Feeling stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, or frantic? You might need to start practicing some mindfulness. While mindfulness started back with Buddhist meditation, it has evolved to focus more on in-the-moment awareness. So often people’s brains are on overdrive analyzing pasts and trying to predict futures that it’s easy to lose sense of the here and now. It’s how having a blowout with your boss can lead you to not remembering any moment of your commute as you pull into your driveway–a scary realization, for sure.
Practicing mindfulness can help you to be in better control of your emotions and the physical side effects related to mental mind games, such as the racing heart when you’re anxious or the increase in temperature when you’re angry. While it may seem like mindfulness only has psychological benefits, the reality is that getting your brain in better shape can lead to a better-feeling and looking body, as well. Even if mediation is too new-agey for you, the following mindfulness tips can put you on a path to healing and better health.
Right Versus Wrong
If you think about your day–even just the last hour–can you count how many times you judged something as right or wrong, or good or bad? How your shirt fit you, how your breakfast tasted, what the weather’s like, the sound of your alarm clock, and so on. We go through our days judging every little thing, and eventually those judgements can lead us to feel either high or low. The high feels good, so it’s a chase to stay there and maintain it, even though that’s pretty much impossible. Life is cyclical and things are going to change. However, that doesn’t mean the low is bad, it’s just different–it’s not the high.
Practice: Instead of judging each nuance of your day, shift your focus to noticing and accepting your surroundings. When something happens, repeat the mantra, “It’s not good or bad, it just is.” For example, when you’re working out with intensity, your heart will beat faster, you’ll breathe heavier, and the lactic acid from your stressed muscles will lead to the “burn.” Instead of judging your body’s responses to exercise as bad or wrong–which will likely cause you to slow down or stop–notice it, accept it, and finish your workout. You’d be surprised at what your body can handle, but too often our minds freak out and never let us get there.
Be in the Moment
The past can’t be changed, and the future is out of your control. The only thing you have is this very moment. While you can use this moment to help create a plan for the future, the focus should be on right now instead of what will come. The future is not a guarantee, but each breath you breathe and the moment you live now is. Make the most of it!
Practice: Being in the moment is definitely easier said than done. Too often, the mental dialogue creeps in and controls thoughts. Egos want to overthink every move made, every action took, and every word said. In doing so, you’re just judging yourself over and over again. Meditation is one way to start getting in the moment. A few minutes of sitting quietly just noticing your breath is one way to start the practice. However, you can also do this all day long. When you’re walking from one meeting to a next, focus on your breath. Notice as it goes in and out of your body. As thoughts from either meeting start to takeover, notice them, but don’t judge them, and send them on their way as you go back to concentrating on your breath.
If you’ve ever watched a child grow up, you know how short life can seem. In what seems like an instant–on most days, that is–a toddling, giggly little girl becomes a teenager seeking independence. If you focus too much on the past or the future, you’re missing all the good stuff about her girlhood.
Practice: Be in the moment means staying aware during everyday activities. Brushing your teeth can be an opportunity for mindfulness if you practice properly. To do so, engage your senses. What does the toothpaste smell like? What does the running water sound like? How does the toothbrush feel in your hand, or the bristles on your tongue and teeth? What does the flavor taste like? Can you visualize each of your teeth as their being cleaned? By using your senses in this way, you’ve practiced mindfulness for a good two minutes, and likely feel calm. Do the same thing when you’re choosing and eating food. Instead of going for the cupcake that you think will soothe your soul, pick something that will appeal to your senses. Almond butter on celery and carrot sticks are pretty in color, have great crunch, offers a sweet, salty aroma, and create unique flavor and texture combinations.
Living a complete mindful life won’t happen overnight–heck, it might not ever happen! But the more you practice, the more positive effects you’ll see set in over time. Strive for mindfulness in all that you do, and your brain and body will both benefit.
What do you do to relieve stress? Share with others in the comments.