Breathe in, and out. Take a moment to clear your mind and settle. Feel your anxieties leave your body with each exhale, and breathe in positivity.
You’ve just practiced a little bit of mindfulness, and according to experts, keeping this up as a daily habit will do wonders for your mental and physical health.
So what exactly is mindfulness? And how are you supposed to turn off your brain when there’s so much going on around you? Two D.C.-based wellness professionals chime in with advice for beginners and their takes on why being present and open with yourself is important for the health of your mind, body and soul.
Woo Woo Company
Through Woo Woo Company, founder Alice Hu connects with the spiritual side of meditation and mindfulness as she includes “tarot, crystals and everything woo” in her practice. She praises a variety of meditation supplements on her website, but reveals her favorite is to play sound baths, which involves playing a variety of musical instruments to create a sound that is said to cleanse one’s mind.
“All you do is lay down and listen to me play crystal bowls. People come out of it saying they feel like a different person,” Hu says. “Think of these sounds as a massage for the mind and the body.”
Hu founded Woo Woo Company nearly two years ago with the vision of sharing her talents as a sound healer with others around her. Now, she’s able to do just that through online events, meditations and healing sessions.
The transition to everything online wasn’t difficult, Hu says, because she had the foresight to move her business to a virtual format months before stay-at-home orders and a nationwide lockdown went into place. She also says she doesn’t mind keeping her business online because that means she can reach more people, and during a time of immense stress and uncertainty, she is able to do a lot of good.
For the Woo Woo founder, sticking with a daily meditation practice has helped her feel more resilient during the pandemic, and encourages others to try it too. Even if you haven’t practiced mindfulness before, Hu says it’s as easy as leaving your phone at home and taking a walk or sitting on a park bench. From there, being with yourself without distractions will become easier and soon you won’t feel so anxious about sitting in silence with your eyes closed.
“It’s an amazing tool that’s free and the only thing that’s limiting you is discipline and consistency,” Hu says. “Meditation and mindfulness have helped me step out of who I am and step into who I want to be.”
Camille Wolff founded CANIS in 2014 to help people with high-stress jobs benefit from the effects of meditation and mindfulness. She realized its effects herself when she felt like she had the perfect diet and exercise routine, but felt her thoughts were “ruminating.”
“Often we will attach to different thoughts as a coping mechanism to soothe ourselves from whatever emotion we’re experiencing,” she says. “I began to soothe my nervous system in a way that was a lot healthier than constantly thinking. I see meditation as a means to heal and soothe the nervous system so we can live in the present moment.”
While Hu’s approach is a spiritual one, Wolff comes at meditation from a health and wellness angle. The CANIS founder says stress and overthinking can wreak havoc on the nervous system, and believes mindfulness is a way to bring a “myriad of aspects” together to create optimized health.
To her, this is especially important for the passionate change-makers in D.C. and is a large reason why she moved from New York City to the District to launch CANIS.
“My goal is to help people who are creating a large impact in D.C. to stay healthy so they can continue to impact at the level that they are,” she says. “People in D.C. are really passionate and they’ll do whatever it takes to execute that passion, so they need to stay healthy to make those big decisions.”
Wolff agrees with Hu in that the easiest way to get started with meditation is to reduce outside distractions while doing a simple task like walking or relaxing on the couch.
“The first step to meditation is removing excess stimuli so you can be with just your mind and connect to what you actually feel,” she says.
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