Spring Tinnitus Mindfulness Activities

Alexandra Costlow, Au.D.

Audiologist and Tinnitus Specialist, Jefferson Health in Philadelphia, USA
March 29, 2021

“Mindfulness is a form of meditation that is all about learning to pay attention to our experience in a specific way” [1].  Although mindfulness has Buddhist origins, more contemporarily it has been applied to managing health conditions as a non-religious practice.  As such, mindfulness is a powerful tool for becoming aware of thoughts and emotions about tinnitus and for developing a more helpful skillset to manage it.  

Likened to “building the awareness muscle”, mindfulness centers on developing the self-awareness to note when the tinnitus has become bothersome and to challenge our perception of what the tinnitus actually means [2].  Mindfulness is employed by reminding yourself that the tinnitus will pass or soften and choosing to pass the time engaging in a pleasant and enjoyable activity in the meantime.

Practicing mindfulness also promotes habituation, which is the body’s way of becoming less sensitive to a stimulus, in this case the tinnitus, over time.  According to research, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) can produce long-lasting reductions in tinnitus distress and emotional distress.  Positively, strengthening your mindfulness practice can be applied to other stressors in life and is also useful to people who do not experience tinnitus.  

Spring is the season of renewal and regeneration, and is the perfect time to focus on nourishing your practice of mindfulness to manage tinnitus and improve your quality of life.

Consider these engaging and enjoyable spring activities as part of your mindfulness practice for tinnitus:

Connect with Nature

Connect with nature as it blossoms into spring. A great exercise is to make note of one thing that you can see, one thing you can hear, then something you can smell, a thing you can touch, and finally something you can taste.

What sounds of nature do you find soothing?  The wind through the trees, waves crashing at the shore, or a simple birdsong or birds chirping around you?

Take note of any smells specific to spring:  The fresh smell of grass.

You can also complete breathing exercises in a quiet garden or at a pond, stream, or lake.  Nature can be a fitting and effective space for mindfulness [3].  Try the breathing exercises or visualisations in the Oto app.

Have you got a wildflower sanctuary, wildlife refuge or a park near you that you could enjoy as the days warm up?

Why not lie back on a blanket and watch the clouds.  What cloud shapes do you see? Taking time to do simple activities like this allows our minds to rest and reset.

Get Active Outdoors

Could you pick up a new hobby like hiking or cycling?

If you prefer less rigorous exercise, a leisurely walk by yourself or with a friend might be the perfect spring mindfulness activity.

Practice outdoor meditation, yoga, or Tai Chi.  Yoga and Tai Chi are popular low-impact physical activities that have proven benefits to health and wellbeing.  Take advantage of the extra hours of sunlight and take your yoga or Tai Chi practice outdoors as the day begins or winds down.

If you’re unable to get outdoors, take a couple minutes to take a look outside of your window and note the signs of spring:  Trees blooming, flowers blossoming, birds nesting, and the sun setting later in the evening.  Crack the window and smell the fresh air or the scent of a recent rainfall.  Sit and simply watch until the sun has set for the day.

Nurture Your Creative Side

Try painting your favorite spring scene such as blooming flowers or a sunrise or sunset.  Remember that the artwork is unique and reflects your experience at that exact place in time. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beneficial to you.

Begin to grow or replenish your own garden or windowsill flowers.  Do you prefer fruits and vegetables, or flowers?  What theme can you create using colors, patterns, or placement?  

Create a bouquet or floral arrangement. Take a look at this step-by-step tutorial for beginners or this tutorial on simple hand tied flowers for guidance and inspiration.

Food and Drink.

Practice mindfulness in this everyday activity by setting aside time to eat and reduce distractions such as mobile phones and other devices. Think about how your body signals that it is hungry and consider which foods are healthful and tasty to you.  Sit comfortably and appreciate that you are able to eat tasteful and nutritious food.  Enjoy your company if you are able to eat with companions.  Smell the food as it is cooking or being prepared.  Take time to savor each bite of the meal and notice the flavor and texture of each food.  Consider selecting spring seasonal food such as berries, apples, pears, carrots, beans, or other fresh favorites.  Consider how you feel while eating each selection and if the food conjures positive memories such as a pastime with family or friends. Consider other tips about mindful eating from Mindful.

Animals

Spending time with pets and other animals can be a mutually beneficial mindful activity.  Sit near a window and spend quality time stroking your pet.  Note how they breathe, purr, react, and relax.  Note how soft their fur or feathers are, and look for distinguishing characteristics such as fur patterns and whiskers.  If you don’t have pets, take note of the types and breeds of dogs you see going on walks or the types of birds that you can spot nearby.  Notice an adult bird preparing a nest or other signs that wildlife is preparing their habitat for spring. Learn more about how pets can sharpen your mindfulness skills here.

Join Oto

For mindfulness exercises which you can enjoy as part of a daily routine or as one off sessions, check out Oto, which offers several options as well as a quote of the day.

References:

1. British Tinnitus Association:  https://www.tinnitus.org.uk/mindfulness-for-tinnitus.

2. The Hearing Review:  https://www.hearingreview.com/hearing-loss/tinnitus/mindfulness-based-tinnitus-stress-reduction-unraveling-gordian-knot-tinnitus.

3. Van Gordon, W., Shonin, E. & Richardson, M. Mindfulness and Nature. Mindfulness 9, 1655–1658 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0883-6.

4. 6 Ways to Practice Mindful Eating:  https://www.mindful.org/6-ways-practice-mindful-eating/.

5. How Pets Can Sharpen Your Mindfulness Skills:  https://animalwellnessmagazine.com/pets-mindfulness/#:~:text=Through%20meditating%20with%20your%20pet,as%20you%20feel%20your%20own.

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