Mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness has grown in popularity among Western cultures steadily over the past few decades. With roots in Easter practices, both religious and secular, mindfulness is a state of awareness and acceptance that is often achieved through meditation. Mindfulness as a therapeutic practice has proven effective in treating generalized anxiety and other mental health disorders .
How do you begin living “mindfully”? Is this something that just anyone can start doing? If so, how can you apply it to your everyday life?
Starting Your Mindful Meditation Practice
Beginning your journey with mindful meditation can feel daunting, but it does not have to be. Try starting small and adding to your mindfulness toolbox over time. Whether you decide to begin guided meditation classes at your local yoga studio or simply download one of the many mindfulness apps available for smartphones (i.e. Headspace, Smiling Mind, and more), finding what works for you and then committing to it is the key to developing your practice.
Mindfulness for stress
So often, we find ourselves in an overwhelming situation at school, work, or home. Mindfulness allows us to more effectively cope with any given situation, improving our mindset and stress management. One quick example of an exercise that you can turn to when you feel that cloud of stress falling over you is called S-T-O-P. This involves the following:
Stop what you are doing.
Take deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Observe your surroundings, including sounds, colors, and how your body responds to these stimuli.
Proceed with your day with this newfound self-awareness of body and mind.
The S-T-O-P exercise, and others like it, can be helpful in the moment and provide immediate relief from anxiety or stress. This is healthier for you personally, but also for your personal and professional relationships. Mindful meditation takes the power away from harmful thoughts and feelings, allowing you to reclaim control over your life.
Practicing Mindfulness in Your Daily Life
Mindfulness is not limited to the moments in your day that can be dedicated to meditation practices. Instead, it is a way of living that can be applied to almost every daily activity or situation, if you are able to shift your approach.
Mindful eating involves tuning in to your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues while increasing awareness of the food you put into your body. This can reduce binge eating episodes, emotional eating, and other disordered food behaviors . Eating intuitively and mindfully is an excellent long-term goal for many, and you can start by viewing your next meal as a mindful experience. Acknowledge every color, taste, and texture of your food as you eat to fully experience and appreciate it.
Similarly, mindful exercise is a great way to improve your current exercise routine. Instead of going to the gym to mindlessly run on a treadmill, try going for a hike at your local park or for a mindful walk with friends. Exercising out in nature in a way that feeds your soul while being aware of your surroundings in a mindful way can improve your relationship with exercise and body image.
Taking just a few mindful moments each day can drastically improve your way of life, including your mental health, relationships, and success at work or school. Developing a mindfulness practice allows you to tap into these coping strategies when you are caught in stressful or overwhelming situations. Take the first step today and watch your life change for the better.
: Hoge, E. A., et al. (2013). Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Meditation for Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Effects on Anxiety and Stress Reactivity. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 74(8), 786–792. : Albers, D.S. (2012, February 13). The Surprising Benefits of Mindful Eating. Retrieved September 10, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-susan-albers/mindful-eating_b_1265865.html
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