What do you think when you someone says you should practice mindfulness?
There’s a good chance you think: meditation, possibly long stretches of awkward silence, possibly even essential oils and incense.
Or you may even think of an overall sense of positivity and well-being.
While mindfulness helps in those areas, it really is a way of seeing the world and how you fit in it each day.
For many people living a mindful life is difficult. They find themselves caught up in the day-to-day whirl of activities until eventually they’re just doing things to be doing them. They’re not giving much thought to why they’re doing things or even much thought about how they’re doing things.
This hectic, constant activity without real thought or meaning can cause a lot of stress that often results in physical issues like restlessness, low anxiety throughout the day, a sense of being rushed but not quite knowing why, headaches, and more.
For you busy people, yes … you! … who are wanting to live a more mindful life but are having difficulty de-stressing and relaxing enough to even meditate for 5 minutes…
Here are 3 techniques you can begin doing today that will help you to relax and de-stress:
Journaling is a practice that many, many people have found to be the core reason why they are successful, why they are able to achieve goals, and more importantly – why they are able to find meaning in their life.
It is one of the biggest aspects to mindfulness techniques because it’s based on the fact that you’re doing it on purpose, with purpose. You have intention behind your action that sets in motion a sense of being mindful and in the present.
Ideally, if you journal in the morning it is to start the day with an attitude and focus that you choose. I recommend that you write down what you will accomplish today and how you feel about it. Then finish with a list of what you are grateful for in your life right now.
If you are journaling at night, then you could use this time to reflect over the day and write down what you accomplished, possibly what you didn’t accomplish and how you feel about it. Then finish with a list of what you are grateful for in your life, right now.
In time you’ll be able to go back and review your journal entries. This can be a big help to you in seeing patterns of behavior, reactions, instances that cause you stress. Of course, once you see what the problem is you can then find the solution.
Journaling is an excellent way to relax and de-stress2.
Breathe with Purpose
Chances are good you’re saying “breathe with purpose? What the heck are you talking about? If I didn’t breathe I wouldn’t be alive!”
I know, it sounds “off” doesn’t it? And yet, studies have proven1 that most of us breathe without thinking – and breathe shallow breaths. This is directly related to stress and anxiety. When you breathe deeply you will feel a difference in your body. Your heart rate slows, your shoulders relax, your mind calms a bit. Really, it does. Try it now – two deep breaths.
Using this mindfulness technique will help you calm down, lower your blood pressure, and slow your initial stress related reaction. This is breathing with purpose and can be a vital step in learning about your body reactions, keeping them in check and dealing with your stress before it causes physical injury or illness.
Meditate with Purpose
This is what most people think mindfulness is all about – meditation. They’re wrong, of course, it isn’t all that mindfulness is about. It is a bit part of it, though.
Meditation can be used to learn about your body, how it feels when reacting or responding to something else. Meditation with purpose is being focused on something in particular, in this case reducing stress, and learning what the root issue is.
How do you do this? How do you meditate with the purpose of reducing stress?
Begin with simply sitting still, eyes closed, and taking three deep breaths. While you’re breathing in and out pay attention to your heart rate as it slows. Feel your shoulders relaxing. Next, as you continue to breathe slowly, ask yourself why you were so upset or stressed or anxious about “that issue”. Then continue to breathe slowly. As your mind settles you’ll begin to see/hear/understand what happened that caused you to stress or be anxious.
If you already know what you’re stressed about and want to reduce that stress, then as you breathe in and out slowly, think about how the stress is leaving your body as you breathe out. Then think about how peace of mind and calm is entering your body as you breathe in.
These 3 techniques can be used by themselves or can be used together to help your stress levels. You can adjust them or change them as you need to and as your stress levels rise or fall. The key is to do one or all of them every day. Start now. Just today, Just this moment. Then do it again tomorrow. And the next day. You’ll soon benefit from being more relaxed and less stressed and you’ll want to continue to do these simple techniques.
1 Russo, M. A., Santarelli, D. M., & O’Rourke, D. (2017). The physiological effects of slow breathing in the healthy human. Breathe (Sheffield, England), 13(4), 298–309. doi:10.1183/20734735.009817
2 L Renee Watson MSN RN, Marianne Fraser MSN RN, Paul Ballas MD, University of Rochester Medical Center, Health Encyclopedia, Journaling for Mental Health