We all spend time thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Spending too much time thinking about either can cause anxiety and stress, which can negatively impact your health.
Mindfulness is paying attention to what is going on at the present moment. When you are mindful of what is going on right now, you are not dwelling on the past or thinking about what could happen in the future.
Practicing mindfulness can lead to lower blood pressure, better sleep, less depression, and a better sense of well-being.
Here are three ways that you can practice mindfulness in your everyday life:
- When you feel stress or anxiety, focus on your breathing. Close your eyes, breathe in deeply through your nose for four seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth for eight seconds. Repeat at least four times. Focus on your breathing. As you breathe, let go of any thoughts about the past or the future.
- Take a break, pay attention to the present moment, and what is happening around you. If you are outdoors, notice the breeze, the clouds in the sky, the color of the leaves, or the sounds of nature. Focus on your senses and not on any thoughts that cross your mind. If you are inside, focus on an object in the room. Look at this object (could be a picture on a calendar or an artificial plant) as if this were the very first time that you had seen it. Relax into observing it. Notice the colors and textures of the object.
- Find a quiet place to sit comfortably and focusing on your breathing. As various thoughts cross your mind, take note of them and name them. If you are thinking about paying bills, stop and acknowledge the thought (such as “Yes, I am worried about that.”) By labeling the thought, you interrupt the feelings of stress or anxiety that arise from the thought. Then, let the thought go and return your focus to your breathing. Start out doing this twice a day for three minutes at a time. Over time, you can build up to longer periods.
Remember that practicing mindfulness is like physical exercise: the more often that you practice, the better that you become at it.