Mindfulness: Achieve Peace in a Stressed-out World
Your cell phone is ringing – again – as you drive four kids to swim practice at 6am. Your list of unanswered texts and emails is growing. You shudder to think about Facebook. Your boss is demanding a tight deadline on that big project. Add family responsibilities and – oh yeah – a social life. No wonder a majority of us are stressed out 24/7!
How can you escape responsibilities, commitments and due dates to find peace in our stressful world? The answer is simple: by harnessing the power of your mind to focus on what’s important and teach yourself to take a mental break from worries. Just a 10-minute break each day can do you a world of good.
And don’t fret: your worries and concerns will still be here after your brief mental vacation, you’ll just feel better about them.
It sounds simple, right? Try a quick experiment: close your eyes and focus exclusively on your next five deep, slow breaths, and think about nothing but those breaths. Relax your mind. Sit in a comfortable position. Focus on the feeling of the breath as you inhale, feeling the air move through your nose, down your throat and into your lungs. Notice how your lungs expand. Now, slowly reverse the process as you exhale. Can you do that five times in a row, without outside thoughts creeping in?
If you can, your journey toward mindfulness is well under way. Mindfulness is about focusing on the here and now, being fully “present” in your current situation or task. Slow down, complete one activity at a time. Resist the urge to multitask. Pay attention to what is happening right now, staying consciously aware.
About Those Pesky Intruding Thoughts
During that breathing exercise, did some pesky thoughts come to mind, such as “I’ve got to pick up the dry cleaning!” or “We’re out of dog food” or “I’m not good at this?” If they did, that’s ok. You have the power to train your mind and choose what it thinks about. Yes, you read that right: you’re in charge of your own thoughts.
If thoughts come up while you’re practicing mindfulness, picture the thoughts like fluffy clouds on a sunny day: they come into view, and you acknowledge them. But then let them float out of sight without giving them much notice. Eventually, you’ll be able to take five – and one day ten, fifteen or more – conscious deep breaths without any pesky interruptions.
Keep it Positive
As for thoughts like, “I’m not good at this” ‒ that’s a negative thought, the type it’s best to minimize. Instead, try a positive approach: “It’s good that I’m trying something new,” or “I’ll keep improving at this.”
We are, after all, what we think. With commitment and perseverance, you can train your mind to change its focus to the positive and worry less, which releases the productive and creative power of your mind.
Studies show that practicing mindfulness meditation (such as focusing on your breath) for just 10 minutes each day can have a dramatic impact on your mental well-being. It improves focus, lowers stress levels, and increases self-awareness, mood and attention span. Mindfulness can even reduce blood pressure and enhance brain function. And no matter how busy you are, you can find 10 minutes each day!
If you’re interested in taking it a step further, explore cell phone apps to encourage mindfulness and YouTube video guides for mindfulness meditation. Here’s a 5-minute guided meditation for beginners, and a 10-minute one.
Stay tuned for our next blog, detailing the benefits of mindfulness meditation.