What is mindfulness?
According to Mindful.org, ‘Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.’
The act of being mindful may sound simple. However, the fact is it’s much harder to practice than it sounds. Our minds so often ruminate on the past or obsess about the future. Before long, we feel anxious, and lose our connection with the present moment. Various studies have indicated that mindfulness is useful to reduce stress. There are many activities that you can use to practice mindfulness.
1 . Deep breathing exercises
Breathing exercises are a great way to practice mindfulness and reduce stress. When you’re focused on a breathing technique it’s easier to fully attend to the present moment. You might like to try the following techniques:
- Lion’s Breath: Often used in yoga, this breathing practice is useful to ease tension. First, you take a deep inhale through your nose. Simultaneously, open your mouth and stick your tongue out. When you exhale, you should try to make a ‘ha’ noise, the breath and the sound should be long and drawn out.
- Alternate nostril breathing: Another great technique for relaxation and mindfulness. You should inhale through one nostril and exhale through the other. The idea is to close each nostril with your fingers, as you practice the cycle. The below is with Adrienne of Yoga with Adrienne who, incidentally, offers many good FREE yoga videos and 30-day challenges.
Yoga is a great exercise to help you practice mindfulness. It incorporates relaxing stretches and postures, along with meditation. Practicing yoga has so many benefits including improving flexibility, easing stress, and raising endorphin levels. Yoga is also a helpful practice if you suffer from back pain. There are plenty of postures that can help you to ease tension in the joints and muscles. Depending on your level of pain, it can be helpful to work with a Chiropractor, before starting a new yoga practice
Making a gratitude list is a great way to focus on the present, and to lift your spirits. Studies have shown that expressing gratitude is an excellent way to improve your mental health. When you consider what you are grateful for it helps you to appreciate what you have now, without fretting about the past or future.
As we go about our daily lives we are often so distracted that we don’t fully pay attention to what’s going on around us. Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as paying attention to the sights we see. Next time that you take a walk, attempt to practice mindful observation. It works well to do this in a natural setting, such as a forest. Focus on patterns, colors, and textures as you observe different objects. Notice movement, and sounds, allow yourself to take your time.
Earthing (a.k.a. Grounding)
Walk barefoot outside, lay on the beach, touch Mother Earth. Research shows that this simple to-do task creates a beautiful energy exchange that can take place. After an initial 30 minutes of exposure to grounding, one patient reported a noticeable decrease in pain. After 1 week of daily grounding, she said her pain level was about 80% less.
Practicing mindfulness is a great way to improve your health and wellbeing. Most mindfulness exercises can be combined with a regular meditation practice.
What are your favorite ways to handle your stress? Tell us in the comments below.
Elise Ho, Ph.D., D.N.Psy
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