You might be saying...practice it, I don't even know what it is! According to this article, Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you are sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.
Why is this important?
Stress can be a huge contributing factor in many debilitating conditions, including heart disease. According to some estimates, people who are under chronic stress are 40% more likely to develop heart disease. It's really important that we find ways to mitigate the effects of that stress on our bodies.
A lot of research has been conducted around meditation and its benefits.
Here are some of the conditions it helps to alleviate
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
Early findings on the research around asthma and fibromyalgia is promising.
- increases attention
- control diabetes
- supports good sleep
- decrease job burnout
Some mindfulness exercises
- Pay close attention - in our fast-paced lives we often just fly through the motions of every day living. Take time to slow down and really pay attention. Enjoy a meal with all your senses. Really taste, smell and experience the textures, temperatures and all the aspects of the food.
- Live in the moment - we often spend a lot of time ruminating about the past or obsessing about the future. Try to stay present in whatever you are doing. There is only now. You can't change the past and you can't control the future. Basically, the only time you might have any influence on is right now. Make the most of it by staying in the moment.
- Accept yourself - because we are often our harshest critic, we will talk to ourselves in a way we might never talk to another person. Give yourself some grace and treat yourself like you would someone you love.
- Focus on your breathing - a good way to stay in the moment is to stop and just pay attention to your breath. If you start going down the negative spiral, sit down, close your eyes and just breathe. Feel the breath as it enters and leaves your body. Doing this exercise for a few minutes in a stressful time can really help dial down the level of stress you feel.
More structured mindfulness meditations
- Body scan meditation - Lie down on your back with you arms at your sides, palms up. Start at one end of your body and work your way to the other end. Pay attention to each body part and what feelings, sensations and emotions are associated with each.
- Sitting meditation - sit comfortably up straight, feet flat on the floor and hands in your lap. focus on your breath ans you breather in through your nose. If a thought or physical sensation interrupts you, acknowledge it then let it pass as you focus on your breathing again.
- Walking meditation - find an area of about 10-20 feet in length. Walk slowly the full length of the area and be mindful of every sensation, the way you balance, the feel of your foot on the ground. Do this slowly until you get to the end of the area, turn around and go back. Maintain your awareness of the experience.
Mindfulness exercises can be practiced as often as you want. The simpler exercises can be done anytime, anywhere. The structured meditations may require a little planning and availability of space. The more you practice mindfulness, the more you can benefit from it. I recommend having a daily mindfulness practice to enjoy the maximum benefit. The more you do it, the more likely it will become a habit and it will be your 'go to' way to manage stress. Isn't that better than engaging in unhealthy coping activities? I think it is.
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