Serenity Now!: An 8 Week Challenge
By Kate G.
I ran a 10K race this weekend with a friend as part of half-marathon training. As I finished, I felt pretty happy with my time. Since my half marathon last November, I’ve seriously slacked off with running: Holidays + icy weather + never-ending illness = months of near hiatus. I’ve been building back to 15-20 miles per week over the last few weeks, and speed hasn’t been my focus. So, I was pretty pleased with my 57:57 time on Saturday.
But within an hour I was berating myself for such a pathetic performance. Why, just a few years ago I ran a 10K in 50 minutes! Why should I pat myself on the back for being a sloth, for getting so comfortable with the 10lbs I’ve gained since having children? I’m too comfortable with this far less fit and thin person I’ve become and it’s unacceptable. Saturday’s 10K was a nice way to hit 6 miles again in my training, but really, I suck and it’s not good enough.
Sound familiar to anyone? Perhaps if not with a race time, with something else?
My ability to practice self-compassion, congratulate myself for the efforts I make, and to brush away self-criticism is pretty awful. While I could focus on the fact that most people didn’t wake up at 6 am to go run around in a cold rain for an hour in a state of mild nausea, instead I beat myself up for some perceived failure. It’s not healthy, and it’s a habit that leads me to other unhappiness in life as well. I don’t measure up to my old self, let alone to other people.
I haven’t been doing enough yoga lately. Yoga connects my need for physical stimulation to mindful meditation, which is often maligned as crunchy BS by those who prefer to divorce yoga from its roots in spirituality—and I’ll confess I’ve felt that way at times. I like the Exhale/booty-busting yoga methods as much a the next modern girl, but it’s the more open-minded/in the moment “crunchy sh*t” that gives me a sense of physical and mental serenity when I’m done.
But with less time to practice regular yoga while I’m training for a road race, I started doing some research on the meditative part of the equation:
Mindful Awareness is the moment-by-moment process of actively and openly observing one’s physical, mental and emotional experiences. Mindful Awareness has scientific support as a means to reduce stress, improve attention, boost the immune system, reduce emotional reactivity, and promote a general sense of health and well-being.
(Via the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center )
If you go to this part of the UCLA website you’ll find several 3-19 minute long meditation MP3s that you can download.
Just 8 weeks of regular daily meditation (45 minutes is optimal, but 10-15 minutes has great benefit too) has been proven to do the following:
Remap brain patterns
Decrease perfectionism, anxiety, and unhappiness
Increase short term and long term memory
Sign me up!!
I watched a three-part Harvard lecture online as part of the “Positive Psychology Happiness Lecture” series where I learned that using breath-focused meditation combined with progressive muscle relaxation may be the ticket. If you start with the first lecture, you’ll be guided to the others.
That mindfulness and short meditations have a plethora of benefits has been a buzz in my ear for years, and now I’m finally ready to give it a chance. I can find 10-15 minutes a day to do this, and I plan on starting this week and continuing through the last week of April. I’ll check back in and let you know if I’m I’m getting any closer to achieving my goals of feeling more satisfied in my life, less anxious and frustrated, and more grateful with all that I have and am capable of doing. (Short order, right?)
Do you meditate? Do you practice mindfulness in your life in other ways? Are you interested in joining me for this eight week challenge?