What's in your Kit? Katarina, PhD Student.

1.       When do you need mindfulness?

All the time. Mindfulness helps me to “remember” what the priorities in my life are and what I want to focus on in each moment to live a happier, more balanced life.

However, there are moments when I am especially grateful to know the “mindfulness hacks”. I remember a few years ago, during my first years as a university student, there were times when I did not know how to take good care of myself. I used to feel extremely overwhelmed by stress, work pressures, fitting in socially, and it became even worse when I started to feed my thoughts of worry about the future: “What happens if...” or thoughts of regret about the past.

Now, as I incorporate mindfulness practices into my daily life, I feel that I have a lot more strength and resilience to handle similar situations. For example, last year was objectively a difficult and eventful year of my life, but subjectively I felt at peace inside and managing the situations well.



2.       What’s in your mental health/mindfulness toolkit in real life?

Hmm, I can speak for hours about this, but let’s try to sum it up here so we don’t end up with a novel :D Generally, It classify my efforts into 2 groups:

1. Taking care of myself and maintaining my relationship with the self

2. Taking care of relationships with others.

Some of the concrete ways, which work well for me:

  • Nature: spending time in nature, noticing the special silence and natural green of the forest truly recharges me.

  • High quality mornings: they set a positive tone for the rest of the day and energizes me. My personal morning ritual consists of: 1. brief physical exercise - first thing in the morning; 2. meditation to bring me into presence and increase focus 3. a nourishing breakfast.

  • Relationships: taking the time to connect with loved ones and spending some quality time together. Also, listening mindfully instead of thinking about what I want to say all the time and learning about effective respectful communication.

  • Meditation: as briefly mentioned earlier, regularly practicing meditation makes a significant difference in my well-being and helps me to stay more present also throughout the rest of the day when I don’t meditate. Even during extremely busy days, when madness tries to take over, I put in the effort to find at least 10 minutes to sit, or even a few seconds throughout the day, to take a conscious breath and come to the present moment. Surprisingly, even the crazy busy day that follows then seems to be more productive and I gain a better overview on what is going on.

  • Listening to myself: it sounds like a “cliché”, but still, people so rarely truly do it. It is a lifelong practice to know oneself and to learn how to deeply listen to your own body, what nourishes it and what are the self-destructive patterns.

  • Not necessary believing each thought, mine or the thoughts of others ;)

  • Gratitude: research claims being grateful has a positive impact on both physical and psychological health (Emmons & McCullough, 2003), increases resilience (Abdullah, 2013), promotes relationships (Barlett, 2011), and people who practice grateful thinking are more likely to progress towards important personal goals (Emmons)...that is worth it ;)

  • Letting go: J.K. Zinn describes it interestingly in his book on the example with catching monkeys. As the story goes, hunters will cut a hole in a coconut that is just big enough for a monkey to put its hand through. Then they secure the coconut to the tree, slip a banana inside and hide. The monkey comes down, put his hand in, and takes hold of the banana. The hole is cleverly crafted so that the open hand can go in but the fist cannot get out. All the monkey has to do to be free is to let go of the banana, but it seems it’s too hard for most of them. Similarly, when I am paying attention to my inner experience, I notice sometimes how my mind gets caught up and wants to hold onto certain thoughts, feelings and situations. Being aware of it in the first place and then when I decide not to attach to them and just let go, brings great peace and freedom to my life.



3.       What’s in your online toolkit?

As someone who meditates daily, I really appreciate the mobile app Insight Timer. It is not only a timer as the name says, but after my session, I can connect to folks who meditated at the same time and I can thank them for meditating with me or just send them any other message. They can either be someone I know personally, or anybody from the town or around the globe, who spent the last few minutes the same way as me. The social connection and support we give each other goes a long way. Furthermore, some folks who prefer guided meditation also appreciate the recordings from well-known teachers being available in the app. I mostly sit in silence, but from time to time I am open for an inspiration from experienced teachers’ online recordings. Few of my favorite ones are Tara Brach, Sharon Salzberg, Eckhart Tolle and academics from UMASS Jon Kabat-Zinn and Florence Meleo-Meyer, who can also be found on Youtube.

When I feel like I would benefit from a yoga class led by a teacher, but I do not necessarily have extra money or time to go to a yoga studio, my go-to place are online classes offered by doyogawithme.com, which I find to be of relatively good quality and most of them are free or by donation and as a bonus, many teachers are BC locals ;)

I enjoy spending some of my time off listening to discussions, podcasts and reading interesting articles. Some tips for that are websites Mindful.org or BigThink.com. The site BigThink I discovered just recently and it covers a variety of topics from health, personal growth, science and technology and many others.



4.       What part of mindfulness is easiest for you?

I truly enjoy slow movements on my mat, dancing, cycling and long walks. Although many of my friends are struggling to be active, for me it comes naturally and brings me instant joy, which is quite cool.



5.       What part of mindfulness is hardest for you?

I am aware that sometimes I don’t do well with setting personal boundaries with others. However, it is a very interesting topic and I’m trying to learn about and find ways on how to improve it. Also, spending too much time on social media is something I could pay more attention to.

Another challenge for me is my constant occupied state and sometimes not paying enough attention to small things that I can be grateful for, but are easy to overlook. So my new resolution is to try out the Gratitude Jar :)