Feeling overwhelmed and constantly stressed?
We lead busy lives, and especially now, when we are all trying to adapt to the new normal of working from home, and staying indoors — with work emails flying, as we try to get in a load of laundry, while picking up the children’s toys and making dinner — experiencing daily stress is more common than you might think.
And, right now stress is the last thing we need if we’re looking to boost our immunity and stay physically and mentally healthy.
Fortunately, there’s a habit you can practice to feel calmer, decrease stress and anxiety, and cope with all the madness. It's called mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is being present in the moment. It’s about being aware of your thoughts, sensations and feelings, and letting them come and go, without judging them or acting on them.
By expanding your awareness, you learn to understand what motivates you and what keeps you stuck. By gaining a better understanding of your inner world, it helps you to respond better to the world around you.
Done properly, even for a few minutes every day, practicing mindfulness calms you down, increases your focus, and might be just what you need to deal with the chaos in your everyday life.
How Do You Practice Mindfulness?
There are thousands of research studies demonstrating how mindfulness can improve the brain's ability to deal with stress, increase resilience, elevate mood, control emotions, help deal with chronic pain, reduce depression, and much more.
To reap these benefits, start by practicing mindfulness for just 5-10 minutes a day, as described below:
- Find a comfortable place to sit that’s calm and quiet (you can sit in a chair, in the lotus posture, cross-legged, whatever feels good)
- Set a time limit for yourself (this can be 5-10 minutes to start)
- Be aware of your body, your posture and focus on your breathing. Feel your breath going in and out
- When your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath
- Don’t judge or obsess over your thoughts or wandering mind. Just try to re-focus on the sensations you are feeling and your breath
While you might think that mindfulness seems simple enough, it’s not necessarily easy. It takes practice to let thoughts be, and then let them go. And, the real effort is to make time for mindfulness every day, and to just keep doing it.
Other Ways to Be Mindful
There are also simple habits you can incorporate into your daily life, to actively be more mindful in whatever you do.
Take a Breath
Have a minute? Simply take a moment to feel your breath. You can do this in the bus or at your desk at work. Close your eyes, and intentionally notice the sensation of your breathing. Just doing this will help you to keep calmer, and more focused throughout the day.
Create a Sacred Space
Creating a sacred space in your home, or even on your office desk, can remind you to practice mindfulness every day, even in the middle of a busy schedule. This could be a specific corner in your home or just your favorite chair or rug, where you can spend a few moments in complete awareness of what is going on within and around you, without judgement.
Focus on One Thing
You might think multitasking is more productive, but research shows that jumping from one task to another may actually be counterproductive. So, try not to respond to an email while working on a report and answering a text message. Give all your attention to the task at hand.
Be Mindful Doing Daily Tasks
Next time you brush your teeth, mop the floor, or fold the laundry, do it mindfully. Research show that being fully aware as you do a task, such as washing the dishes, and being aware of all the sensations associated with it, can relax, de-stress and even make seemingly mundane tasks enjoyable.
Cut Gadget Time
Devices like your phone or tablet tend to overstimulate. Yes, they help you to work and curb boredom, but they’re also very good at desensitizing you to your sensations and your surroundings. Put your phone on airplane mode when not in use (seriously helps to get a lot more work done), or intentionally keep it out of reach. This will help you to focus on the present moment and the task at hand, without having buzzing interruptions every few minutes.
Eat Without Distractions
Always eat glued to the TV? Try to eat mindfully when you can — without checking email, watching Netflix, reading, or even thinking. Purely focus on the sensations such as the taste, smell and sensation of eating. If thoughts wander, don’t judge. There are no right or wrong thoughts — just your awareness of them. Eating mindfully, even a few times a week, helps to retrain eating behaviors, encouraging consuming less, savoring more, and choosing healthier food options.
It’s easy to fall into the rut of thinking and doing things as you’ve always done them. Mindfulness forces you to slow this process down, and to be fully aware of each moment. This empowers you to fully embrace and experience each moment without judgement — making mindfulness a powerful way to build resilience and strengthen the mind, body and spirit.
If you’re new to mindfulness, be patient. It might be hard at first to slow down the mind, and bring it into the present. Start slow, and with time and practice, you’ll get to where you want to be.