Mindfulness transforms how we relate in our daily life. When we are mindful, life feels more spacious and less chaotic. We react less and experience more. It can be hard to find the time to practice mindfulness. But few practices offer as much potential for transformation as does mindfulness. With regular practice, we can begin to experience stress and anxiety differently. Mindfulness creates the space needed to choose outcomes and experience the world in a whole new way.
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness shifts us out of our default mode
Many of us spend our days on autopilot, not aware of what we are experiencing. When on autopilot, we do not experience the world as it is. Instead, we experience the world through the filter of our mind, our past, or whatever thoughts we are having in the present moment. When we do notice something in the present, our default is often to judge instantly and react quickly. In these moments, we are likely not reacting 100% to the present experience, rather we are reacting to a memory, thought, or belief that is only loosely related to the present moment.
Imagine the possibilities if you could fully focus on the present moment without interference from past experiences, fears, or beliefs. Mindfulness is how we get there. When we are mindful in the present moment, we see things are they are, not as we imagine them to be. Mindfulness helps us be present in our lives and gives us control over our reactions and repetitive thought patterns. It helps us pause, get a clearer picture of a situation, and respond more skillfully
If this description of mindfulness sounds different that your default way of being, you may find yourself wondering how you can become more mindful. Maybe you are experiencing a lot of anxiety and worries, and you would like to learn how to be more mindful to help with anxiety. If so, this blog is for you. In this blog, you will learn what mindfulness really is and 3 practical steps you can take right now to be more mindful in your daily life.
3 Mindfulness Exercises You Can Try Today
1.Mindful Breathing for Anxiety
This mindful breathing exercise will help you build the mental muscle needed to focus your attention both towards desired thoughts and away from undesired thoughts. If you struggle with anxiety, this breathing technique is a great place to start.
This exercise can be done standing up or sitting down, and anywhere at any time. If you can sit down, that’s great, if not, no worries. Either way, all you have to do is be still and focus on your breath for one minute. Start by breathing in and out slowly. The length of each breath will be different for each person, but a good rule of thumb is to breathe in for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, and then breathe out for 5 seconds. We call this 5-5-5 breathing or a breath work meditation.
Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, letting your breath flow effortlessly in and out of your body. While you are breathing, let your attention move to your breath. You may find it difficult to stop thinking, and that’s ok. The goal is to notice your thoughts without getting lost in them. Whenever you have a thought, notice it and then let your attention come back to your breath.
As you are intentionally focusing on your breath, you may notice the feeling of the air as it fills your body. Allow yourself to notice the rise and fall of your stomach and the sensation of air flowing in your nose and out of your mouth. If your mind wanders and you have trouble focusing on your breath, that is okay. It’s actually the point of this exercise! When you catch your mind wandering, just notice where your mind is and then come back to noticing your breath. To begin, set a timer for 5 minutes. There is no minimum or maximum length of time that you can practice this exercise. Some days will be easier than others, and that’s okay!
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” – Amit Ray.
2. Mindful Observation to Help with Depression and to Cultivate Gratitude
Do you struggle to find the good in things? Do you tend to jump to worst case scenario? Mindful observation is a mindfulness technique that strengthens your ability to focus. Often when we are anxious or depressed, it can be hard to turn our thoughts in a more positive direction. While these exercises are not a cure-all for anxiety or depression, they can certainly give your brain a boost when it comes to having more control over where you focus your attention.
This exercise is incredibly powerful as it helps you notice and appreciate the simple beauties that surround you each day. The calming effects will become more tangible the longer you practice this exercise. Choose a natural object from within your immediate environment and focus on watching it for a minute or two. This could be a flower, an insect, the clouds, or even the moon. Don’t do anything except notice the thing you are looking at. Simply relax into watching for as long as your concentration allows.
Look at this object as if you are seeing it for the first time. Visually explore every aspect of its formation, and allow yourself to be consumed by its presence. Allow yourself to connect with its energy and its purpose within the natural world. If your mind wanders and you have trouble focusing on the object, that is okay. When you catch your mind wandering, just notice where your mind is and then come back to noticing the intricate details of your chosen object.
3. Mindful Awareness to Become More Present in Your Life
If you struggle to stay present and in-the-moment, mindful awareness exercises can help. This exercise will strengthen your minds ability to stay present and aware. You will also sharpen your mind’s ability to focus and notice the little things around you. If you have experienced trauma or other attachment related injuries, then this exercise may be difficult for you. If staying present is especially triggering or difficult, please seek the support of a trusted counselor who can help you in your healing journey.
To begin, think of something that you do every day; maybe something you take for granted, like opening a door. (you can choose any task or action that calls to you). Every time you go to open a door, pause to intentionally notice all your sensations and surroundings. Notice the feel of the doorknob, the weight of the door, does it make a noise when you open the door? You may notice your heart and breath, even the thoughts you are having in that moment are part of this little snapshot. You may even feel gratitude for your hands as they open the door. As you begin to melt into this exercise, trust your intuition as it guides you to notice and appreciate things in whatever ways serve you in that moment.
“Every one of us already has the seed of mindfulness. The practice is to cultivate it.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindfulness is your superpower
With regular practice, we harness the ability to root the mind in the present moment. When fully present, we are more equipped to deal with life’s challenges and to handle anxiety and stress. As we learn to direct our awareness, we have more control over our thoughts and can choose where our attention goes.
If you are struggling with anxiety or depression and would like help learning any of these techniques, counseling at The Well House can help. Our Counselors are trained to help you heal from past traumas and can teach you mindfulness techniques that you can use anywhere. We offer counseling both in person in our Southlake, Texas office or online via our secure Telehealth platform. Our counselors have helped people all over the DFW area to heal from past trauma, to improve their work-life balance, and to be better partners and parents. If you are interested in learning more about counseling or how mindfulness can help with anxiety Contact us today.