Mindfulness may sound like a New Age type of practice, but it actually has proven benefits for your mental and emotional health. When you practice being more mindful, it can transform many areas of your life, especially if you are dealing with fear and anxiety. Mindfulness can be an essential tool in managing anxiety, and best of all it’s a tool that’s easy to use—and it gets easier the more that you do it. Here’s why you should incorporate mindfulness techniques into your daily routine, and simple strategies for building a practice that can pay dividends for the rest of your life.
What Does It Mean to Practice Being More Mindful?
Mindfulness is a lot like how it sounds. It means you are intentionally taking time out of your day, even if it’s just a few minutes, to step back from the daily noise and refocus on being in the moment. It is creating a safe haven free from distractions so you can be still, just you and your thoughts.
Essentially, mindfulness means you are being present. As you focus on inhaling and exhaling, you become one with your surroundings and can truly take the time to focus on what it feels like to be alive, right here and now. That can include the weight of your body as you sit on the floor, the feeling of air expanding your lungs, or the sounds in the room.
One of the most important parts of mindfulness is the grace you give yourself as part of the practice. It is almost impossible for the brain to stay void of thoughts for too long, and it is common to have a stray thought cross your mind, whether it’s about a deadline for work or a phone call you need to make that day. What is vital is that you recognize you are having the thought, without judging yourself, and let it go and resume your practice. Over time, it becomes easier to develop this habit and you will reap the benefits.
Why Should You Practice Being More Mindful?
If you suffer from anxiety, your brain can be consumed with negative, catastrophic thoughts. You fear the worse will happen, even if the likelihood of that happening is slim. Mindfulness is valuable because it can help break those destructive thought patterns. Research has shown that regularly practicing mindfulness can positively affect the amygdala, the area of the brain that deals with fear and anxiety.
Mindfulness is also helpful because it can help still the torrent of anxious thoughts. As you develop a habit of mindfulness, you can use it at any time of day or night when you feel anxiety rising, so you can calm yourself and get release from the worry and fear. Also, by staying in the present, you won’t have as much time to be anxious about the uncertainty of the future.
You will also find that you are not as hard on yourself for having anxious thoughts. Because mindfulness teaches you to accept thoughts without judgement and move on, you may find you have a greater acceptance of yourself and others.
There are other, more general, benefits to mindfulness that can improve anyone’s overall quality of life. Many people find it easier to handle stressful situations because they can find respite in mindfulness techniques. In the workplace, you may become more productive because you have the ability keep a singular focus on a task and spend time efficiently, rather than feel scattershot because your brain is leading your thoughts in several different ways at once.
As you learn to slow down your thoughts, you will also learn not to overthink things, and you may also become less reactive because you know the importance of taking a timeout to gather yourself. If you make gratitude a component of your mindfulness practice, it can create a sense of thankfulness and you will more readily see the positive attributes of your life. Finally, being present can also benefit your relationships because you know how to focus your attention, and you can direct that focus towards friends and loved ones. Life can be much richer and more fulfilling.
The good news is that anyone can develop a habit of mindfulness. So how can you get started?
How Can You Practice Being Mindful?
Mindfulness is wonderful because not only can anyone do it, but you also don’t need anything special to practice it.
The first thing to do is set aside a specific amount of time. In the beginning, it doesn’t have to be much, as even a few minutes a day can get you on the right track. As you continue to hone your mindfulness techniques, you can add more time to your sessions. To establish a habit, try to pick the same time every day, such as first thing in the morning.
You will also want to find a soothing space to practice in. Make sure the room is free from distractions and has a comfortable place where you can sit. Start by focusing on your breathing and the sensations you feel as you sit there. As random thoughts float in, accept them and then return your focus to the present.
Another mindfulness technique is meditation. With mantra meditation, you can focus on repeating a word or phrase throughout the session. There is also guided meditation, where you are led through the practice with specific words and imagery. There are many apps and Internet videos that can be used for meditation, which is great if you need a jolt of mindfulness during the course of your day. If you prefer to have some movement in your mindfulness, try an exercise that promotes a focus on breathing and controlled moves, such as yoga or tai chi.
There are also daily habits that can be done more mindfully. For instance, get off your phone, especially when you are going somewhere or in a place with other people. That way you can give your attention to your surroundings and human interaction. If you are walking the dog or take a lunchtime stroll at the office, use that time to practice your mindfulness or repeat your mantra. Even something as humdrum as eating a meal can be given more mindfulness—eat slowly, savoring the taste and texture of your food and how it feels to fill your belly and be satisfied.
When you practice being more mindful, you are creating a healthier life for yourself. At Casa Palmera, we are dedicated to helping our clients who are dealing with anxiety create a healthier life through the use of tools such as mindfulness. If you want help in breaking the negative thought patterns that are controlling your life, visit our website today to learn more.