Life is stressful. Often, we go about our days accumulating worries and burdens without noticing. Work, family, friends, and relationships keep us busy, and our mental health goes by the wayside. For many, the issue becomes simply not knowing how to relax, not knowing how to step away from the craziness and find peace.
Luckily, there are ways to practice a peaceful state of mind. Things like meditation, stretching, and exercise work wonders as a way to let off some steam. But what is perhaps most important is something many relaxation and stress relief techniques share: mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a state of being or a frame of mind in which a person recognizes and is aware of their physical sensations, thoughts, feelings and surroundings. To be mindful is to pull oneself out of expectation and worries about consequence and simply exist in the moment.
Mindfulness is perhaps most commonly coupled with meditation. And it is true that a productive meditative session certainly brings out mindfulness. But being mindful is not as cut and dry as one act. It is a state of mind, and one that can be extremely beneficial.
Being mindful in your everyday life takes practice. So, as with any new journey, starting small and controlled is a great idea. Finding a safe and comfortable place in which you can sit or lie down is a good start. Next, you should explore your ideal combination of sensations.
What kind of light do you prefer? How about sound? Do you want silence, white noise, or music? Does it matter what clothes you are wearing? Where in the room can you be most comfortable. Finding the best combination for you will take some trial and error. But this process could begin to align you toward a mindful state on its own.
As you practice, you will be able to access this state of mind in less ideal circumstances, such as at work, or while you are on the go. Getting a baseline and finding a good place to relax is important, as it will be somewhere you can hopefully return if you need.
There are many things that one should be aware of when beginning to practice mindfulness. Some of the most common are bodily sensations. Paying attention to your breath, heartbeat, and the feelings in your muscles is a common way to start bringing yourself out of your own head and into a more immediate space.
In this case, you may find that one or many muscle groups are tensed without you realizing. You might find yourself holding your breath or grinding your teeth. These realizations could be hanging in the back of your mind as a sort of “I know I do this when I’m stressed or anxious,” thought. Becoming aware of them is the first step to controlling these actions is a healthy way.
Another thing to become aware of is your environment. It is all too easy for many to simply ignore the world around them in pursuit of their goals and immediate agendas. Becoming mindful of your surroundings is an excellent way to avoid the feeling of missing out due to busyness.
What can you see around you? Recognize colors, textures, and shapes. What can you hear and where are the sounds coming from? What can you smell? The senses are a good place to practice mindfulness as they can, with practice, be accessed without judgment.
Another key area to consider as you explore is what you are thinking and feeling. The best way to become peacefully mindful is to observe without criticizing or evaluating. It is one of the harder techniques to master, but it may be considered one of the most valuable.
That being said, it is not wrong or bad to be thinking of other things at the same time you are being mindful. What a practical student of mindfulness should do, though, is be aware of his or her thoughts. This is one of the most vital components of the method.
As you let slip away the things that distract you in your daily life and become away of a much smaller and more intimate world, you are often left with just your thoughts. Here is where we can attempt to observe them as we do all other things in this practice – without too much judgment.
Perhaps the most common thought to encounter for the first timer is “this is stupid” or “why am I doing this”. Immediately we can see they are judgmental and dismissive thoughts. It is this kind of self talk we can encounter, and perhaps confront, while being mindful.
Now that we can recognize the little things to be mindful of, the hard part is remembering to be aware of them when we are not primed to take ourselves out of the situation. Here are a few tips to being to inject your life with some more moments of peace.
Use a Mindfulness Artifact: Like the classic string tied around a finger as a reminder, something small you encounter in your daily life can remind you to take a breath or look around you. A sticker on your phone, a random item on your desk, or a sign or picture you see every day can be a great start.
Schedule it into Your Day: Put five minutes of restful thought into your daily calendar. Your morning or evening routine could be a prime location to add some mindfulness practice.
Keep a Notebook: For the organized or literary minded, a notebook is an excellent way to ensure that you remember to be aware. Fill it up with images, words, scribbles – anything!
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