Think for a moment about your morning routine. How quickly does your mind go to the list of things you want to accomplish in the day? How fast do you grab your phone to check email, social media, or the news? Do your household look more like a hurricane of activity or a relaxed day at the beach? If you're like many people, your life can feel more like a frenzied sprint to get things done rather than a steady step-by-step stroll.
This state of being constantly pulled in a million directions, and the stress it causes has prompted a not-so-new concept to reemerge and go mainstream. It's called mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to be present in the moment, and be aware of yourself and your surroundings in real time. Sounds good, right? But in our high tech, fast paced, on demand world, can mindfulness help, or is a just another buzzword?
Connect with Calm
Accounts of people practicing mindfulness stretch back thousands of years. In fact, researchers point to the fact that our brains are naturally wired to function best in a state of being present. In that way, mindfulness is not so much a new concept but rather a return to our best functioning selves.
While research is still ongoing, many studies have shown that people practicing mindfulness often have:
- Lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol are linked to blood sugar imbalances, weight gain, a weakened immune system, cardiovascular disease, fertility issues, gastrointestinal disturbances, and many more health issues.
- Better memory function
- More energy
- More resilience during stressful times
- Increased connection the protective tissue in the brain
- More compassion
- Better immune systems
- Lower risks of depression and anxiety
- Stable blood pressure
- Fewer problems maintaining a healthy weight
- Restful sleep
- Natural pain relief
- Brains that age slower
- An easier time accomplishing goals
Practice Makes Peace
If you like the benefits of mindfulness – it gets even better! You don't have to be a yoga guru or meditation expert to practice mindfulness. You can start today by practicing these simple but effective mindfulness techniques:
- Pause and notice the rise and fall of your breath.
- Choose a single task to focus on, like eating breakfast or brushing your hair.
- Take notice of your five senses. What do you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel? Take note not to label your observations as either good or bad. Just let them come to mind.
- Notice sensations in your body. Scan from head to toe and notice what your body is feeling. Does your nose tickle? Does your leg itch? Simply notice these sensations without judgment.
- Ask yourself how you feel in this moment. Again, no judgments, just observations.
- Don't try to stop wandering thoughts. Simply let them pass through your mind, and bring your attention gently back to your breath.
Start by practicing mindfulness during one or two activities in your day. In times of stress, use mindfulness to "check-in" with your body and your emotions. Approach your mindfulness practice with curiosity rather than judgment. If you're not sure where to begin, start by tuning into your breath.
Among the many catch-phrases and buzzwords out there, mindfulness seems to be one with staying power. It's hard to deny the benefit of being present, focused, and self-aware. Remember, don't worry about doing it perfectly. With a few simple steps, you can be well on your way to a calmer, happier you.