Where’s the party at!? I use to be that girl. The one always calling and texting her friends and co-workers looking for what was entertaining and happening that weekend. Party all night and recover all day was much of my weekend life in my 20’s. I was the girl doing everything in excess. Big parties, lots of drinks, and always overeating. More, more, more! But it didn’t work. In fact it made me sick, miserable, and I ended up weighing more than I ever had in the past.
Fast forward to today – I’m in my early 30’s and all about finding balance between a healthy, mindfulness existence and living a life where I can still go out, have fun and participate in the social activities I love. I started practicing mindful living about 5 years ago when I was at my wits end with being on another terrible diet, hating the way I looked, and feeling like no matter what I did I couldn’t find balance in my life. Something had to give. I wanted to have it all…but I wanted to do so in moderation.
My years of binge eating and hating my body lead me to mindful living therapist, Robin Mize, in Takoma Park, MD. Robin is THE woman. Over the years she’s taught me how we can “have it all” when we take the time to slow down and find out how things make us feel. That’s what mindfulness is all about. Feeling feelings. Instead of suppressing “bad” feelings like guilt, anger, and anxiety, you welcome them. When you welcome them, you can begin to create awareness and through awareness, you can facilitate change.
I first had to start with identifying what WASN’T working in my life. For me it was excessive food, alcohol, negative work relationships, and my own thoughts of body image. I don’t know about you… but I’m a type A personality. My life use to be all or nothing. I’m either on a diet or I’m eating at every McDonalds I can find. So when Robin told me that my life no longer had to be black or white and that I could start living somewhere in the middle, it was life altering. I started to keep a food and emotions journal, started meditating, and focused on spending time with myself (without being over stimulated with technology). Quiet walks without my ear buds cranked to max volume really made a world of difference. If I went out for a night of partying, I kept track of how many drinks I had and how I felt the next morning.
Did I feel refreshed and happy or depressed and hungover? Slowly but surely and working on a bi-weekly basis with Robin I began to find the balance of mindfulness and still living life. I realized that when I went for a night having two drinks and leaving the party an hour or two early made me feel great the next day! SO simple right? But so hard when you’re caught in the rat race of life.
Over the past 5 years, moderation has become the norm in my life and I love it. I’m still able to do all the things I love. I can be wild and embrace my “anything goes” mentality at moments but also be silent and meditate on a regular basis. The one piece of advice I would give to anyone is get your mental house in order as soon as possible and at any age.
For me, a customized mindful living plan was just the way to do it. Here are my 5 tips on how to develop the perfect mindful living plan for you:
1) Identify Problem Areas In Your Life – What’s not working? What do you constantly feel bad or guilty about? Maybe it’s something from your past, maybe it’s food, maybe it’s too much work. Spend some time asking yourself these difficult questions.
2) Mood Journal – A mood journal is key to helping you identify your feelings and triggers. Just write a few sentences everyday about how you feel. Did you have a terrible run in with your boss? Too much partying? Fighting with your spouse? Write down all your feelings that happened before, during, and after that event.
3) Experiment – I’m not a therapist but I don’t care what any expert or any author tells you…there is no one plan that works for all. You have to experiment with what works best for you. Maybe you’re not into meditation, maybe you enjoy group therapy, maybe journaling isn’t your thing but talking to someone is. Try different branches of mindfulness and see what works best for you.
4) No money, No problem – Developing a mindful living practice does not have to cost a fortune. You don’t need a fancy therapist or $2,000 retreats to find balance. There are tons of groups right in your area. Check out websites like meetup.org, find bloggers, go to local yoga studios or meditation centers and find out what they have to offer. You’ll be amazed how many resources there are.
5) Give It Time – I can’t stress this enough…developing a mindful living plan that is custom to you will take time! It took me 3 yrs to give up binge eating and live in moderation. You’ll have set backs and days when you won’t succeed but it will get better. I’m like every American. I want a 30 day quick fix but it doesn’t work that way for lasting change.
Good luck. I can’t tell you how amazing life is when we slow down to feel it. You’ve got this. Xo, Sarah