There are many ways to manage stress, and mindfulness is becoming one of the most talked-about ones these days, as more and more people discover this natural, healthy way to beat stress.
What is Mindfulness Exactly?
Mindfulness basically means paying attention to the present moment, and there are a variety of techniques that can be used. These include meditation, breathing exercises, education, music, and yoga.
“Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experiences” – Jon Kabat – Zinn
Mindfulness can be learned and practiced by anyone of any age, who is willing to embrace new things and spend some time practicing these methods.
What Mindfulness Can Teach You
A lot of us have heard the term ‘mindfulness’ but are not sure what it means exactly, or what is involved in the training.
Mindfulness can teach you a number of things including various meditation techniques and goals, increasing awareness of everyday things you usually do without thinking, and how to notice your thoughts, acknowledge them and then let them go.
Mindfulness can be very helpful if you want to lower your stress levels. You can learn how thoughts, feelings and reactions affect your body, and new ways to react to situations which might cause negative thoughts.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
There are many benefits to this practice, as well as lowering stress levels. After learning some mindfulness techniques, you will be able to develop a better self-awareness, understanding and knowing yourself on a deeper level.
You will learn new attitudes and skills to help with your self-care, and enjoy increased patience with yourself. In addition, mindfulness can lead to a greater acceptance about how things are and help you to let things go.
“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” Mother Theresa
It can help you approach situations with a more open mind and be less judgmental. It can even increase your intuition and trust yourself more.
Mindfulness might be good for you if you want to help you connect better with others, change how you feel and respond to pain, improve your focus and memory, and reduce depression, anxiety and other negative emotions.
Mindfulness can improve your overall sense of wellbeing and boost your physical health in order to ward off infections. With all these possible benefits, you probably want to dive straight in and learn how it is done!
Different Ways to Practice Mindfulness
The great thing about mindfulness is there are different techniques to choose from, depending on what resonates with you. Perhaps you already enjoy yoga and would like to incorporate that, or maybe you find that a certain type of music always helps you focus or relax. Everyone is different and will find their own preferred methods to practice.
Choose from online mindfulness courses or find an in-person group, and set aside some time for practice. If you want more information, you can look online, consult your health care provider or look for a community-based meditation center.
There are different techniques to try, including breathing awareness exercises, which help you focus on your breath and keep you mentally in the present moment. Meditation can be useful, and this concerns focusing the mind on one specific activity or thought.
You might like to try a body scan. To do this, you will lie down and pay attention to every part of your body from head to toe, focusing on each part then moving on to the next. A body scan can reveal areas of tension or pain, and it can feel incredibly relaxing too.
The practice of yoga, which includes breathing exercises and stretching, can also be used for mindfulness. Yoga can help with flexibility and strength, and test the limits of your body which can help you release stress as well.
Mindful eating is another technique, which focuses on the taste, smell, color and texture of every bite of food. This will slow down eating and help you feel full quicker, so it might be interesting to try if weight loss is also a goal for you.
Pair Mindfulness with Lifestyle Changes for Optimal Results
In order to get the most out of mindfulness, it is good practice to combine it with other healthy habits. This can include taking any prescription medication you need, or making any changes to your lifestyle or diet recommended by your health care provider. Ensuring you focus on complete health as your goal, and make any necessary tweaks, you should soon begin to reap the benefits of mindfulness.
Whether you choose to use a mindfulness recording or podcast for meditation, a body scan or breathing awareness, you can use this whenever you have a little free time, and you want to unwind and let go of stress.
How to Use Mindfulness to Be Aware of the Present
The first thing to do is to practice being aware of the present moment. This might sound easy, since we are physically in the present moment all the time, but it is far too easy to get distracted and lose sight of this. Choose someone comfortable to sit or recline. Lying down can also work but some people find this just puts them to sleep.
Make sure you are comfortable and take a deep breath before releasing it slowly. Observe how you feel, what thoughts enter your mind, and what your surroundings are like. You might find your mind wanders, which is fine. Observe when your thoughts drift, then come back to the present moment.
Try to observe your feelings and surroundings without placing any judgment on them. If you feel judgement, acknowledge it then let it go.
How to Do a Mindfulness Meditation
Sit upright on a stable chair or firm floor cushion with your back straight. Have your arms at your sides and rest your hands on your knees. Cross your legs in front of you if you are on a cushion or have your feet flat on the floor if you are on a chair.
Relax your chin and jaw, resting your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Now drop your gaze to the floor. Your eyes can be open or closed, as you prefer.
“We have only now, only this single eternal moment opening and unfolding before us, day and night” – Jack Kornfield
Breathe normally, paying attention to your breathing, noticing the air flowing in and out of your nose, and your belly relaxing and expanding as you breathe. If your thoughts drift, just return your attention to your breathing.
Try to avoid placing judgement on your feelings or surroundings, and if you notice any coming, just observe it and let it go.
Continue with this for as long as you feel comfortable, and then lift your gaze or open your eyes. Observe how your body feels after the meditation.
Beginners might want to try two or three minutes of this at a time, while others can go for longer periods. Listen to your body – you will know when the session is finished.
Using Sounds and Music in Mindfulness
Some people enjoy combining music with mindfulness. Everyone has their own feelings about different sounds, rhythms and types of music, so you might like to experiment and see which sounds can deepen and enhance your mindfulness meditations.
For example, the sound of birdsong might be relaxing to one person but not for another, while someone might find classical music helps with their stress levels and another person might prefer another genre.
There are plenty of stress relief apps with various music styles to try out, as well as various nature sounds, so you can find out which is the most helpful for you when trying to be mindful and let go of stress.
Observe where your mind goes when focusing on a piece of music or natural sounds, then bring it back to the present moment. Sound and music have been used for thousands of years for healing. Perhaps you prefer to practice mindfulness in silence, and that is perfectly fine too.
A mindfulness-based stress reduction, or MBSR, program shows you how to enjoy the benefits of mindfulness, responding to stress without negative emotions or judgment, and improving your life in a variety of ways. There are Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programs where you can participate. The University of Massachusetts Medical Center runs a Mindfulness center for Medicine.
If you want to learn to pay attention to the present moment, in order to cope better with daily emotions, high stress levels or pain, or simply add other benefits to your life, mindfulness could be the perfect solution.
You might be also interested to read how unwinding can help you in meditation