Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment rather than focusing on the past or future. It allows awareness of your thoughts and feelings without judgement.
The purpose of mindfulness is relaxation and stress reduction. There are many ways to easily incorporate mindfulness into your daily life.
1. Mindful Walking
Locate a peaceful place to walk, preferably outdoors. As you begin to walk, notice your feet as they touch the ground. If your mind starts flooding with thoughts, notice them and then re-direct your attention back to your feet. Notice how your body feels as you are walking.
Continue walking and notice everything you see: trees, cars, flowers, animals, or the clouds in the sky.
For the next few minutes, notice everything you hear. It could be birds singing or the wind blowing. Take notice of all the sounds without judgment.
Once you have taken in the sights and sounds, focus on the smells all around you.
Return your attention back to walking and your body. At then end of your walk, do a body scan and check for any tension and notice how you are feeling.
2. Abdominal Breathing
It is important to breathe from the abdomen or belly to get enough oxygen to the brain. Most of us tend to automatically breathe from the chest when feeling stressed or anxious, causing increased anxiety. On a daily basis, practice taking slow, deep breaths from the abdomen so that you are prepared for stressful events.
How to breathe from your abdomen:
Lift your chest and allow your stomach to relax. Inhale while pushing out your abdominal muscles and exhale by pulling your abdominal muscles in. Repeat with slow and relaxed breaths.
3. Counting Backwards
Sit or lie on your back and slowly count back from 100 to 0. Counting backwards requires more concentration and focus. If your mind starts to wander and you lose count, just start counting over again from 100. Once you have reached 0, stay in silence for a few moments and notice if you feel more relaxed.
4. Guided Imagery/Visualization:
Close your eyes, get into a comfortable position, and take a few deep breaths. Think of a peaceful, happy, calm, and special place. This place can be real, or imagined: your favorite vacation spot; the beach; or your grandparents’ home. Be specific as possible and use all of your senses. What is the temperature? Is it sunny? Are you outside or indoors? What are the smells? What do you hear? What do you see?
Remember, you can go to your special place at any time, no matter where you are.
5. The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Method
Working backward from five, use your senses and list the following things you notice around you:
5 things you hear
4 things you see
3 things you can touch
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
When finished, take a deep breath and slowly exhale.
6. Touch Something
Pick up something within your reach. This could be a pen, rock, or a blanket.
The following are some examples of questions you can ask yourself while touching the item:
Is the item soft or hard?
Is it heavy or light?
Is it warm or cool?
What is the texture?
What is the color?
7. List the Positives
Make a mental list of several things in your life that bring you joy. Visualize each thing in detail. This could include your pets, family members, friends, work, favorite vacation spot, or favorite food.
8. Listen to Your Favorite Songs
Make a short playlist of some of your favorite songs. Take five to 10 minute breaks throughout the day and listen to this playlist. Think of something creative to name the playlist such as Mindfulness Songs. While listening to the songs, focus on each lyric, the instruments, and voices.
9. Move Your Body
Get up and move with exercises or stretches. You could try doing a few jumping jacks, kicks, jogging in place, or stretching various muscle groups. Notice how your body feels with each movement. If you have any medical conditions, ask your medical provider for recommendations.
10. Practice Acceptance
Practice accepting the emotions you are experiencing as neither good nor bad. Tell yourself that they are just part of your experience and that they will eventually pass.
Keep in mind that mindfulness takes practice just like playing an instrument or a sport. The more you practice mindfulness, the better you will be at mastering your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.