5 SIMPLE MINDFULNESS EXERCISES FOR STRESS REDUCTION.
When is the last time you heard from a person who was stress-free and was feeling light about their life? Well, it has been a while for me. We dream of a life where we have plenty of time and money for ourselves, everyone is loved, healthy and all our plans always go right. But things do not happen in the way we want to result in stress or our minds just go crazy and blow up stressful thoughts. On top of all these stress factors, now we have a pandemic condition that has taken over our lives limiting our ability to earn, learn and be around loved ones. Obviously, stress and anxiety will be at a sport for some time at least till we adapt to the new normal lifestyle created by the pandemic.
Being an introverted overthinker isolated with my own swirl of stressful thoughts with no social interactions brought me to the point that I would try anything for few peaceful minutes of mental relaxation. So the research began involving many searches and reading. The goal was to find a stress reduction strategy that I could easily incorporate into my daily life routine. That is when I found out about Mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques. I had heard and read about Mindfulness before, but had never practiced it as a stress relief activity.
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
Mindful.org defines mindfulness as the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where they are and what they are doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around them. In the simplest terms, mindfulness will keep you completely aware and present at whatever you do in your life at any moment.
If this is the first time you are reading about mindfulness, you will feel that it is a very easy practice to follow. Yes, it is easy if you are fully in control of the thousands of swift thoughts we have during a day. Just try this quick exercise of focusing your thoughts on a single thing (your favorite person, place, or book) for a minute. How many random thoughts which are unrelated to what you were thinking flowed in? That is why Mindfulness has to be practiced over time. None has become a completely mindful person overnight. It is a skill that we already possess but you have to learn the path to access it.
According to American Psychological Association, Mindfulness reduce rumination, helps in stress relief, improves working memory, encourages focusing, decreases emotional activities, and develops relationship satisfaction. Mindfulness further generates benefits such as enhanced self-insight, morality, intuition, and increased immunity. But followings are some other distinctive positive features of Mindfulness that I have noticed.
Mindfulness is not a stranger to our body or the mind. Being conscious about what we do is a skill that we are already possessing. But with our busy lives, we are running in autopilot mode. We just have to refresh our hidden ability to be present and aware of actions.
Mindfulness techniques will not take up another time slot in your tight schedule. You do whatever you have to do today while being fully conscious about each step of your action. You can walk, eat, or work out while being mindful about it. This is the easiest stress reduction activity to follow if you are sunk up to the neck in your schedule and do not need another task on your to-do list.
Mindfulness does not force you to change your lifestyle or actions. It will only require you to be aware of what you do or think. Obviously, being conscious about your thoughts and intentions will change your life for good but it will not be a forceful change that you have to put effort into. Mindfulness will bring in your best version even without you knowing it.
Anyone can be mindful. It is an uncomplicated concept to understand and easy to follow. Mindfulness is for adults, kids, and anyone who wishes to follow it. You do not have to change your beliefs or thinking patterns to be mindful. Whatever your religion, race, gender or age is you can start practicing mindfulness right now.
Mindfulness is a way of life. Once you get on the track of being conscious about your actions and thoughts, they will be embedded in your lifestyle. A mindful person will make informed decisions, react to incidents intelligently and have better control of their emotions. All these will add up to create a stress-free and anxiety-free lifestyle.
MINDFULNESS TECHNIQUES FOR STRESS REDUCTION.
1. Body Scan
This is an easy mindfulness exercise you can try out when you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. In this activity, you will be peacefully focusing on each of your body parts from your head to your feet. Sit in a comfortable position and bring your attention to your face. What are the sensations you feel at the moment? Does it feel cold or hot? Feel the eyes, nose, and mouth on your face. How are they positioned? Slowly move your attention down your body to your feet while mindfully feeling each part.
If you prefer, the body scan exercise can be performed from head to feet and back to the head again. Choose whatever feels the most relaxing to you.
2. Mindfulness Meditation
For someone who has a life full of responsibilities, it is hard to find a time slot in their daily schedule to sit down in a quiet place and meditate. But mindfulness meditation is a stress relief activity that you can practice anywhere with whatever little time you have.
Take a deep breath and close your eyes. Bring your attention to your breathing and notice your inhalation and exhalation. Once you feel that your flow of thoughts has calmed down ask yourself the questions such as who am I? What am I feeling now? Why am I feeling sad/stressed/anxious? If you realize that you are distracted, just acknowledge that you are distracted and bring back your thoughts to focus. I do this quick mindfulness meditation exercise when I am having a sudden mental breakdown or feeling depressed.
3. Mindful Eating
Yes! You can practice mindfulness while eating too. We are used to eating as fast as possible or eat while staring at the phone or television screen. Gobbling down food without taking time to chew or feel the taste of the food complicates our digesting process and also deprives you of the opportunity to please your taste buds.
In this exercise of mindful eating, you will eat food slowly and appreciate the taste in each bite of food. Avoid the distractions such as the phone and focus on the process of eating. Notice every step of eating, taking food to your mouth, chewing, feeling the tastes, swallowing, etc. Watch how your senses identify the tastes, smell, and texture of food. When you are eating mindfully, you will feel it when you have eaten enough and you are full. Therefore, mindful eating helps to reduce overeating and stress eating in addition to relaxing your mind.
4. Mindful Walking
Are you someone who walks to work, to the grocery store, or walks around the block for exercise? Then this mindfulness exercise is for you to practice during your quick walks. Instead of worrying about the load of work you have to get done today or the few tasks that you missed to do yesterday, make that few minutes of walking the time for your mindfulness exercise which will help you to put your thoughts on focus and get back to work with a straight mind.
Focus your thoughts on your feet and the process of walking. Notice how you lift your feet from the ground and land it back. Observe what is happening around you, the honking vehicles, unknown people passing by you, or the trees that shade your path. Be fully present at the moment and be aware of what your body does and feels. It can be a short walk but still with mindfulness, you can make it a quick stress relief therapy.
5. Five Senses Mindfulness exercise
We all have our moments where we lost control of our emotions. You are in a nice mood and in the next moment, you will feel a rush of anger, sadness, frustration, anxiety flowing towards you. It is fine to have such strong emotions but we have to take back the control as soon as possible. This five senses mindfulness exercise is the best to acknowledge your emotions and get them back on track.
In this exercise, you will be pointing out the sensations captured by each of your senses. Look around you and silently notice what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. Observe the colors, rhythms, different tastes, and textures. Your complete focus should be on what is happening around you. After few minutes, you will feel that your strong emotions have melted away and you are back in a good mood. I love this mindfulness exercise as I can practice them at any place and always help me to fix my moods.
I would recommend attempting all these exercises to choose what makes you feel most relaxed and matches your schedule. As I mentioned before, Mindfulness is a lifestyle and once you have mastered the art of being fully present and aware, you will be doing it every second of your day. You will not become an expert in an hour or a day. Just start it and be consistent until it becomes a part of your life. The baby steps will lead you a long way.