*By Tayler Schutt*
Inhale deeply. Exhale completely. Feel your feet resting on the ground. Feel the way your body is seated. Feel your feet and toes inside your shoes. Feel the way your back touches your chair. Evaluate how your body feels in the present moment. Is your body tense? Is your body relaxed? Not really sure?
This simple exercise is a form of mindfulness meditation which can be used to reduce stress in everyday life.
The Mayo Clinic describes mindfulness as “a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment.”
When you focus on your breathing and the sensations around, your mind draws its attention away from the rambling thoughts and focuses it on the present feeling.
Imagine your mind is like a river. When you are stressed, the river moves rapidly and can bubble over the riverbank.
With mindfulness, you practice training your river/mind to slow down bit by bit. The point is not to completely stop the river, but to slow its pace to a steady and comfortable speed that allows you to carry on with your day.
Now you may be thinking: how am I supposed to sit still and not think about anything for ten minutes?
Luckily, you don’t have to!
There are so many ways to practice mindfulness that don’t involve just sitting cross-legged in a room in silence.
A couple of examples include walking meditations, body scan meditations, and even eating meditations. With these exercises you can walk and focus on your sensations, lay down and focus on each body part, or eat and focus on the sensations in your mouth.
All of these exercises can be done whenever, wherever, and for however long you would like.
Only have five minutes to spare each day? Use that time to just sit with yourself and breathe.
As thoughts rise in your mind, accept that the thoughts are there and allow them to drift away for another time. It is important to try and only think about everything you are feeling in the present moment and to simply exist.
It is so much easier said than done, but with a bit of practice each day, you will find that pairing deep breathing with body sensations becomes easier each time. It is better to practice a little bit each day than to practice for twenty minutes once a week!
It may be difficult for you to just throw yourself into this practice. That is completely understandable!
For beginners, I would recommend looking up guided meditations on YouTube or Spotify or even downloading the Eternal Sunshine app which provides positive quotes and mindfulness activities.
Want to learn more about mindfulness and meditation? I would recommend purchasing Holly Rogers’ The Mindful Twenty-Something: Life Skills to Handle Stress… and Everything Else to learn about the basics.
If you find that you really enjoy meditation, I would recommend learning more about its Buddhist origins with Michael Williams’ Buddhism: Beginner’s Guide to Understanding & Practicing Buddhism to Become Stress and Anxiety Free.
Interestingly enough, stress isn’t the only thing that mindfulness helps with.
Mindfulness is proven to help with anxiety, depression, pain, high blood pressure and even insomnia.
Moreover, it can help with the balance and acceptance of thoughts and emotions that many struggle with every day. Mindfulness has even shown signs of improving attention, decreasing burnout, and improving sleep.
So next time you feel stressed, anxious, or restless, maybe give mindfulness a try.
Find a comfortable position – whether it be sitting, standing, or lying down. Then, focus on the way your breath moves in and out of your body. Next, focus on the way your body feels in the present moment. Finally, accept your thoughts as they are and slowly let them slip away as you calm your rambling mind. Namaste.