Mindfulness techniques can help manage stress, cope better with serious illness and reduce anxiety and depression. They can increase your ability to relax, increase positive outlook on life, and improve self-esteem. Practicing mindfulness will help you learn to anchor yourself in the present, where you can observe your thoughts and feelings without chasing them and without judgement.
Anyone can benefit from simple strategies to cope with some of the pressure. Between hectic work schedules, gloomy newsreels, daily chores, and making time for friends and family, there’s plenty of stress to go around. Beginners mindfulness doesn’t have to be complicated.
The concept is pretty simple- mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, and is used as a therapeutic technique.
There are nine pillars of mindfulness:
Sounds pretty good, right?
Mindfulness comes in many different shapes and forms. If you are new to mindfulness, the many avenues able could cause decision fatigue.
One of the most common ways to practice this is through mindful meditation. And my favorite place to start is Youtube! See some links below, or just google meditation for anxiety, etc.
While mindfulness and mediation go hand-in-hand, you don’t have to meditate to be mindful. If you prefer being active try mindful yoga which involves focusing attention on your breath, movements, and being in the moment.
Another practice for mindfulness is journaling, try writing down your emotions, considering why and how they impact you. Just write without judging or evaluating your thoughts.
There are so many options and ideas to practice mindfulness and you can choose what feels right for you
Just as you would take time to practice an instrument or language, mastering mindfulness is no different.
Set aside some time each day. You may prefer dedicate the first 30 minutes of your morning or 10 minutes before bedtime. Although, things do get hectic and you may only be able to dedicate a few minutes, that is okay! Honestly, even a few minutes a day done consistently can make a big difference.
Don’t set expectations or a timeline in which you would like to see results. Everyone’s mindfulness journey is different and tailored to you. Putting too much pressure on yourself could affect your progress.
Find the best fit for you! And take time doing so. What works for some may not be what works for you. Don’t feel you need to stick to a specific approach if it is not helping you- try another mindful task!
We use our breath every second of the day, but we don’t give it a second thought. Mindfulness could help add it to the forefront of your mind.
The 4-7-8 approach is designed to reign in your focus and bring you to a state of relaxation. Here are some steps you could follow:
1. Find a quiet spot, get comfortable, and exhale out of your mouth
2. Breathe in deeply through your nose for 4 seconds
3. Hold your breath for 7 seconds
4. Exhale loudly out of your mouth for 8 seconds
Of course, it is fine to work up to these numbers if they are difficult at first. You are doing what is best for you!
Using body scanning is a good way to quiet noise around us.
1. Lie down in a comfy, quiet space. Close your eyes and let your muscles relax.
2. Starting from the top of your head, slowly move down your body, paying attention to any sensations. Focus on these for up to a minute, then let your thoughts drift away as you move to the next area of your body until you reach the tip of your toes.
If you are heading outside, make your walk mindful. Try going for a walk, but do it with no headphones (yikes I know), no podcasts, no list-making in your head. Observe what’s around you.What scents can you smell? What sounds do you hear? How does moving make you feel? Listen to the birds. Feel your feet hit the concrete. Notice the way your shirt feels as it rubs your back. That’s mindfulness all day long! Increasing your awareness of elements such as these can help slow things down and instill a sense of calm.
You can engage in mindfulness in various ways, from meditation and breathing to journaling and yoga. You might find some approaches easier or more enjoyable than others.
Remember, these are suggestions of mindfulness exercises to try, if they don’t feel as if they fit for you, move on and find some new exercises until they fit just right!
Samantha Morel, Ph.D.