Just chillin'... Mindfully.
An important concept in applied psychology and performance science is the notion of "mindfulness", which is just a fancy way of referring to attention.  In other words, a mindful approach is one where our attention is focused on the task at hand, rather than other, unrelated stimuli (including our own, distracting thoughts).  This week, we're going to adopt a mindful approach to our behavior with the goal of increasing self-awareness.

Since a large fraction of the posts on this blog deal with thinking about our own thinking, we're not going to spend much time focused on our thoughts this week.  In fact, when adopting a mindful approach, thoughts just distract us from everything else, in a way.  Instead, we are going to start the week off by observing one internal behavior, our feelings.

Wait, hold up!  How can I simultaneously say that we are going to be observing our feelings while ignoring our thinking?  Aren't those the same thing?  No, no, my friend.  I'm defining "thinking" in this context as the internal, verbal dialogue that we have with ourselves in our head; I guess that would be our homunculus, maybe.  However, feelings are different.  Feelings are physical sensations that accompany emotions.  For example, anxiety for me feels like a tightness in my chest and jaw.  It has a sort of "panic" type feeling to it.  Whereas, relaxation feels sort of warmish and fuzzy in my head.  You know what I'm sayin'?

The challenge for today is to be gently aware of how you physically feel during the day.  What are the body sensations that you experience?  The goal is to simply be "mindful" (aware) of the sensations without judging the significance of the sensations.  We want to simply observe the feelings; even when uncomfortable (such as in the case of anxiety).

One way I like to think about feelings is this: our feelings are not reality.  Just because we may have the physical sensation of anxiety doesn't change anything about the world.  It's just this internal construct that we may be experiencing. Sometimes, feelings are there for no apparent reason, right?  At least that happens to me.  Personally, thinking about feelings as these "imaginary" events makes them seem less significant and I can actually have some fun experiencing the sensations.  I can then observe my feelings as interesting phenomena.  It's a cool experience, and it's your challenge for today to try to get to this point.


Task: Be mindful of physical sensations.

Info: Again, I am defining "feeling" for this challenge as any physical sensation that accompanies an emotion.  This can include things like anger, anxiety, pumped-uppedness, sadness, happiness, boredom, etc.  How do these mental states feel?  Don't describe them to yourself in words, simply experience the feelings fully.  For difficult feelings, remember that it's "just" a feeling.  Your life isn't really any different because you are experiencing that sensation.  So, get curious about the feeling and try to enjoy each and every sensation (even tough ones).  Finally, no need to obsess over this, just go about your day and take note of new sensations as they grab your attention. 

Goal: Enjoy observing your feelings, including difficult sensations.

Welcome to the Week of Self-Awareness at The Happy Homunculus!  Today's challenge and the accompanying discussion was inspired by The Psychology of Enhancing Human Performance.  It's a great (but technical) book about peak performance.  If you have a background in psychology, it's an interesting read.

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