward towards your body and breathing instead.
This can best be done by sitting in a dark and quiet space for several minutes before going for a run. Just focus on your breathing, and push away any other thought which happens to enter your mind in the meantime. All you should be focusing on is your inhaling and exhaling.
This may seem easy, but it will probably take you weeks and even months to master fully, but once you get it – you will be fascinated with the effect it has on minimizing the stress of the daily and technological overload on your mind.
- Meet your “inner therapist”
Yes, we all have our own “inner therapist” inside of our minds. All you need to do is to meet and start trusting this therapist, who will help you name and deal with your emotions, just like a real life therapist would do. By running alone and focusing your mind inwards, you will learn to trust this inner advisor and to take advantage of the precious “advice” and help it will offer you for dealing with a range of emotions, daily problems and questions you are faced with. As you get ready for your run, focus on your breathing and pay special attention to how your running shoes feel (e.g. if they support your low arches, if there is enough room in the toe area, etc) around your feet as well as all other thoughts which are going through your head. Just watch all of these thoughts as a third party and try to let them float by without delving into them. In time, you will find that you can “watch” your thoughts and have an almost objective view and opinion on what is actually passing through your mind.
- The art of mastering mindfulness during the run itself
When you start running, make sure to begin watching and scanning your entire body for any sensations. Start from the feet, move upward and pay attention to each body part and movement. You will most probably sense some negative sensations when you first begin this exercise, but in time you will be able to resist the negative sensations and to continue running faster and better.
As you run, you can still enjoy the beautiful settings, but make sure to concentrate on monitoring your body. Take note of your breathing, your heartrate, of any pains or tightness you feel in your feet or legs and any other part of your body during the run.
It is essential for beginners to take special notice of any resistance their mind and body feels during the run. Are your calves getting very sore, are you short of breath, do you feel like you cannot go any longer? If you learn to put your mind into resisting the temptation to stop for a rest and give up – you have made the first and most important step towards running with mindfulness. Being able to resist this instinctive urge to quit and stop is essential because later on you will learn to control these impulses very easily and thus be able to run faster and at longer distances.
- Learning to visualize what your body is feeling
This one is tricky, but it is worth it. Try imagining the soreness you feel in your feet, calves or upper legs as a bright colored balloon which you are holding by the string on a windy day. If you are able to imaging and visualize actually trying hard to hold on to the string in order to keep the balloon from getting caught by the wind, you can create an association in your mind with the attempts you are making to resist the growing pain or discomfort you may feel during a run. Learning this technique will help you better control your body movement, resist any pain and help you keep running and improving.
There are a number of audio and video guides, as well as websites and books which can help you master this technique. The more mindfulness you put into your run the better a runner you will be, and the more stress relieving and calming the experience of running will become!