Try being more mindful. This is easier said than done in our rushed hectic society where something or someone is always trying to grab your attention.
For some mindfulness seems like a foreign concept. And what does ‘being mindful’ mean anyway?
Both science and tradition tell us that being mindful is the key to relaxing. Here’s how mindfulness-based stress reduction can help you become happier.
What is Mindfulness?
Here’s a simple definition: when you’re mindful, you turn your focus to the moment-and away from the jumble of thoughts and things on your to do list that clutters your mind.
Give it a try right now. Close your eyes. Breathe in and out slowly and comfortably, ten times, focusing only on your breath. If any other thoughts come to your mind, gently acknowledge them. Then turn your attention back to your breath.
Go ahead and try. I’ll wait.
How was that? If you’re like most people, some other thought popped into your head. Sometimes a worry about your job or your boss floats up. Or something you have to tell your partner tonight. Maybe you feel excited about your plans for the weekend. That is ok. Don’t judge your performance. This is like any exercise, you get better at it with practice.
How stressed or happy we are depends mostly on our thoughts. Yes, being cheerful is harder when you didn’t get much sleep or if you’ve just had an argument. Thinking about certain thoughts or making plans in our heads, however, is usually the reason that we feel stressed for long periods. Mindfulness helps us pause that over-thinking in our heads.
Why Does Being Mindful Help?
Mindfulness changes your body chemistry and brings your body rhythms into sync with one another. It can lower your levels of stress hormones, decrease excessive muscle tension, normalize blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and increase pain tolerance.
People usually think of meditation as sitting still. That doesn’t appeal to some of us. We think we’ll get bored. Sitting still is valuable (you might like it more than you think after some practice), but it isn’t the only type of meditation. Your entire day can be mindful.
Here are some powerful science-based mindfulness techniques to relieve stress.
Techniques for Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction
1. Breathing meditation
Sit in a comfortable position. Rest your hands comfortably on your knees and take a few deep, cleansing breaths.
Gently close your eyes. Focus on your breathing. Breathe in gently. Breathe out. If your mind wanders, acknowledge the thought and bring yourself back to your breath. Each time your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath without judgment. Do this for ten minutes each day.
2. Walking meditation
This is one of my favorites.
The goal is not to cover a huge distance. In fact, take just a couple of steps and concentrate on them.
Pay attention to the feeling in your feet as you place your heels on the ground and then roll toward your toes. Your weight shifts. Your hips move. Put your other foot to the ground and take the next step.
Observe the sensations in your feet, ankles, legs, and hips, and up through your body. Are you swinging your arms? What do they feel like? How does the air feel on your face? Is there a breeze? What can you see? People, flowers, the horizon? Are there noises? Loud ones, like cars and voices? Soft ones, like the air as you brush past? The sound of your footsteps? Your breath? When thoughts of your to-do list come to mind, just acknowledge them and then bring your attention back to your walk.
3. Eating meditation
Take your plate of food and sit down comfortably. Take a moment to look at the colors of the food on your plate. Then smell the aromas of the food. Try to distinguish as many different aromas or just enjoy the blend of them.
Take a forkful of food and, before you put it into your mouth, hold it close to your mouth and see if you can already “taste” it. Slowly put it in your mouth and feel the texture. Begin to chew slowly. You will feel digestive enzymes being released along with saliva to help you digest your food. Chew for twice as long as you ordinarily would.
Swallow and wait a moment before you decide which morsel of food you will pick up next. Choose a different part of the meal if there is more than one type of food on your plate. Notice the different aromas, textures, and tastes, and continue eating this way until you are full. Then ask yourself, “How did it feel to eat this way?” Did it change your attitude to the food?
I recently heard of a woman who used to gobble the same fast food meal down for lunch every day. After learning about mindful eating, she ate one of those lunches mindfully. After that, she stopped eating fast food. She no longer liked the aroma, texture, and taste which all seemed fine when she didn’t eat mindfully.
Chew on this
Many people try meditation and give up. They think they’re bad at it or it’s not working. Take a deep breath. Breathe out. It’s okay.
Here’s one of the most useful pieces of advice I’ve heard about meditation: You can’t ever be bad at meditation. The benefits of meditation don’t only come if your mind is clear of thoughts. They come throughout the process of your mind wandering and you bringing it back. You’ve got this!
You should meditate for 10 minutes every day. And if you don’t have time for that, then you need to be doing it for an hour.
Have you tried meditating? Share your stories with us in the comments.