We all need to hit the pause button in our lives from time to time, whether we’re feeling overwhelmed or need help refocusing our negative thoughts to positive ones. Mindfulness is one of the best tools we can use to manage stress, renew our mind and find inner calm and peace.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the awareness of one's own experience without judgment, focusing on current thoughts, feelings and senses (American Psychological Association, 2012). It allows for us to reconnect with ourselves in order to be fully present in each moment. Sometimes it’s a mindful pause, a deep breath, or a visualization process that fosters awareness of how we’re feeling.
Mindfulness is the best place to start in our self-care journey and is a great tool to use at any time, especially when faced with anxiety or stressful situations.
Why Should we Practice Mindfulness?
Research from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore concluded that mindfulness-based therapy can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain while overall improving mental health, sleep and lowering blood pressure (Harvard Health Publishing, 2014).
What Does Practicing Mindfulness Look Like?
The goal of this exercise is to help you feel more refocused and renewed.
Take a deep breath and invite yourself to be in this present moment.
Find a relaxed, comfortable position. You could be seated on a chair or on the floor on a cushion. Keep your back upright, but not too tight. Hands resting wherever they’re comfortable. Tongue on the roof of your mouth or wherever it’s comfortable.
Notice and relax your body, including the shape of your body and its weight. Let yourself relax and become curious about your body seated here—the sensations it experiences, the touch, the connection with the floor or the chair. Relax any areas of tightness or tension. Just breathe.
Tune into your breath. Feel the natural flow of breath—in, out. You don’t need to do anything to your breath. Not long, not short, just natural. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. It might be in your abdomen. It may be in your chest or throat or in your nostrils. See if you can feel the sensations of breath, one breath at a time. When one breath ends, the next breath begins.
Now as you do this, you might notice that your mind may start to wander. You may start thinking about other things. If this happens, it is not a problem. It's very natural. Just notice that your mind has wandered. You can say “thinking” or “wandering” in your head softly. And then gently redirect your attention right back to the breathing.
Stay here for five to seven minutes. Notice your breath, in silence. From time to time, you’ll get lost in thought, then return to your breath.
After a few minutes, once again notice your body, your whole body, seated here. Let yourself relax even more deeply and then offer yourself some appreciation for doing this practice today.
If you have time, linger and savor this moment as you draw your attention back to your body and back to the present moment. Continue to practice this on a daily basis as you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions, giving yourself permission to take a mindful pause as often as you can.