Stress is an inescapable fact of life. We all react differently to it. Mindfulness is a powerful technique to manage and balance stress in our everyday life.
What is mindfulness?
Stress has no boundaries. It affects us whether we’re poor or rich, old or young, well-educated or high school dropout, employed or unemployed, sick or healthy.
Believe it or not, some stress is a good thing. It keeps you motivated and on your game!
It’s the overwhelming stress that’s hard to manage. Mindfulness is a great stress management technique to add to your toolbox.
Mindfulness is a state of active attention on the present and living in the moment. You do this in a non-judgmental way. The focus is on the present moment rather than worrying about the past or the future. You’re in control of which thoughts you pay attention to and which ones you let go.
So, while you’re playing with your children, you’re focused on the feeling you both feel from being together. You’re not thinking about what’s for dinner, the laundry that’s piling up, and work obligations. You’re in the moment, making memories with your child.
Jon Kabat-Zinn is one of the fathers of mindfulness. He founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program, at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.
He believes mindfulness is a proven technique to assist in treating chronic pain, anxiety, depression, cancer, chronic disease, work & family emotional stress, eating issues, heart disease, and sleeplessness.
Mindfulness reduces your stress and makes you feel and experience moments in life. As a result, you’re happier.
How to practice mindfulness daily
Mindfulness meditation techniques will help you reduce stress in your everyday life. Like everything else, practice makes perfect so give yourself grace while you put into practice these new stress reduction exercises.
Spend 5 minutes a day focusing on breathing
First, close your eyes and breathe! Ah!
As the air comes in and out of your body, how do you feel? Are your shoulders relaxing?
We breathe in and out all day long, but how often do you pay attention to this simple, yet vital, act and appreciate it? Do you know when your breathing is shallow, rapid, anxious, or coming from your chest rather than from your abdomen? How often are you holding your breath without realizing it? You probably don’t know these answers, because you likely never paid attention to it.
When you begin focusing on your breath, you feel different. Studies show the power of consciously taking time to breathe and the positive impact it can have in the midst of a stressful or angry moment, or even in managing pain.
We all have too much stress in our fast-paced lives, so it’s important to go back to basics and focus on the power of the breath.
Find five minutes in your day to focus on your breathing. Take small steps. At first, you may take one five minute break a day, and then work up to multiple rest periods.
If you don’t have five minutes, take one minute. Even 60 seconds can be eye-opening enough to slow you down, so the next minute, hour or rest of your day goes better.
Use tools to guide you through this. Here’s how to find one moment to mediate.
This small step takes very little time, can be done virtually anywhere (no visualization exercises while operating any machinery please!) and is FREE! More importantly, conscious breathing allows you to reset whenever you need it.
Use visual cues to practice mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness is a form of meditation, according to Kabat-Zinn. In an Oprah interview, he explains how mindfulness is all about awareness. When you’re being mindful you’re also meditating.
If you want to take your mindfulness one step further, meditate with visual and audio cues.
Imagine you’re on a beach, and the waves are crashing ashore. If you can’t imagine this, look for a visual online.
Think of a scene that brings you a sense of calm, happiness, relaxation, or satisfaction. When you allow yourself to escape and be part of these scenes the relief and stability you feel may be even more significant.
There are great tools to help you through this. For example, Dave Potter’s Online Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Course is a FREE eight-week course walking you through meditation, body awareness, and yoga to manage stress. It’s based on the program founded by Kabat-Zinn.
He shares mindfulness meditation audio cues to help you meditate and imagine yourself on a mountain or lake. Or in an environment with rain or just silence.
This technique helps you focus your attention, and manage your stress.
Incorporate mindfulness into your day
Taking five minutes out of your day to practice mindfulness, helps reset your brain. It also allows you to enjoy the present moment.
Once you’ve focused on your breath, engage your senses. What’s happening around you? What do you smell or hear? When you apply this technique to everyday life, you’ll experience life differently because your mind focuses on the present rather than the past or future.
It takes practice to incorporate mindfulness into your day. Take small steps.
Experts suggest you start by focusing on one task at a time. Give it your full attention, even if it’s something as simple as drinking your morning coffee. Enjoy the smell and warmth of the cup. How does it make you feel?
Then, observe your demeanor. Do you feel differently when you take five minutes and enjoy your cup of coffee rather than drinking your coffee, packing lunch, and looking at your emails?
Change your outlook on life
As you go through these exercises and incorporate mindfulness into your life, observe how it changes your outlook on life. It happens because of the underlying fundamental elements of this stress management technique. Are you experiencing these feelings?
- non-striving – a focus on being, not doing
- non-judging – observation of thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad
- acceptance – a willingness to see things as they are
- non-attachment – a letting go and openness to letting whatever is, just be
- patience – allowing things to unfold in their own time
- a beginner’s mind – seeing things with fresh eyes
- trust – respect for your gut feelings and intuition
If you haven’t found your patience increasing, no problem. Focus on incorporating mindfulness when you’re impatient.
Are you focused on being rather than doing? If not, that’s a great moment to be mindful.
Look to the foundation of mindfulness, to explore new ways to incorporate the practice into your life.
When you look at life through this lens, you’ll likely be happier and healthier in the long-term. Plus, you’ll manage stress better. Mindfulness is just one tool to give your life a new perspective.
The FREE “Be Less Stressed Toolkit” also helps you change your outlook on life. The book contains a full year’s worth of exercises so you can reach your goals and stay less stressed! Pick up your copy today so that you can find your inner peace!
Practice mindfulness daily
Practice makes perfect, and mindfulness is no exception.
At first, your mind may wander. That’s normal. Redirect yourself back to the breath and focus on it. You’ll feel better in the end. The more practice you get, the less your mind will wander.
Start small – with just one minute and work up to five minutes. Always take small steps when you’re changing a habit or learning a new exercise.
Meditation takes your mindfulness one step further. Experts suggest 20 minutes as a goal because that’s how long it takes to settle your mind.
If you find it useful, spend more time. Kabat-Zinn recommends 45 minutes of meditation at least six days a week.
Mindfulness and meditation are just some of the ways to manage your stress. Yoga Nidra and Guided Imagery are other ways.
What’s been the most eye-opening part of mindfulness for you? Share your thoughts with Z. Colette Edwards on Facebook.