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The Gift of Presence

Practicing mindfulness reduces anxiety

Have you ever found yourself starting to dread work on Monday by midday Sunday? Lamenting the conclusion of a vacation before it even ends? It’s human nature to allow the future to infringe on the present, but the unfortunate side effect of that common habit is that you’re robbing yourself of peace and denying yourself the joys of being fully immersed in a moment. Mindfulness is a practice that can help you focus on what is instead of what will be, and can lead to a greater sense of calm.

Mindfulness as a mental state is the result of focusing your awareness on the present moment. It involves calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, surroundings, and sensations without getting overly involved with those thoughts or forecasting into the future. Mindfulness is the core of meditation, but can also be employed as needed by being aware of, and willing to refocus, your thoughts.

Life tends to pass us quickly, and too much of that precious time is spent worrying, complaining, or thinking about things outside of our control. Mindfulness gives you the power to rein that in, and the ability to enjoy the here and now.

Find your focus

Mindfulness is a practice; a skill that requires development. You’re very unlikely to be consistently good at it simply because you read an article on the internet and liked the idea. You have to devote time and effort to understanding and implementing it in your daily life.

Here are some tips to get started:

Just breathe: It sounds easy enough, but breath is the core of mindfulness. The natural rhythm and cadence of your breathing provides the perfect inspiration for a calm sense of focus. Close your eyes, and breathe all the way in through your nose until you feel your rib cage expand – pause at the top of your breath before emptying your lungs completely. Concentrate on the sound of your breath and the sensations in your body.

Get grounded: Sit on the floor with your legs crossed or in a firm and supportive chair that allows your feet to be flat on the ground. Rest the backs of your hands on the tops of your legs. Draw your spine up, while allowing your shoulder blades to drop down. Tilt your chin gently downward, and close your eyes. Clear your mind of thoughts, but don’t feel defeated if you find yourself distracted – just acknowledge it briefly and re-center your attention to the physical sensation of the points of your body that are making contact with a surface, and to the sound and rhythm of your breathing. Repeat as necessary.

Eventually you will train your brain not to become as attached to distracting and intrusive thoughts and ideas.

Guided meditation: An easy and excellent way to experiment with meditation is available anywhere your smartphone may be. Download an app like Calm, Headspace, or Stop, Breathe, and Think, and you can get started in as little as five minutes a day. For the greatest chance of success, attach the time allotment to a task you already perform daily – such as 15 minutes before bedtime, or five minutes after brushing your teeth to start your day. Commit to practicing for 30 days, and assess the changes in your demeanor once that period is finished.

Mindfulness is a simple concept that can be difficult to put into practice. However, once you begin devoting time to the act of mindfulness and realize the sense of ease, peacefulness, and simplicity of bringing your awareness back to the present, you will find that calmness easier to summon during your daily existence.

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