Meditation: A Positive Reappraisal Using Strengths

    Meditation is another way to practice positive reappraisal. This meditation invites you to imagine a minor stressor or problem and gives you strategies for reframing it from the perspective of character strengths to give it a fresh look. In an eight-week program on mindfulness-based strengths that I created and deliver (Niemiec 2014), this is a favorite activity of many participants. Listen to the Positive Reappraisal Using Strengths Meditation at http://www.newharbin ger.com/42808. Explore a situation in which you use this meditation to reframe a stressor. What do you notice? What strengths did you call forth? The Mundane: Grow Your Curiosity During Routines The third type of experiences that comprise our day isn’t all that different from the second type, since, let’s face it, most people view the mundane chores and boring daily routines of life as unpleasant. As such, some of the topics here will align with those above—as does the research on mindfulness. Consider: A group of researchers randomly split fifty-one people into two groups: one read a passage on mindful dishwashing before setting to the task of washing dishes; the other read a general
    dishwashing procedure passage and then proceeded to wash dishes as well (both without the aid of a dishwashing machine). The researchers found that those in the first group had increases in inspiration, curiosity, and overall mindfulness, as well as a decrease in nervousness (Hanley et al. 2015). Isn’t that interesting? When the study subjects were guided to engage their senses and be present only to the task at hand, simultaneously letting go of such mental questions as “What’s next?” or “What else can I do while I wash dishes?” various benefits emerged. This is an example of mindful living, of bringing mindful attention to whatever you are doing, even the most mundane of tasks, such that any action you are taking can become the focus of your mindfulness of the present moment and an opportunity to use your strengths (Niemiec 2012). You can be “mindful” about literally anything—driving to work, walking down steps, eating lunch, feeding your pet. When you are, it works against your mind going on autopilot, which is when you lose touch with the present moment. Think of any activity you’ve done hundreds or even thousands of times, like taking a shower. It’s unlikely that you stay in the present moment and attend to the details of the routine because you’ve done it so often; in fact, present moments last, on average, only three to four seconds (Stern 2004). But we can train the mind to be more mindful, to return to the present moment when it wanders. Scores of studies over the last few decades have shown the advantages of mindfulness to well-being (Sedlmeier et al. 2012). Let’s look at another research-based example of applying mindfulness to the mundane. Harvard scientist Ellen Langer (1989) conducted a study in which she randomly divided people into two groups, asking both to do an activity they did not like (vacuuming, dusting, and so on). Only one of the two groups, however, was given the added instruction to pay attention to three novel features of the activity while doing it. Those who chose watering the plants, for instance, might focus on the vibrancy of the contrasting colors, the weight of the watering can in the hand, and the sound of the water pouring out and hitting the soil. When the groups reported back to the experimenter, Langer discovered that those who were asked to do the boring activity with curiosity (noticing novel qualities of the task) not only ended up enjoying the activity more, but actually engaged in the activity more on their own after the experiment was over! Mindfulness to Transform a Routine Activity Let’s return to the table of routine activities in chapter 2, in which you examined the character strengths you bring to everyday tasks. Only now you’ll examine how you might also apply mindful attention to these activities by calling on your curiosity. This strength helps  you pursue novelty and experience all of life’s nuances with a sense of newness. Following the sample entry given here, fill in this table to connect your daily rituals to your mindfulness and character strengths. Routine Activity How You Can Bring Mindfulness to the Activity Character Strength(s) Used Washing your hair I feel my fingers scrubbing and making contact with the softness of my hair. I notice the scent of the shampoo for longer than one whiff. I attend to the circular motion of my hands. Prudence; curiosity Rising to your alarm clock Brushing your teeth Driving to work Making your lunch E-mailing a coworker or friend Posting something to social media Meditation: Transform Any Moment with the Character Strengths Breathing Space The character strengths breathing space is a short meditation that highlights the use of three of your character strengths, which also happen to lie at the heart of virtually any good mindfulness practice: 1. Curiosity: Opening your awareness to taking notice of anything you perceive in your present moment—within you and outside of you. During this phase, it’s helpful to ask, “What else?” In other words, rather than getting caught up in the details of any feeling, sensation, mind story, smell, or sound, remind yourself to stay curious by asking, “What else might I notice and discover in my present moment?” 2. Self-Regulation: During this phase, the focus is on feeling your in-breath and outbreath, and when your mind wanders, which it will, you gently return your attention back to your breath, over and over. The phrase “Always back to the breath” is a helpful reminder to regulate your very normal, wandering mind. 3. Perspective: This phase involves widening your attention to the big picture—staying focused on the sensations of your breathing, yes, but expanding outward to feel your “whole body” as a unified entity. At this point of the meditation, you move from noticing small details to an awareness of the wider view using your strength of perspective. Listen to the Character Strengths Breathing Space Meditation at http://www.newharbin ger.com/42808. When will you set a time to conduct this character strengths breathing space meditation—as you wake up and are lying in bed, while showering, over your lunch break, when you first get in your car? What do you notice about your character strengths of curiosity, self-regulation, and perspective during this practice? Do you notice other strengths as well? Learn. Practice. SHARE. In this chapter, we talked about the various kinds of experiences you have throughout your day and how your mindfulness and character strengths can help you engage more deeply with any of them, sometimes even transform them. As you deepen your mindfulness practice to become more present in the moment, you will develop a new appreciation for the pleasant experiences in life, you will grow from the unpleasant experiences, and you will revitalize your mundane experiences. This brings newfound confidence and stress resilience. Consider what you learned in this chapter and the meditations and practices it presented. What seems to be most important for you right now? Whom will you share it with? Would it make sense for you to engage in a practice, discussion, or activity in this chapter with someone else?
    Wadifa Club
    writer and blogger, founder of Dog food planet .

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