Truth time: I’m an anxious person. I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety for decades. I’ve gotten very good at channeling that worry into productivity, but it wasn’t always that way. One of the tools that I use to keep my head right is meditation. Another is focusing on being grateful.
Although I am not perfect (Whaaaaat? I know!), I know that when I am consistently mindful- the larger practice of which meditation and gratitude are components- I am calmer, more empathetic, less frantic, and much more efficient. All good things. All good things.
So maybe you’ve heard the term “mindfulness” pop up lately. The word itself evokes thoughts of yoga poses and gurus chanting ‘Om’. Mindfulness is really just the act of purposeful awareness. The practice involves actively directing your focus, allowing you to take control of your own brain and manage your emotions, reactions, and even your thoughts. It is an amazingly transformative practice that gets easier and more effective with consistent use!
With the best of intentions, taking care of ourselves, our work, our homes, and the ones that we love can overwhelm our lives. Maybe you’re always running around, frantically trying to check items off from your to-do list, always battling the clock and never feeling like there are enough hours in the day. Maybe you’re just stressed out and letting your life live you.
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone.
Every single one of us can feel too busy, too worried, or too overwhelmed at times. That is where mindfulness comes in!
Here I break mindfulness down to show you 5 simple steps to incorporating the practice into your everyday life. You do not have to turn your whole life upside down to practice mindfulness. Start small, with one thing at a time, and get comfortable being purposeful in one aspect of your life. Then see where it takes you! This is the same advice that I give to my patients and clients.
Pick one of these easy ways to practice mindfulness (or one of your own) and give it a try:
1. Start and end your day on a positive note
How? Take 3-5 minutes when you first wake up and right before you go to sleep to visualize all of the things that you have to be grateful for. Mentally offer thanks for the opportunities, people, experiences, and things that have made your life easier or better.
Why it works: When you focus on gratitude, you edge out the negativity and allow yourself to see the positive in all of your experiences- even the tough ones!
2. Focus on your breathing
How? Take a few minutes a couple times a day (before work, at lunch, before you get home in the evening, before you go to bed, up to you!) to just allow yourself to breathe in and out, recognizing your breathing, feeling each breath in and each breath out. Let your thoughts float in and right back out, they’ll always be there, so let yourself focus on your breath for just a few minutes at a time.
Why it works: This is a meditative practice. You choose, no matter what chaos is happening around you, to ground yourself and allow yourself to breath deeply- something we don’t do enough of! With enough practice, you can use this technique when stressful things come up to center yourself and gain clarity before reacting to a situation.
3. Write it down in a journal
How? First thing in the morning, during a short break or in the evening, take 5 or 10 minutes to write down your thoughts and feelings. You can write about positive and negative thoughts and feelings- just write it all out!
Why it works: In journaling, you get to let your thoughts flow purposefully. Give them a time to race around your head while you make sense of them on paper. Your thoughts become tangible and less foreboding or more inspiring when you give them a place to go, plus you free up space in your mind for the rest of your life.
4. Be in the present moment
How? Use your senses. Look around at your surroundings. Acknowledge your senses- what do you see, smell, taste, feel, hear? Take a few minutes every day to jump off the crazy train and just recognize what exists around you.
Why it works: Our senses receive message every second of every day whether we are aware of it or not. Taking time to truly be present in a certain moment, allows us to reconnect with our bodies and give our over-active brains a rest. When you learn to be in the present moment, you can train your brain to stop obsessing over the past or worrying about the future more readily- a great tool for life!
5. Do a body check
How? Similar to being in the present, this technique requires focusing on your senses. Try a body scan by lying down with your eyes closed and visualizing each body part from head to toe. How does your body feel? Acknowledge any tension or stress.
Why it works: This technique helps us recognize how our bodies respond to events and emotions in our lives. Maybe being anxious or nervous upset your stomach. Maybe sadness hurts our hearts or overwork tenses our shoulders. When you are too stressed or busy to sort thing out and your brain is overloaded, your body can give you the clues to find the source of your stress.
Good luck on your mindful journey! Keep me posted on how it goes! Keep an eye out for more tips in an upcoming post.
What have you heard about mindfulness? I’d love to hear about any of your experiences with any of these practices!