Practicing Mindfulness In Uncertain Times
While everyone experiences stress in life, too much can negatively impact health. Find out how being more mindful can improve health for the better and ways to practice mindfulness.
Everyone experiences stress in their day-to-day life. However, personal, local, and global stressors ranging from small to large scales can cause an internal reaction generally referred to as anxiety.
Anxiety can affect health in a negative way and increase the risk of tension, headache, body pain, high blood pressure, and sleep loss. Mindfulness is always important, and perhaps now more than ever, to mitigate such symptoms.
Read on to learn mindfulness in greater detail, along with simple ways to be more mindful in daily life.
What Is Mindfulness?
Being mindful is having a non-judgemental awareness of the present moment. In other words, mindfulness means being aware of how one feels and what actions one takes while they happen.
In essence, mindfulness is a pattern of thinking and acting that refocuses attention to the present task. It encourages pressing pause rather than constant play or even fast forward when rest is desperately needed.
Mindful techniques have been used since ancient times to help people better connect with themselves and others.
What Are Examples of Mindfulness?
Since each person is unique, methods of mindfulness can differ. However, the following are common examples of mindfulness and their potential benefits:
• Yoga: Helps with lower back or neck pain, sleep disturbances, diabetic blood sugar control, those with addiction tendencies, and in weight management.
• Meditation: Aids in reducing blood pressure, IBS symptoms, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
• Sleep Hygiene: Reduces accidents and the effects of chronic disease.
• Mindful practices in the workplace: Decreases risk of chronic disease and increases productivity at work.
• Relaxation techniques (such as deep breathing, connecting with a loved one, etc.): Adds to mindful living and improves relationships.
• Mindful eating: Aids in weight loss and develop healthy eating habits, especially for those with eating disorders or other health challenges that affect dietary patterns.
4 Ways to Practice Mindfulness Everyday
There are many small activities and exercises people can do to practice being more mindful. These tasks range from sitting with oneself and deep breathing to venturing out in the community.
1. Take a Deep Breath
While it may sound cliche, it remains one of the simplest ways to be more mindful.
Most phones now have health applications that include mindful reminders to help incorporate breathing exercises or similar practices throughout the day.
2. Take a Walk Outside
Tune into emotional and physical sensations when walking and reflect on visuals and sounds. As thoughts and feelings come, acknowledge them, and then let them pass.
Know that the truly important thoughts will return again and that the main focus is remaining mindful. Ultimately, this break from work, stressors, and other obligations can help fulfill the roles in life.
3. Practice Mindful Eating
Mindful eating, commonly referred to as intuitive eating, means being more aware of the role senses play in making and enjoying meals.
Really focus on the taste while asking some of the following:
• "What does this bite taste like?"
• "What is the texture?"
• "What is the flavor?"
Mindful eating has been shown to allow for better attention to the body signals alerting signs of hunger and appetite. It is even used in weight management and as part of therapy for eating disorders.
4. Find a Sense of Community
Find a sense of community in the quest to become more mindful. Look for local resources and build a support system with these ideas:
• Yoga and meditation classes
• Stress reduction programs
• Workplace resources and programs
• Books on how to be more mindful
• Online resources and apps with free guided meditations or music (such as Calm or Insight Timer)
How to Help Kids Be More Mindful
Mindfulness exercises can start with babies and toddlers, and is an incredible source of pleasure and security in a child's early formative years. Being mindful helps predispose them to a better, more mindful future.
There are several ways to practice mindfulness for kids, including the examples detailed below.
Teach Mindfulness to Kids
Help them understand why it is important to be mindful, and use terms that they understand. Ask them what they like to do, and then explain that being mindful can help make that experience even more enjoyable.
For example, when teaching them how to mindfully breathe it can be helpful to use words like "in" and "out" with hand motions, instead of saying "inhale" and "exhale".
Explain they are helping to make their brain healthier, similarly to how watering a plant can make a flower healthier if the plant is watered regularly.
Use Visual Cues & Tactile Toys
A visual aid such as a glitter jar can help bring attention and awareness to the present moment. Also, use a pinwheel to show the movement of breath when teaching children how to use breathing for relaxation.
All-in-all, think outside the box and be creative! What works best for your child? What can help them to grasp the concept of mindful thinking and living in the most simple way?
Join in with children and set aside all distractions and engage with them at the moment. Set a good example by being present and attentive as a parent.
Take time for simple pleasures and kids will soon see the importance of being mindful and present in their own lives.
Dedicate Time to Slow Down
Dedicate time to slow down, and make a game out of it! See how many things are sensed in the environment. Go on a walk, and ask children to tell what they see, hear, feel, and smell.
Remember to focus on the experience, and remind kids it is not a competition. The aim is to just enjoy their time with one another in nature while their bodies and minds benefit from the exposure.
Make Mealtime a Mindful Experience
Really encourage young ones to taste their food and not rush through it. "Playing" with food might actually be a positive thing, too, as it allows them to engage in their senses.
Also invite them to get "hands-on" by including them in the meal preparation process. Exposing them to meal prep helps enhance appreciation towards food.
Involve Them In Exercises
Many programs today are designed with parental figures and kids in mind.
Search favorite apps, online, or other resources for "kid-friendly" yoga, body scan meditation, and other calming exercises.
Look to local groups and online support for encouragement.
Ask friends and family who practice being present what works for them and their children, or connect with mindful individuals online.
The benefits of mindfulness for the body, brain, and overall health much have been long examined. In fact, a study on stress conducted in 2011 provided evidence of what had been achieved from mindful living all the way back to ancient times!
Researchers studied healthy individuals who had little to no experience with being present before and after they went through a program of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
The results were remarkable! The matter in their brains positively changed, including regions linked to learning, memory, emotional regulation, processing, and perspective.
In other words, researchers found that mindful practices were likely the cause of the brain matter that experienced expansion and improvement. And get this… The program was only 8 weeks long! (Just imagine what a lifetime of mindful living could do, for the health of the brain and beyond!)
More recent studies promote mindfulness-based cognitive therapy as a promising treatment for depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders.
An expanding body of research suggests positive and promising results of leading a mindful life, including:
• Lowering blood pressure in as little as 8 weeks through training and health education.
• Meditation, improving vascular and cardiovascular function.
• Weight management through the inclusion of mindful eating programs for overweight and obese individuals.
From the scientific research to the millions who practice mindful living each day, mindfulness proves to be a powerful and protective force in life.
The practice can safeguard health in the present moment and future, reducing stress, improving mood, amongst the other benefits.
While there may be chaos in the outer world, one can avoid chaos in the inner world by being more mindful.
How will you practice being more mindful?