One of the most powerful wellness tools used to counter stress and symptoms of stress-related ailments is mindfulness. If you have heard about mindfulness, you may be wondering how to practice it. Find out how to perform mindfulness exercises and how they might benefit you.
What is Mindfulness?
When some of us think about mindfulness, it conjures up images of sitting in the Lotus position for hours in silent meditation, chanting ‘OM.’ While formal sitting meditation is one way of practicing mindfulness, there are many formal and informal ways people can use to integrate mindfulness into their lives in order to reap the health benefits.
Mindfulness involves focusing on your present situation and state of mind, with openess, kindness, and flexibility, and without interpretation or judgement. Situations that occur almost everyday to most people, including planning, problem-solving, or thinking negative or random thoughts, or overwhelming situations that are mentally or physically taxing, make it more likely for that person to experience stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression. Practicing formal mindfulness exercises – also known as mindful meditation – can help direct your attention away from this kind of thinking and positively engage with the world around you.
There is mounting anecdotal evidence to support the practice of mindful meditation for achieving a positive mind-body balance, leading to overall improvements in mental and physical health.
Mindful meditation involves an intentional commitment of time (anywhere from one minute to 45 minutes or more almost every day). Practicing mindfulness meditation trains our brains to instinctively pratice mindfulness in our daily lives – where more informal mindfulness leads to subsequent improvements in overall health.
What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?
Meditation has been studied in many clinical trials. According to the Mayo Clinic, the overall evidence supports the effectiveness of meditation for various conditions, including:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
It has also has been shown to, improve attention span, decrease job burnout, improve sleep, and improve control of diabetic symptoms.
Five Examples of Mindfulness Exercises You Can Try Today
1. Sitting Meditation
Sit comfortably with your back straight, feet flat on the floor and hands in your lap. Breathe through your nose and focus on your breath moving in and out of your body. Practice noticing your thoughts, emotions, and sensations with curious, open, compassionate, nonjudgmental awareness. If physical sensations or thoughts interrupt your meditation, note the experience and then return your focus to your breath.
2. Awareness of Breath
When you have negative thoughts, try to sit down, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Gently guide your focus solely to your breath as you naturally breathe in and out—allowing your breath and your awareness to be expansive. You may find it helpful to bring your attention to receiving (for examples, breathing in and receiving hope, peace, and joy) and releasing (for example, breathing out and releasing pain and suffering). Sitting and breathing for even just a minute can help.
3. Mindful Listening
Listen to people in your life with an open heart and mind; practice not giving advice, and just listen and allow people to be where they are. Pay attention to what you’re hearing in an intentional, open, nonjudgmental, and expansive way.
In addition, you can practice mindful listening with music:
- Select a piece of music you have never heard before. Close your eyes and put on headphones.
- Try to ignore the genre, title, and artist of the track before you begin listening. Neutrally allow yourself to get lost in the journey of sound for the duration of the song.
- Allow yourself to explore every aspect of the piece. Even if the music isn’t to your liking at first, let go of your dislike and give allow yourself to explore the track.
- Listen to the dynamics of each instrument and voice within the track; explore the song by separating each sound in your mind and analyzing one by one.
Listen intently and become fully entwined with the composition without preconception or judgment of the genre, artist, lyrics, or instrumentation.
4. Walking Meditation
Find a quiet place 10 to 20 feet in length, and begin to walk slowly. Focus on the experience of walking, being aware of the sensations and the subtle movements that keep your balance. When you reach the end of your path, turn and continue walking, maintaining awareness of your sensations. For those who don’t use their feet for mobility, this is can be a moving meditation with a focus on what you’re experiencing and noticing as you move in your chair or other adaptive device.
5. Body Scan Meditation
Lie on your back with your legs extended and arms at your sides, palms facing up. Focus your attention slowly and deliberately on each part of your body, in order, from toe to head or head to toe, and radiating out from your heart space. Be aware of any sensations, emotions or thoughts associated with each part of your body. Focus on relaxing and becoming aware as you reclaim a connection to your body and the sensations that you feel. If you’re experiencing pain, for example, the practice is to notice the sensation and not try to block it; practice noticing rather than judging, or being comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Essential Oils Can Help With Practicing Mindfulness
Practicing formal mindfulness techniques sounds easy – but it is not. It is difficult for most people to commit to the time required for mindful meditation, or to completely focus on the moment without distraction. You can train your brain to perform mindful meditation exercises by including essential oils in your practices! I recommend 5 essential oils to take you from STRESS! to zen – which are featured in my Stress! to ZenSational Essential Oil Collection.
We all have the capacity to practice mindfulness in our daily lives. Practicing mindfulness exercises as often as possible can help you to learn the skills needed to achieve overall mental and physical health and wellness. During times of change, pain, reactivity, stress, grief, or trauma, mindfulness skills and practices can help us respond and get through our most difficult and stressful periods of life.