Mindfulness Soothing the mind-gut connection

An Opportunity to Slow Down

Posted by Laura Rubin on

Transitioning from Summer energy to Fall energy

The bustling energy from Summer is winding down as we enter into the Fall Equinox. Yet with this transition from heat into the cooler months, a lot of us feel compelled to be in high-productivity mode. It's "Back to School" season, back to normal work schedules, back to this life of doing. Even if you're reading this at a different time of year, chances are that you're feeling this kind of habit energy - of doing things.

Lately I've been sinking into stillness. Less doing, more being. Finding the joy and abundance of slowing down. Finding mindfulness.

As a native New Yorker and Aries (hello, initiators!), I've struggled with this for much of my life. Even with a solid yoga and mediation practice - which feels authentic and truly helps me to find mental balance - I still find this energy to wanting to go, go, go.

Slowing down can feel scary for a lot of us. Slowing down is also beautiful. It is healing. It is nurturing. Slowing down is beneficial for the mind-gut connection!

The importance of taking breaks for better self-care

What if I told you that you can accomplish your goals by slowing down?

What would it feel like if you actually took more breaks?

Numerous studies have shown that short-term breaks, particularly in the work day, are better for productivity. This helps with a greater sense of well-being and can deter from feeling burnout. 

This sense of slowing down doesn't just apply to short-term breaks. It applies to all areas of life: it's about finding a greater sense of ease within your daily activities. It's about finding the sweet yumminess of being still. And exerting less effort in a mindful way.

How to cultivate a practice of mindfulness and slowing down

By learning how to undo some of my own overworked habits, I've incorporated tools that are really useful for slowing down. I share these tools with clients through herbal consultations and have witnessed great change. It's a beautiful invitation to connect with self!

Practical tools for slowing down:

1. Breathe

Have you taken some nice, slow and gentle breaths recently? It may seem obvious, yet not enough of us are doing this.

Here's a mindful breathing exercise: imagine a golden ball of light circulating around your core, your solar plexus. Carry this golden ball of light up and down throughout your body as you breath steadily and in rhythm. Feel it glowing and expanding. Breathe in for 4 slow counts, hold for 2 counts, then release for 4 counts. Continue this as a set for 8 rounds.

2. Visualize what feels both soothing and energizing for you

What helps soothe your nervous system and also leaves you feeling energized afterwards? It's helpful to see this in a visual format: don't just let it sit in your head. I really appreciate the book Designing you Life: How to Build a Well-Lived Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. They utilize design-thinking principles to help us visualize our goals. One useful takeaway is to write out the things you "do" in life and then draw meters, like a speedometer, of how much time you're investing in and what helps you feel energized. 

Building upon their exercise, I suggest that you create meters to show how much time you're investing, what soothes your soul, and what helps you feel energized. By mapping this out, you can identify what's working for you and what's ready to release. It's a great practical tool that you can immediately incorporate into your life. This benefits your mind-gut connection because with greater clarity and focus, you can better nurture your body.

3. Nurture something small in your life

Very small. Micro small. This can be something with your body, a habit, an email, a phone call, a dance move - anything in your life that seems like it's not really a big deal. Yet it could have a beautiful impact if you nurture it.

For example, I had a big cut in my thumb recently. It would sting when I washed my hands. I was ignoring it because I thought "eh, not a big deal". But then I switched my mindset and said to myself, "you deserve to have a thumb that feels well. And if you were to think of yourself as a child, you'd want to take care of that little girl! So how about you put on a healing salve and a band-aid?"

In this small action, I was actually saying to myself - it's time to mindfully slow down and tend to myself. I was no longer ignoring it and giving in to the hustle. 

4. Romance the plants

Yes, it's time for a date! A date with plant cuties. Romancing the plants means having an opportunity to connect with nature and with yourself.

Plant medicine is everywhere! Plants are growing, they're flowing, they're abundant, they're among us. Soon I'm going to share more in-depth practices for how to cultivate a relationship with plant allies. For now, this means literally sitting with a single plant and tuning into the cool messages that they share with us. 

Studies show that sitting nearby a plant can have huge beneficial impacts on our health and wellness. In fact, this study at Kansas University  demonstrated in a randomized clinical trial that hospital patients who had plants in their rooms post-surgery experienced "significantly more positive health outcomes than those in the control group with no plants. Patients exposed to plants experienced shorter hospitalizations, fewer intakes of postoperative analgesics, more positive physiological responses, and less pain, anxiety, and fatigue than patients in the control group. Patients with plants also felt more positively about their rooms and evaluated them with higher satisfaction as compared to those in the control group." Pretty cool, right?

You can sit with plants anywhere. Maybe it's with a potted plant in your home (heyyyy, Gertrude).

Recently I led a group of people on a plant walk in a park in Oakland, California. Initially, some folks saw this as a very small urban park - dominated by a concrete basketball court. But as we sat under a beautiful tree, it was clear that there were many plants all around. We sat with plants for 20 minutes and at the end, there was such a powerful sense of joy. Folks shared beautiful insights and intuitions. Some folks even created fun backstories to the plants: ie one was named Bernda who was twice divorced and had strong grandma energy. You be silly, you can be creative - however you want to be when romancing the plants!

5. Find pleasure in a morning ritual

Win the morning, win the day! What is one simple 10 minute morning ritual that you can incorporate every day? Some people like to journal their morning pages, as in explained in The Artists' Way. Recently I've been vibing with a great electric scalp massager that I use while listening to this beautiful song Hymn, by Ashana. It's so incredibly soothing and I even use the massager on my temples, forehead and jaw where I tend to hold tension.

Having a consistent morning practice doesn't need to be profound. It just needs to be something that helps you feel rooted and more present so that you don't start your day in this high-alert sympathetic state, aka the "flight-or-flight" state. The goal here is to be in a parasympathetic state, the "rest-and-digest" state, as you transition from sleep to becoming awake. This will increase greater flow and productivity, and definitely do wonders for your mood!

6. Enjoy an herbal bath

Herbal baths are divine! Truly an amazing luxury that we can easily give ourselves. Here's an article I wrote about how to create an herbal bath

Treat yourself, you goddess! You deserve this. 

6. More walking, less screen time

Yes, really. You got this!

Gentle movement is a wonderful way to optimize your health and wellness. It allows us to enter into the parasympathetic state, that "rest-and-digest" state. Fifteen minutes of direct sunlight exposure can have beneficial health impacts on sleep as well. This is because our bodies absorb Vitamin D from the sun, which we then convert into serotonin (happiness hormone) and later into melatonin (sleep hormone).

If you're looking at your phone while you're on a walk, then you're not being present. You're sending your body into more of a sympathetic state because you're splitting your brain's processing functions between processing the information that's on your phone and being on alert as you body subtly navigates not being hit by a car or walking into a tree. This isn't mindful and could be harmful for you.

In essence, enjoy moving outdoors! Be on your phone less. We're allowing ourselves to slow down in life even while moving! 

Supporting your rest, supporting your life!

I genuinely believe that you are the expert of your own body. You have intuitive wisdom about what's right for you. Yet many of us struggle to do the things that are actually good for us. 

The question is: what's holding you back from practicing slowness?

I believe in you! And I'm here as an accountability buddy! If you are searching for extra support, please reach out! Let's have a consultation together. I'm all about empowering you on your wellness journey!

digestion diy herbalism holistic health mind-gut connection mindfulness practical tools rest sleep slowing down stillness

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