In the hustle and bustle of today’s hectic schedules it is all too easy for us to become distracted and unproductive. A buildup of too many distractions can result in mental shutdown, or worse. We may forget about taking care of our body or maintaining good breathing which provides great benefit from each exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Even our minds can be lost in the fray so that the peaceful unity of mind and body becomes nothing more than a novel idea or secret hope.
To restore balance to inner harmony, many folks are turning to the practice of mindfulness, a concept that is now being examined scientifically and has already been found to be a key element in happiness. Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism, although most religions include some type of prayer or meditation technique. The purpose of this is to aid in shifting thoughts away from everyday preoccupations toward an appreciation of the moment, the here and now, thus giving a larger perspective on life.
When a person is being mindful, they observe their thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting life pass these folks by, mindfulness lets them live in the moment and be open new experiences. To
be mindful is to be alive, present, and at one with those around them.
According to the Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, an effective means of developing mindfulness is to procure a ‘mindfulness bell,’ an alarm of sorts which can be set to remind a person throughout the day to stop and take stock of their emotional well-being and physical comfort, and then adjust their surroundings if what they find isn’t to their liking.
While there are multiple ways to practice mindfulness, the end goal of any mindfulness technique should be achieving a state of alert, focused relaxation through deliberate awareness of thoughts and sensations without judgment. A form of meditation, these techniques will allow the mind to “reboot” then focus on the present moment.
Basic mindfulness meditation – Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Any other thoughts are clutter right now, just let them go.
Body sensations – Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment and let them pass. Be aware of each part of your body in succession from head to toe.
Sensory – Notice the things around you requiring your senses. Name them out loud “sight,” “sound,” “smell,” “taste,” or “touch” without judgment and let them go.
Emotions – Allow emotions to be present without judgment. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions: “joy,” “anger,” “frustration.” Accept the presence of the emotions without judgment then let go of them.
Urge surfing – Cope with cravings (for addictive substances or behaviors) and allow them to pass. Take note of the way you physically feel when a craving enters. Conscientiously decide for the craving to go away, then know with certainty that it will subside.
With practice and commitment, it’s possible for any of us to reduce the stress in our lives with a little attention paid to our own thoughts and breathing. We could certainly all do with a little more relaxation and stress reduction, right?
What about you?
What do you do to de-stress and create more calm in your life?