How To Practice Mindfulness In Your Daily Life
Stress is a prominent part of our lives today, often causing us to move at a rapid pace and forget to take time to slow down. In the United States, over 30% of adults experience an anxiety disorder at some time in their lives, and that number is expected to grow in the future. It is no wonder, then, that more and more people are showing an increased interest in natural ways to slow down and reduce stress. This is where mindfulness—the practice of bringing one’s attention to the present—can help. If you have been experiencing mental health-related concerns, or you would simply like to better connect with your thoughts and feelings, mindfulness can help quiet your mind and calm your body. Below, we’re going to cover mindfulness, its benefits, and how you can start practicing it in your everyday life.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the act of being fully present in the moment—aware of our actions, thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. Doing this can help us focus on tasks, reduce stress, calm our bodies and minds, and avoid getting overwhelmed. Mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular, with the number of people engaging in the practice in the US tripling between 2012 and 2017.
Living mindfully may seem simple, but in today's world, it can be difficult to achieve a state of mindfulness. We frequently encounter opportunities for distraction and are often pulled away from the present moment without realizing it. Think about your daily life. You may find that, at times, you get lost in your thoughts and drift off. Or, you may spend time scrolling through your phone, even when you are with other people. With the plethora of distractions available to us at all times, it can be hard to live in the present—but mindfulness can help.
Mindfulness And Mental Health
Mindfulness can help you stay in the present and recognize your thoughts without judging them. For those who struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental health-related concerns, this focus on the present and connection with their thoughts and feelings can have a positive impact on daily life. There is a growing body of research showing that mindfulness can help reduce stress, improve focus, and decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety.
How To Practice Mindfulness
Clearing your mind and focusing on the present moment can be more difficult than it sounds. It often takes repetition and consistency to develop a mindfulness practice; but with a few useful techniques, you can get started as you go about your day. The following tips can help you practice mindfulness in your daily life.
Pay Attention To Your Breathing
We are all constantly breathing, but when was the last time you paid attention to your breath? One way to practice mindfulness is to focus on your breath when your mind starts to wander. To start, simply take a moment to focus on your breath. Notice the air as it flows in and out of your nose and mouth. Feel your stomach expand and then fall as you breathe. Focusing on your breath can bring you to the present and help you practice sustained attention, which are both principles of mindfulness. Plus, deep breathing can help foster calmness and reduce stress.
A core component of mindfulness practice, meditation can alleviate anxiety, improve focus, and promote calmness. To start, find a quiet place to sit or stand still and focus on your breathing. As you breathe, draw your attention to your feelings, both physical and mental. Are you warm, tired, or energetic? Are you happy, angry, or bored? Try to also take note of your surroundings. What does the environment feel, sound, smell, and look like?
As thoughts come into your head, let them pass without judgment. If you find that you’re feeling sad, for example, simply acknowledge the sadness, without questioning why or reacting to this emotion. Meditation can help you better recognize how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors connect, which may benefit your mental well-being in the long run.
Leave The Headphones At Home
It has become common practice for many to put on headphones and listen to music or the latest podcast while we are walking or commuting. To live more mindfully, try leaving the headphones at home while you’re out, at least once a day. Putting on headphones can cut you off from your senses and the outside world and prevent you from experiencing what is happening around you. Walking around without headphones makes your mind free to tune in to your surroundings and the present moment. Listen to the sounds of the city, nature, or a companion.
Find Your Flow
Do you have a hobby that you fully engage with, to the point that time flies and you don’t even realize it? This is called a flow state—a zone that we often get in that allows us to focus only on what we’re doing. You can experience this state in everyday life, while you’re doing chores, working, or just having a conversation.
Think about how you get into a flow state normally. Do you find a quiet space? Turn your phone off or eliminate other distractions? Setting yourself up to get into that mindset can help you get started. Try to focus on one project at a time, instead of multi-tasking. If you find your mind wandering, try to bring it back to the task at hand. Getting into a flow state can help you stay in the moment, block out distractions, and get more done.
Mix Up Your Routine
We often become so used to the world around us that we stop paying attention when we’re in familiar environments. Try switching up your routine to introduce new experiences into your life and keep you engaged with your surroundings. You can take a different route to work, go to a new park, or try a different coffee shop for your morning drink. Even making simple changes to switch up your everyday routine gives you the opportunity to engage with your environment and practice being present in your surroundings.
Slow Down Your Meals
It is rare that people today fully focus on the act of enjoying a meal. While eating, many people also read the newspaper, scroll through their phone, or watch TV. Mindful eating can help you slow down and enjoy your food—and it can even improve your digestion.
To practice mindful eating, try not to do anything else when you sit down for a meal. Just sit with your food and eat slowly. As you do so, notice the textures, appearance, and smells of the food. Take note of the different flavors and how the food feels in your mouth. This practice not only teaches you to be fully present but allows you to connect with your senses in ways that many people miss out on during mealtime. Try to keep this mantra in mind: "When you eat, eat."
Complete Everyday Tasks Mindfully
One way to practice mindfulness, while also increasing productivity, is doing chores, work, or other daily tasks in a deliberate, purposeful way. You can practice mindfulness while you clean the house, mow the lawn, drive to work, or exercise. Doing this can help make chores more pleasant, even those you may have found particularly undesirable. Research shows that mindfulness can help individuals feel more comfortable completing tasks that they previously avoided.
For example, when you’re doing the dishes, try to be present and engaged. Focus on the task at hand, how you’re going to complete it, and what it feels like as you’re doing it. What does the soap feel like? How do the plates feel in your hand? Draw your attention to the ritual of the task instead of focusing on unrelated stimuli. You may find that time goes by a lot faster and—possibly—that you actually enjoy doing certain chores.
Foster Mindfulness With Online Therapy
Studies suggest that online therapy can help individuals utilize mindfulness techniques while managing symptoms of mental health conditions. For example, the results of one study showed that participants in online therapy that had a mindfulness component experienced significant decreases in symptoms of anxiety and depression. Researchers found that participants’ mindfulness scores increased, as did their psychological well-being and function.
If you’d like to explore the benefits of mindfulness while working with a professional, online therapy can help. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can work with a licensed therapist remotely, through video call, voice call, or in-app messaging. Additionally, your therapist can connect you with useful resources, such as at-home exercises, that may help you practice mindfulness outside of sessions.
A widely accepted method of alleviating certain mental health concerns, mindfulness can help you relax, reflect, and connect with your thoughts and feelings. If you’re looking for further help practicing mindfulness or addressing life challenges, consider taking advantage of an online therapy service. With the right tools and strategies, you can become more mindful and live a happy, healthy life.
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