Slow Your Roll: Mindfulness Strategies for Type A People
If you consider yourself a Type A person, you’d probably rather eat glass than practice mindfulness. I get it. I used to be the same way. When I’d read about the benefits of mindfulness I’d roll my eyes and think, “mindfulness is not for me. I don’t have time to slow down.”
We Type A people tend to be driven, goal-oriented, active, and anxious. We pride ourselves on achievement and productivity and have a tendency to move throughout the world with frantic energy. If we check everything off our to-do lists, no problem. We can just add more to it! Stopping and smelling the roses can feel like a waste of time.
But here’s the thing. That frantic, goal-directed, urgent multi-tasking I mentioned earlier comes at a cost. When we are too revved up, we make more mistakes. We make more messes. We react to situations instead of choosing our response. We feed our anxiety. We don’t actually enjoy anything we do, because we are so focused on getting it over with so we can get to the next thing.
If this sounds like you, I challenge you to give mindfulness a shot.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them. - (Headspace)
In The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism, Sharon Martin, MSW, LCSW, outlines four tips for practicing mindfulness:
Do one thing at a time
Use your five senses to fully appreciate all aspects of the present
Notice how your body feels
If your thoughts wander, refocus on the present
You can apply these principles to almost any activity. For people who struggle with being sedentary, I suggest first applying these mindfulness tips to active tasks such as cooking, exercising, or doing chores.
Below are two examples of mindfulness strategies for Type A people. Give these a try and see how you feel. If you start practicing them regularly, you just might notice you're enjoying life a little more, stressing a little less, and doing higher quality work.
Next time you cook or bake, try this:
Only cook. Don’t cook and watch tv. Or cook and listen to a podcast. Don’t add any extra stimulation, just cook in silence.
Slooooooow down. I mean actually move more slowly. Read the full recipe thoroughly before you get started. Slowly gather your ingredients. As much as possible, prep all your ingredients first to minimize multitasking. Don’t run around your kitchen like a chicken with your head cut-off. Try to enjoy the process of cooking instead of just rushing to check it off your to-do list.
Pay attention to your senses. Feel the pressure of the knife in your hand while you chop veggies. Take in the wet, fresh smell of the produce. Listen to the simmer of the pot on the stove. Take some slow breaths.
Focus your attention on the process of cooking. If your thoughts wander (and they probably will) just notice that without judgment and refocus.
Pick your favorite kind of exercise: walking, running, biking, stretching, weight lifting, etc.
For at least a few minutes of your workout, remove all extra stimulation. Turn off your music, turn off the TV, focus just on your workout.
Notice how your body feels. Feel your biceps engage as you do a curl. Notice what it feels like when your foot strikes the ground as you walk or run. What’s your heart rate like? What does it feel like as the air moves in and out of your lungs?
Notice your environment. If you’re exercising outside, what do you see? What does it smell like and sound like outside? Notice the leaves changing colors, listen to the birds chirping, feel the wind on your skin. If your thoughts wander, gently refocus on what you can perceive with your senses.
A little bit of mindfulness goes a long way. You don’t have to do everything in your life mindfully. Start by picking one type of activity (like cooking or walking), and spend at least five minutes practicing mindfulness every time you engage in that activity.
This blog post isn’t intended as professional counseling or clinical advice. If you’re in need of support, please consider speaking to a professional to be evaluated. Need some guidance implementing the strategies above? Schedule a free phone consultation to see if I can help you reach your goals.