Many of us are no strangers to stress. In recent times, attention has turned to the practice of mindfulness as a mechanism to decrease stress levels and improve overall physical and mental health. As we will discuss, mindfulness and wellness are two qualities that go hand-in-hand. According to the Harvard Health article, “Benefits of Mindfulness”, practicing mindful techniques has been shown to lower blood pressure, treat heart disease, improve sleep, reduce chronic pain, as well as alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties. Mindful-based practices force us to focus on the present: ultimately becoming more conscious of our daily personal experiences. Below are five, simple mindful-based practices that can be incorporated into daily life; whether your days are slammed by a busy schedule, or you are looking to devote some time in the long days of summer to improving your wellness:
1. Start your day with purpose
Before you step out of your comfy bed linens to begin your day, it is important to outline what you hope to achieve. By setting daily intentions for yourself; whether they are work-related or personal, you allow yourself to be more conscious of the progress you make as well as the interactions that take place. For example, take a moment to answer “what would I like to get out of today?” Ultimately, this practice can aid in your sense of daily fulfillment and overall connectedness.
2. Take a Moment for Yourself
Our days get busy and often overwhelming which, in turn, leaves us with the sense that we are navigating life on autopilot. For this reason, it is important to remember that you can always take a moment to step back, gather yourself, and get back on track. Check in with yourself and the intentions you set for the day to motivate mindfulness and compassion. At this time, give yourself a little love and praise for what you have achieved so far, then reflect on what you still want to be done. If you are feeling overwhelmed, taking just a couple minutes to disconnect externally and reconnect mentally can help you feel rejuvenated and ready to take on whatever the day brings.
3. Love every Bite
Every individuals’ relationship with food differs, however simply eating in a mindful manner can transform the act into a far richer experience. Instead of just eating quickly throughout the day to get it over with, it is important to focus our attention to try to understand what our bodies are asking us for. First begin by acknowledging your belly, if you don’t feel the physical sensation of hunger, ask yourself “Am I hungry? And, if so, how hungry am I?” Next, eat according to your hunger. This allows you to be more in control of the amount you eat, what you eat, and when you eat. If you don’t love it, don’t eat it. Most importantly, however, practice eating peacefully. Do not rush your meal according to strict lunch breaks, slow down and continue practicing breathing while you enjoy a meal. This will not only help tune in your body and its needs, but will also aid in digestion.
4. Focus your breathing
Focused breathing is a truly grounding practice that is easy to incorporate into any busy schedule. Like many, my trusty Apple watch will vibrate once a day as it sends out pulses which guide every inhale and exhale I take for one minute. Thankfully, incorporating this practice into your life does not require technology. All you need to do is take three long, deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose to a count of 4, hold for 1 second then exhale through your mouth for 5 counts. Essentially it should look a bit like this: breathe in through your nose 1-2-3-4, hold it in for one second, and then exhale out through your mouth 1-2-3-4-5. (repeat two more times immediately after, and various times throughout the day). While you breathe, take notice of the way your chest and belly rise and fall with each breath. It really is that simple!
5. Get Active
Mindfulness can be easily facilitated through movement. Research has shown that those who exercise with deliberate intentions tend to enjoy physical activity on a much larger scale. In order to achieve this, begin by acknowledging why you are exercising. Is it for more energy or to lose weight? Simply taking into account your reasons for exercise often makes it easier to engage in these activities. Next, pay attention to your body and surroundings as you exercise. Notice what parts of your body feel different from the day before, in addition to directing your awareness to the environment: such as the air quality and temperature. Finally, give yourself the praise you deserve. Regardless if you completed your most difficult workout to date, or if you simply went on a small stroll that day because it was all you had time for; give yourself some love for showing up.