Our senses can be dulled by the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Some of us have work and school to deal with. Others have a family to raise. We all have to commit some time to family and friends to keep the relationship healthy and happy. As if that weren’t enough to manage, technology makes us more available, and we can be bombarded with notifications and emails throughout the day. Let’s not forget we have to eat and sleep too. When it comes to balancing this mess, there are times when we feel like we’re swimming against the waves when really we’re lying down in shallow water. Why would we be laying down instead of simply getting up and walking away? The reason for that is we are not always fully present. We are not practicing mindfulness.
When it comes to self-help, the word “mindfulness” seems to be thrown around a lot these days. With how often you hear about mindfulness, it has almost become a fad. But with renowned publications such as Time featuring the science of mindfulness, perhaps there is more to it than meets the eyes?
What Exactly Is Mindfulness?
In short, mindfulness is being fully present at the moment without judgment. The idea is that every sense is engaged in what is happening, but there is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel. You are not anticipating the future and thinking about whether you are reacting correctly, nor are you connecting your feelings to the past and dwelling in it. You are completely in the present when you are practicing mindfulness.
The Benefits Of Mindfulness
According to research done by Daphne M. Davis, Ph.D., and Jeffrey A. Hayes, Ph.D., mindfulness provides the following benefits:
- Stress reduction
- Improved working memory
- High focus
- Less emotional reactivity
- Relationship satisfaction
The same research found that mindfulness meditation improved the following traits:
- Decreased anxiety
- Better quality of life
Other research suggests that mindfulness offers physical benefits as well. It can also reduce chronic pain and improve sleep.
So how can simply being more aware do all this? Mindfulness is more than just a mindset. Studies done by the Harvard Medical Schools shows that mindfulness can literally change your brain. By training our minds to focus on a mantra, our breathing, or a single external input, we increase our attention span, memory, and ability to regulate stress.
Mindfulness Exercises You Can Try Today
Now that you have an understanding of mindfulness and how it can benefit you, here are three simple exercises you can try today.
1. Mindful Appreciation And Gratitude
This is a technique I have seen many times in different forms. The most common method I have seen is called a gratitude journal. The idea is to take some time at the end of each day to write down a few things you are thankful for. It can be a person, item, or event that made your day. However, instead of simply listing the items, delve a little deeper into why you are thankful.
For example, you could be thankful that you have a smartphone. But why do you appreciate it? Is it because it allows you to communicate with anyone, anywhere, at any time? Or maybe it’s because it’s convenient? Perhaps technology just amazes you, and you are glad to live in a time where such products exist.
Don’t be afraid to write down the simple things in life. In fact, it’s encouraged. Even if it may seem insignificant, there is always much more to it. For instance, you could be grateful that you have hot water to bathe in. A group of workers laid down the pipes and infrastructure that allows you to have water at the temperature you desire with a simple turn of a faucet. That is definitely something worth being thankful for.
2. Relaxation Breathing
Breathing exercises are great because it does not require anything, and it can be done anywhere. Simply get comfortable, and close your eyes. Inhale for four counts, and exhale for eight counts. Repeat for as long as you would like.
While you breathe, be aware of your surroundings and how you are feeling. If you are doing this exercise because you are stressed, try visualizing the air as you inhale and the stress leaving your body as you exhale. If you are doing this exercise to relax, think about your surroundings as you breathe. Be mindful of the sound of your breath, the fabric moving on your skin as you breathe in and out, the feel of your back against your chair or wherever you are.
When you are ready to open your eyes, let your last inhale and exhale be a little bit longer. Take an extra second to think about all the sensations you felt while you were breathing. Take that sense of awareness with you as you go through your day.
3. Slow Down During Meals
It’s amazing how we can speed through certain tasks without a second thought. Meals are one of those tasks. There are days when you might have to rush a meal because you have to get going. Maybe you’re playing on your phone or thinking about what you need to do next while you’re eating. During your next meal, try to set your distractions aside, and focus on your meal. Give yourself time to really enjoy your food. Pay attention to the different smells and what ingredients you can taste. If you are enjoying a meal with your family or your partner, pay attention to them as well. Listen to the conversation; don’t just hear it.
This simple technique is an easy way to practice mindfulness. Plus, you might prevent overeating and bloating!
Mindfulness is trending for a reason; it works. However, it’s not something that can be mastered overnight. Check out this complete comprehensive guide to mindfulness by John Parrott for further reading. Good luck!