If you are a 20-something like me, who wants to reduce stress and regulate your emotions, you most likely have scoured the internet searching for meditation and mindfulness practices to sort out the stressors in your life. Especially with the current state of the world and the pressures of having to do remote learning or work from home. However, you may have found an overwhelming amount of “mindfulness” content online. Leading you to be unsure about where to begin or what different types of mindfulness practices you should include in your everyday life.
Of course, there’s nothing we can do to fully annihilate stress from our lives. However, over time I’ve learned that there are certain techniques centered around mindfulness that we can incorporate into our lives in order to experience solidarity and peace of mind. With that, I want to quickly summarize what mindfulness is and how to incorporate it into your day-to-day life.
Mindfulness is the mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment. All while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Not to mention, there are so many benefits when it comes to being in a state of mindfulness. They include decreasing your anxiety, stress, and depression.
All in all, mindfulness is about being aware. Being aware of your state of being and allowing everything that you cannot control to just ‘be.’ But how do we cultivate mindfulness? Here are 4 simple ways that will allow you to be more mindful every day and help you get started…
1. Mindful eating
This one can be tough for many people, myself included. With the stress of a new routine and the seclusion and uncertainties caused by the pandemic, it’s no surprise that many people have been finding it difficult to curb binge eating. This is where mindful eating significantly comes into place.
In addition to mindful eating, I realize that it’s not always as easy as it’s made to seem. This is why I recommend that people who are just beginning to practice mindful eating, take it slow and stick with the simplest steps. This way, it’s more sustainable to hit your goals and not deter your progress.
Here are the steps I recommend:
Sit down at the table or somewhere you can get peace and quiet
Eliminate all controllable distractions such as the television, your computer, and/or your phone.
Chew your food slowly and thoroughly
Focus on enjoying the flavors in every bite
With this step, it’s important to remember that consistency is key! Therefore, each time you find yourself drifting over to the couch with a bowl of snacks, pause, and head towards the dining table instead. This way you’re able to sit down in peace and quiet, concentrate on the dish in front of you, and immerse yourself in the experience without being distracted. While remaining consistent, you’ll soon realize that when your mind is aware and alert while eating, you do not overindulge, nor do you get cravings soon after you finished eating.
2. Mindful breathing
Seems easy enough right haha? I mean, it’s not like we’re taught how to breathe, it’s just something that is natural. However, the difference between regular breathing and mindful breathing is that you’re simply focusing on each breath that you take. Therefore, if you don’t take time to pay attention to each breath that you inhale and exhale, definitely read on! Although this one is fairly easy, don’t overlook it! There are a ton of benefits that come with mindful breathing. Including, longevity, weight loss, and lower the effects of depression and anxiety.
Here are the basic steps that I take to practice mindful breathing:
Find a quiet, peaceful space in your home or outside where you can lay down or sit comfortably.
Inhale slowly, shifting all of your attention to your breath, and feel the sensations as the air flows in and out.
You’ll begin to notice how your body feels as you sink into the sensations and slowly shift your awareness to every part of your body which seems tense or rigid.
That’s it! Super simple but often overlooked. So with this, try this exercise once daily for 10 to 15 minutes. You’ll be shocked to realize how mere minutes of consciousness/mindfulness can refresh your body and mind, as you will yourself to be more aware and breathe with intent.
3. Mindful relaxation/meditation
Mindful mediation/relaxation is a great and healthy activity that benefits your body, your mind, and your soul! And for as little as 5 minutes a day (morning or evening), you can actually rewire and change the structure of your brain and your anxious mind. It strengthens the parts of your mind that keep you focused and calm, and it tempers the part that generates stress and fear.
However, when it comes to mindfulness relaxation or meditation, many people tend to struggle. Trust me, I get it, it can be tough to fully relax and appreciate the moment when you’re stressed out or anxious. Therefore, getting started with mindful relaxation/meditation calls for a considerable amount of intent and practice.
Here are some simple steps I recommend starting out with:
Choose a quiet spot to sit down at, or lie down.
Focus on your breath, a specific word, an affirmation, or even a prayer as you try to create a positive state of mind.
Practice this daily, beginning with 5 minutes and gradually increasing it up to 20 minutes or longer.
As I mentioned, this exercise is not easy for everyone. It’s tough to sit somewhere quietly without focusing or becoming overwhelmed by the abundance of thoughts running through your head. The trick to combat this issue is to let your thoughts be. You can let the worrisome, negative thoughts barge in, just ensure that you don’t entertain them! Do not attach to any idea. In fact, many people recommend visualizing these thoughts as planes in the sky. Acknowledge them, but allow them to pass by without entertaining them. With practice and consistency, you’ll see how easily you can slip into a meditative state, and how your overall wellbeing has improved with every day of practice!
4. Mindful workouts
We know that too much stress can infect every part of our lives and many people turn to exercise as a way to combat the stress. However, there are times when our workouts may actually increase stress rather than reduce it. For example, think about those times when you set out to exercise only to spend the entire time watching the clock, rushing through your workout, and/or thinking about all the things you should be doing instead. Maybe you’re workouts feel so miserable, you deliberately distract yourself with anything you can get your hands on. Like your iPhone, Youtube videos, and the television.
When you aren’t focused on what you’re doing, you may lose that sense of satisfaction for a job well done. Not only that, but your workouts may not be as effective. Think about it; when you’re in a rush to be done, how careful are you with your form? If you add more focus to your workouts, and more mindfulness to your exercises, you might get more out of them than you think.
On the other hand, there is a benefit to zoning out during workouts. Putting on your favorite music and moving your body through a simple activity you don’t have to think about — like walking, running, the elliptical machine, etc. — can be very meditative. These activities allow your mind to roam free while your body works.
However, when you’re too distracted, you lose that connection to what you’re doing, that satisfaction of feeling your own strength and power as you exercise.
With that, here are some of my tips on how to be more mindful when you’re working out:
Have a purpose or specific goal you want to accomplish for each workout (to focus on hitting a certain area like legs or arms, to exercise for a specific amount of time, to focus on a specific area of fitness like cardio to burn calories or weight lifting to focus on building strength.)
Find your “why.” Is it to boost your energy? Practice self-care? To feel less stressed? Or for that euphoric feeling, you get after you complete a workout?
Slow down and focus on form, as well as contracting/relaxing your muscles.
Remind yourself to breathe, and really focus on your breathing after each interval or set.
Take time to warm up before your workout and cool down/stretch after your workout.
Start by being mindful during the next workout! Pay attention to what you’re doing and how it feels. Notice what it is about that workout that makes you want a distraction from it. You may discover that changing how you exercise can inspire more mindfulness and more workout fulfillment!
For more mindfulness tips, I really enjoyed reading this post!
Remember, being mindful is not about outrunning your anxiety or stressors, it’s about being present in the moment and allowing yourself to feel the emotions and sensations coursing through. It is about your intent to be aware of what you can control, and letting go of all the things that you can’t! I promise you, with time and consistency, you’ll be surprised how easy it will be to habitually make mindfulness apart of your daily routine.
With that, what are some ways you unwind and stay present in the face of stress? I would love to hear your thoughts and tips in the comments!
Have a beautiful day!