Although it seems like a buzzword, mindfulness is an effective tool for reducing stress and maximizing gratitude
Mindfulness seems like a nebulous concept; a vague buzzword thrown about by those seeking some sense of spiritual superiority or who are creating a façade of having their life together in a way that exemplifies personal fulfillment. Even as a word, it seems rather esoteric and poorly defined.
However, mindfulness is actually very simple, even if it feels difficult to incorporate into your daily life.
Mindfulness is the act of living in the present moment, of being aware of what is happening in the here and now without forecasting into the future or emotionally overreacting to the past; and it’s important to your personal well-being. Consciously choosing mindfulness can help ease anxiety, maximize gratitude, reorganize priorities, and bring joy to life’s little moments.
Mindfulness can feel like something to add to your to-do list or to strive for later, once you start exercising or eating better or whatever task list represents getting your life together. But the beauty of mindfulness is that it’s not necessarily something you have to do or change; it’s an awareness to cultivate.
You can (and should) start practicing it any time with no particular catalyst or occasion. For instance – right now. Stop your inner narrator from adding their opinions to what you’re reading or from stressing about how there’s yet another form of self-care you aren’t practicing.
Take a minute to experience your physicality in simple ways: feel your breath fill and leave your lungs; notice where your body is making contact with its surroundings; listen to whatever noises are or aren’t present, without judgment. Just be.
It’s easy, right? And feels almost ridiculous in its simplicity. But in our fast-paced world filled with needs and notifications, these moments of true connectedness are important.
Meditation is a more thorough way to practice mindfulness and has proven benefits, including reducing stress, increasing your attention span, and improving sleep. It doesn’t have to be a whole ritualistic procedure either – meditation can be practiced anywhere, in as little as five minutes.
In its most basic form, meditation brings awareness to your body. Here are some simple steps for starting:
1. Find a comfortable place: Take a seated position you can maintain easily, like on a chair, bench, or seated on the floor if that works for you. Make sure your arms are parallel to your body with your hands resting on the tops of your legs, and that your feet or legs feel supported by the ground beneath you.
2. Adjust your posture: Lengthen your spine and gently roll your shoulders back; this should be comfortable. You’re not assuming some exaggerated etiquette school position, you’re simply bringing your body into its natural alignment with intention. Gently drop your chin slightly towards your chest and either close your eyes or drop your gaze downward.
3. Focus on your breath: Inhale deeply until your lungs are full and then pause for a moment before exhaling slowly until they are empty. Clear your mind of thoughts and just quietly observe the sound and physical feeling of breathing. Don’t become frustrated if your mind begins wandering or if you are distracted by nearby activity; just refocus your awareness as many times as it takes. You may benefit from the aid of a meditation app as you get started so that you have something external to concentrate on.
4. Repeat often: The key to successfully cultivating a habit of mindfulness is to practice often, even if it’s just a few minutes a day. Attach the activity to something you do daily, for instance, develop the habit of meditating for five minutes after you brush your teeth at night. Eventually, it becomes easier to recall the sense of calm meditation brings, regardless of what environment you’re in at the moment.
It’s easy to feel skeptical that something as simple as sitting and breathing could significantly change your daily life for the better, but the benefits are really not so surprising in a world that competes so chaotically for our time and attention. Quiet introspection and the act of enjoying what “is” instead of what “could be” can feel like a luxury in a busy life, but mindfulness is actually an attainable act of self-care that’s well worth the minimal investment of time and energy required.
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