February: Mindfulness Month
February has always, ALWAYS been my least favorite month. It feels like the time when all the excitement from the holidays and the new year has settled and it's just cold, grey, and bleak, figuratively and literally. To me, it has always been the Tuesday of months: not much to look forward to, and seemingly such a long way to go from here. Luckily, in Sevilla, the grey days are almost nonexistent and the sun keeps a healthy dose of Vitamin D flowing, but sometimes that February feeling I always anticipate still creeps in. For this reason, I am feeling so great about the decision to make February Mindfulness Month! Here are my focuses:
- Establish morning and evening routines that promote rest, focus, and joy
- Incorporate meditation and yoga into day-to-day life
- Cultivate more quality me-time
- Write letters of gratitude
- Be more present, and bring my mind back to the present when it wanders
- Create intentional spaces for myself where I can feel calm, creative, and at peace
As I've come up with my ideas for Mindfulness Month, I slowly realized my main desired outcomes could be achieved simply by developing better morning and evening routines. If you know me, you know that probably the last thing I would ever be described as is a morning person. I LOVE my sleep, am impossibly hard to wake up, and have been in and out of severe caffeine addiction since I was about 16 years old. I have had the vague goal of becoming a "morning person" for years with no luck. This is mainly because I have horrible (hereditary, thanks mom and dad) night time anxiety which results in me staying up late at night thinking or trying to finish up tasks from the day. Anxious nights lead to anxious mornings, a vicious cycle.
I've scoured the internet for ideas on how to create more intentional morning and evening routines that will help me get to sleep earlier with more restful sleep, and wake up excited to get out of bed. I've come up with routines that promote mindfulness and contribute to my goals for the month as well as larger goals for the year. I was intentional about setting a routine that wouldn't overwhelm me, that I felt like I could actually stick to.
Here are the routines I've developed for myself. It's still early in the month, but I've had a good bit of success with them so far!:
- Wake up, make bed, shower
- Drink a glass of water with lemon (I chose lemon as a scent/ taste to trigger my body to wake up)
- Make a warm morning drink (making the switch from coffee to tea, once again)
- 5 minute meditation
- Gentle work out (20 push ups, 20 squats, 20 crunches, for example)
- 5-10 minutes of energizing yoga
- Eat breakfast and read the news
- Get ready for work
- Practice mindfulness on walk to work
- No screens starting at 10pm (working up to this)
- Calming yoga/ stretching 10-20 minutes
- Meditate 10 minutes, using lavender oil (my night-time-triggering scent)
- Gratitude Journal
- Write out any stresses and anxieties I am feeling to "leave them on the page"
- Any other writing I'd like to do, journaling, letter writing, drawing, etc.
- 10 minutes of reading if I'm still not ready to sleep
In addition to alleviating the February blues, focusing on stillness and routine now is great timing in a lot of ways. Having just finished a great Strength Month, we felt like going from body to mind was the perfect transition. Focusing on mental and physical strength was a powerful way to start the year. Adding on to those established routines to take time to sit in stillness and be more present will help align my goals and get me ready for the roller coaster of a year that is in store. Between traditional Sevillano celebrations of Semana Santa and Feria de Abril, family visiting, traveling, completing my April Spartan Race, and taking a trip home to the states, my life is going to be filled with (good) chaos in the next few months. Best to build the routines and relaxation skills before the storm hits!
Along with establishing these daily routines, here are a few other desired outcomes I hope to achieve from Mindfulness Month:
- Improved flexibility through daily stretching
- Lowered physical and mental anxiety symptoms
- Better ability to appreciate and remain in the present moment
- Improved self-talk and treatment
- Lowered daily screen time
- Increased awareness, awake-ness, joy and gratitude
As I explore these practices in mindfulness I hope to grow in self-love and self-forgiveness as well, just doing my best and allowing however it unfolds to be good enough. Presence, awareness, and self discovery will surely unfold in whatever organic way they are meant to, and I'm excited to embrace that journey from a place of acceptance. More mindfulness, please!