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If you’ve ever felt that life was just a bit too much, you’re not alone. With so much going on in your life, you may be overwhelmed.
There’s work, school, the young kids, the adult kids, the in-laws, etc. I’m sure you get it. And I’m sure you go through it repeatedly.
There are days you just want to rewind the clock and start all over again. Well, one thing we know is that we can’t turn back the clock, so we can only keep up or stop and appreciate what we have.
Even when life throws us lemons, there’s something to appreciate from that. I’ve always enjoyed a tangy glass of sweet lemonade. And you’ll be able to also once you understand mindfulness.
Mindfulness is what you’re missing to make even the worst days more bearable. If you have a minute, I’d love to talk with you for a bit about mindfulness, what it is and how you can incorporate it into your life, to help you get through some of the hardest days of your life.
Mindfulness is a practice of being in the moment, which encompasses two key components: awareness and acceptance. When you’re aware of what’s going on around you and can accept it, you’re in a state of mindfulness.
Mindfulness allows you to be in this state without distractions and judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.
Mindfulness is one form of meditation. Meditation utilizes various practices to quiet the mind or achieve a higher level of consciousness, one of which is mindfulness.
Mindfulness can be cultivated within or outside of formal meditation and woven into any activity, such as taking a walk or being engaged in conversation.
Spending too much time planning, problem-solving, daydreaming, or thinking negative or random thoughts can be draining. It can also make you more likely to experience stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression.
Practicing mindfulness exercises can help you direct your attention away from this kind of thinking and engage with the world around you. Being in a state of mindfulness helps reduce stress in our lives, we can enhance our performance, we gain insight and awareness through observing our own mind, and increase our attention to others’ well-being.
Mindfulness meditation gives us a time in our lives when we can suspend judgment and unleash our natural curiosity about the workings of the mind, approaching our experience with warmth and kindness—to ourselves and others.
The practice of mindfulness has been proven helpful in helping with:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Improving attention
- Decreasing job burnout
- Improving sleep
- Improving diabetes control
Mindfulness can take place through meditation sessions or smaller moments throughout the day. To cultivate a state of mindfulness, begin by sitting down and taking deep breaths.
Focus on each breath and the sensations of the moment, such as sounds, scents, temperature, and the feeling of air passing in and out of the body.
Shift your attention, then, to the thoughts and emotions that you’re experiencing. Allow each thought to exist without judging it or ascribing negativity to it.
Sit with those thoughts. The experience may evoke a strong emotional reaction. Exploring that response can be an opportunity to address or resolve underlying challenges.
- Pay attention. With so much going on in the world today, I understand the need to be focused on what’s ahead of you. Who has time to stop and smell the flowers along the way, or to take pictures of the beautiful lakes and trees as they’re driving along the countryside?
I know it’s hard to make time for the little things, but consider paying more attention to your surroundings. Experience everything the environment has to offer.
Put all of your five senses to work, by taking the time to actually taste and enjoy what you eat, laugh at what you hear, see not only what’s in front of you, but all around you, touch the soft, cuddly pets who long for your touch, and definitely smell the flowers in your path.
- Live in the moment. This sort of goes with paying attention. When you’re aware of your here and now, you see and observe it all.
You actually hear your friend talking across the table from you at lunch, and not thinking about something that happened yesterday. Stay focused on where you are now, at this particular time, and who you’re with.
Try to intentionally bring an open, accepting, and discerning attention to everything you do.
- Accept who you are. We are our harshest critics. Don’t be so critical of yourself. Go easy and accept all of who you are. Accept the mistakes you make and know that you’re going to make more mistakes.
- Stop those negative thoughts. When you have negative thoughts, try to sit down, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Sitting and breathing for even just a minute can help.
- Do a body scan meditation. Lie on your back with your legs extended and arms at your sides, palms facing up. Focus your attention slowly and deliberately on each part of your body, in order, from toe to head or head to toe.
Be aware of any sensations, emotions or thoughts associated with each part of your body.
- Do a sitting meditation. Sit comfortably with your back straight, feet flat on the floor, and hands in your lap. Breathing through your nose, focus on your breath moving in and out of your body.
If physical sensations or thoughts interrupt your meditation, note the experience and then return your focus to your breath.
- Do a walking meditation. Find a quiet place 10 to 20 feet in length, and begin to walk slowly. Focus on the experience of walking, being aware of the sensations of standing, and the subtle movements that keep your balance.
When you reach the end of your path, turn and continue walking, maintaining awareness of your sensations.
You probably want to know how often you should practice mindfulness. There’s nothing wrong with practicing mindfulness daily.
The time of day depends on the type of mindfulness you practice. Some practices, like body scan meditation, are great for in the morning, but you can do it at the time that best fits your schedule.
Aim to practice mindfulness every day for about six months. Over time, you might find that mindfulness becomes effortless. Think of it as a commitment to reconnecting with and nurturing yourself.
It’s already something we do, we just see it in many different ways. Even if we’re not aware of what mindfulness is, we have the capacity to be present, and you don’t have to change who you are.
Don’t feel creeped out about practicing mindfulness. The truth is mindfulness is not obscure or exotic.
All you have to do is cultivate the innate qualities with simple practices that are scientifically demonstrated to benefit ourselves, our loved ones, our friends and neighbors, the people we work with, and the institutions and organizations we take part in.
If you feel you need to change who you are to practice mindfulness, then don’t do it. You don’t need to change.
Solutions that ask us to change who we are or become something we’re not, have failed us over and over again. Mindfulness recognizes and cultivates the best of who we are as human beings.
Mindfulness has the potential to become a transformative social phenomenon. Here’s why:
Anyone can do it.
Mindfulness practice cultivates universal human qualities and does not require anyone to change their beliefs. Everyone can benefit and it’s easy to learn.
It’s a way of living. Mindfulness is more than just a practice. It brings awareness and caring into everything we do—and it cuts down needless stress. Even a little makes our lives better.
It’s evidence-based. We don’t have to take mindfulness on faith. Both science and experience demonstrate its positive benefits for our health, happiness, work, and relationships.
It sparks innovation. As we deal with our world’s increasing complexity and uncertainty, mindfulness can lead us to effective, resilient, low-cost responses to seemingly intransigent problems.
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