Have you ever heard the advice to live in the moment and “just be”? This is mindfulness in action, a state of mind that allows you to “observe” your thoughts without judgment. When you’re mindful, you focus on the present moment without letting your mind wander to past events or future obligations.
If a concern enters your mind, mindfulness allows you to let it drift right on through so the stress cannot throw you off kilter. Mindfulness meditation may be particularly beneficial, even offering pain relief among other physical and emotional benefits. Getting started is easy. Try this basic mindfulness meditation from Harvard Medical School:
- Sit cross-legged on the floor or in a straight-backed chair
- Focus on your breathing, noticing the air flowing into your nostril and out of your mouth, or your belly rising and falling with each breath
- Once you’ve become focused, slowly widen your awareness to include sounds, sensations and ideas
- As you experience different thoughts, allow them to enter your mind without judging them as good or bad
- If you begin to have racing thoughts, focus once again on your breathing and then try to gradually expand your awareness again
According to Harvard:
“The effects of mindfulness meditation tend to be dose-related — the more you practice it, the more benefits you usually experience. A less formal approach can also help you stay in the present and fully engage in your life. You can practice mindfulness at any time or during any task, whether you are eating, showering, walking, touching a partner, or playing with a child.”
If you feel you don’t have the time, patience or inclination to practice mindfulness meditation as described above, you can try the following simple activities to encourage a more mindful state virtually anytime and anywhere:
- Focus your attention on sensations in your body
- Breathe in through your nose, noticing the air as it moves into your lower belly. Allow your abdomen to expand fully, then breathe out through your mouth, noticing the sensations of inhalation and exhalation
- Engage in the task at hand slowly and with full deliberation, engage your senses and notice each sight, touch and sound
- If your mind wanders from the task at hand, bring your focus back to it by focusing on your sensations and senses
Mind-body exercises, such as yoga, can also help you to promote mindfulness by focusing on deep breathing, relaxation and slow, purposeful movements.