When I first heard the title of the book, “Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person” by Shonda Rhimes, I was a little taken aback. I couldn’t wrap my head around constantly saying yes. With all of the things Black women have to deal with both on a daily basis and historical context, now we are supposed to just subserviently say yes?! So, I had to read the book and see what this ‘year of yes’ was really all about. When I tell you that it was a read…I mean it was a READ! I learned so much about myself, life, how to deal with others, and most importantly mindfulness. Shonda, wrote the book at a low point in her life where she was unhappy. The lessons she delivered through her memoir were able to help create a shift in her perspective and mindset. My biggest takeaway was, “Say yes to myself.” That lesson, helped me tap into myself, my perspective, and mindfulness.
So what exactly is, mindfulness? Mindfulness is essentially the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. In the mental health and wellness world, it’s a behavioral-based therapeutic technique where one focuses on self-awareness of the present moment. If you’ve ever practiced yoga and entered stillness in both mind and body through Savasana, then you have practiced one form of mindfulness. The benefits with practicing mindfulness are endless. Not only does the practice improve physical and mental health, it improves overall well-being. Researchers have found that practicing mindfulness techniques is a leading factor in total body (and mind) health and wellness.
Part of saying yes to myself was making a conscious effort to recognize when I felt down or drained, especially mentally – and then doing something about it! I’m known for being well put together and well dressed. So, not wanting to get my hair and nails done is a red flag that my emotional and mental health is off. I have started the process of learning to be more mindful by identifying my triggers. I decided to carve out time each day (not huge chunks of time) to incorporate, or say yes to, mindfulness activities.
Here are three mindfulness activities you can start incorporating right away. I personally use these simple, yet therapeutic techniques to help me live in the moment and connect to the present.
What it means: Taking a break and honing in on the present.
When you can use it: You can use grounding techniques when you start to feel anxious.
Here’s what you can do: Pause for a minute and look at your surroundings. Notice and call out (in your head) all of the things that relate to your senses. Name what you see, hear, taste, touch/feel, and smell. When complete, name one thing that highlighted your senses or that you appreciated. Refer back to that moment whenever you’re in a state of uncalm or disarray.
What it means: Creating and saying short phrases or sentences of positive self-talk.
When you can use it: You can use affirmations when you are feeling depressed, are ruminating, or engaging in negative self-talk.
Here’s what you can do: Create one to three affirmations that you can say, that declare positive specific goals about yourself or your life. Set aside 30 seconds to one minute to repeat these affirmations daily.
What it means: Listening to and getting in-tuned with your breathing.
When you can use it: You can use controlled breathing to prevent a panic attack from coming on.
Here’s what you can do: Sit quietly and focus on one aspect of your breathing, either the intake and outtake of air through your nostrils or the expansion and deflation of your belly. As you breath in and out, silently count or repeat a mantra that helps you focus on your breath.
Practicing mindfulness is such a productive and simple way to improve your mental and physical health. Incorporating one to three minutes of mindfulness activities into your daily routine is all you need to connect on a deeper level with yourself and the world around you.
No, the ‘year of yes’ is not about saying yes to everything that is thrown your way. Yet, it’s about understanding and saying yes to the things that drive and move you. Incorporating intentional practices will improve your mindfulness and give you the space and energy to say yes to yourself and your mental health.
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