It is an unfortunate fact that modern life has become so fast-paced and high stress.
There’s good news, though. You can reduce your daily stress, anxiety, and worry with one simple, ancient practice: mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness simply means allowing yourself to be fully in the present moment. It’s easy to find yourself thinking about details about your life, like how delicious that meal was last night, or how anxious you are over the parent teacher meeting scheduled later in the day, or all the things you need to do to prepare for your vacation, but when your mind is somewhere else, you are not letting yourself experience your life in the present. And a racing mind can contribute to chronic anxiety and feelings of stress.
Mindfulness is about stepping outside of your inner stream of consciousness and letting your senses take in the life that is around you in the present moment.
There are times when mindfulness comes naturally – like when you first arrive at the beach and you breathe the salty air deeply, are soothed by the sounds of the crashing waves and seagulls, feel the sand beneath your toes and the warm sun on your skin, and even get a taste of the salt water once you go in! It’s easy to be fully present and mindful at a scene like this, but what about during your normal daily life?
Meditation is a way to cultivate mindfulness and an excellent practice to add to your daily health regimen. But, if meditation isn’t your thing, you can still practice mindfulness throughout the day to help calm your mind and reduce stress. Here’s how to do it.
How to Practice Mindfulness Without Sitting Meditation
The simplest way to come fully into the present moment is to be aware of your breathing. In those times when you find your mind racing from one worry to the next, choose instead to notice how it feels to breathe – the physical sensation in your nose, throat, chest, and belly. Closing your eyes may help, but is not necessary. Often, just the act of noticing your breath will help you slow it down and breathe deeper. Thoughts will definitely try to sneak back into your mind, but all you need to do is be aware that they are there and then resume focusing on your breath. This is a great way to remove distractions from your mind and help you focus your attention.
You can do this for as little as a minute at a time. And you can do it anywhere – when you’re washing dishes, taking a walk, driving, filing papers, cleaning the house, gardening, etc. Basically, any quiet activity when you may normally find yourself thinking yourself into a state of anxiety and worry in your inner stream of consciousness is also the perfect time you can instead choose to practice mindfulness.
You can take it beyond breathing and simply allow yourself to be aware of everything in the current moment. Take gardening for example: allow yourself to be aware of the sounds around you – maybe birds are chirping, or a neighbor is mowing their lawn. Notice the smells around you – the earthy aroma of soil, the perfume of flowers. And, this is my favorite, really look at a flower or a plant that you’ve grown. Noticing the details and beauty in a plant that you’ve grown can be so calming and soothing!
See how easy that is? Any time during your day that you notice your mind racing and stuck in either the past or the future, causing you anxiety and stress, you can choose to practice mindfulness instead. You’ll be glad you did.
Want to enrich your experience of mindfulness? Check out this awesome book:
Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming your present moment and your life, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D