With a million things all going on at once in our lives – work, family, friends, school, health, news, etc., it’s hard to think about focusing on just a few things at a time, let alone just one. However, it is possible to train yourself to focus in just on what you are thinking or how you are feeling in the present moment (without judgement); this is mindfulness.
While not a new concept, mindfulness has been gaining more attention in today’s society as a way to increase awareness between the mind and body and to help improve concentration. Additionally, it also comes with health benefits, such as reduced anxiety and depression, ability to help lower blood pressure, improve sleep, and even help reduce pain.
As with any skill, learning mindfulness takes patience and practice. Below are some tips you can use to begin implementing a mindfulness routine:
- Start with a body scan – close your eyes and check in with how each part of your body is feeling. Remember to take deep breaths as you start to think about your feet, and then move up your body. Notice if there is any discomfort anywhere as you “scan” upward.
- Practice deep breathing – breathe in through your nose in a way that engages your diaphragm. You should be inhaling all the way down to your belly for 4 counts, pause for 1 count, then gently exhale through your mouth for 5 counts.
- Be mindful in the way you eat – notice the tastes, textures, and smell of what you are eating. Practice chewing slowly and checking in with your body frequently to notice when you are full. It can be helpful to focus just on the meal and not be multi-tasking by watching TV or reading while you eat.
- Take a walk – don’t bring headphones or other distractions with you, just enjoy walking and noticing your surroundings. Pay attention to your breath and what you see. It’s okay if other thoughts or worries enter into your mind, you can acknowledge they are there but then try to return yourself to the present moment.
For more information on mindfulness and its benefits, both physically and mentally, visit the NIH’s June 2021 online newsletter: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2021/06/mindfulness-your-health.