If you experience frequent worry or stress, you might benefit from practicing mindfulness. Numerous studies have shown the ability of mindfulness to lower stress, which is often the foundation of many diseases. It can also bring peace of mind and expand our ability to experience the world around us.
Mindfulness is a powerful practice of bringing one’s attention to experiences, thoughts, and feelings that are occurring in the present moment. The goal is to be fully awake and aware of what’s happening right now. Some examples include:
This is a simple exercise that can be done anywhere at any time. Just stop and focus on your breath. Start by breathing in and out slowly. Try to extend the length of each inhale and exhale. Feel the air fill your lungs. Let your thoughts go, and become present by paying attention only to your breath.
This is a powerful exercise of focusing your attention on a single object, often something in nature. Simply choose an object – a flower, insect, or the clouds in the sky – and observe without judgment. Look at it as if you’re seeing it for the first time and pay attention to every detail. Connect with its energy and its purpose in the world.
In this exercise, one simply notices the things that happen each day and being grateful. This could be as simple as giving thanks for your health, enjoying a moment with a friend, or knowing that the sun continues to rise each day.
How to Practice Mindfulness
Although it sounds simple, it can be a challenge to practice mindfulness – simply because of our often hectic and busy lives. Here are some tips to get you started.
Make the Time
The good thing about mindfulness is that it can be done in a very short amount of time. Focusing on your breath for just a minute can often reduce stress almost immediately. Almost everyone can find a minute in each day.
Observe Your Present Moment Without Judgment
You may be feeling anxious, sad, guilty or angry. During your mindfulness practice, allow yourself to feel these emotions without judgment and observe what effect your mental state is having on your body. If you’re observing a grasshopper, do so without trying to make sense of its actions or trying to figure out why it’s behaving the way it is.
As Judgment Arises, Acknowledge It, Then Let It Go
It’s easy for our minds to start wandering. When this happens, simply realize what’s going on and then return your attention to your breath or whatever it is you’re observing. Be kind to yourself and understand that there’s no perfect way to be mindful. Just allow yourself to be whatever you are in the moment.
Don’t be discouraged if your mind wanders or you become distracted. Be patient with yourself and keep practicing. You may find your thoughts calming and your mind more peaceful.