Modern life has many conveniences designed to make daily living easier. It also brings a lot of stress. If you allow difficulties to build up, the result can range from becoming easily irritated to full burnout.
Mindfulness is a state of being in which you remain present in what is going on around you. Learning how to practice mindfulness gives you the tools to combat the impact of minor stressors. It may not solve any problems, but it helps you maintain the mindset you need to confront them.
People who work in manual labor often report a physical satisfaction at the end of the day that those who work in offices don't experience. Part of the reason for this is likely that exerting physical effort dispels stress. Many organizational leaders implement incentives for exercise because they recognize the link between physical activity and mental health.
One of the reasons physical activity may be so effective is that it puts you in the present moment. Exercise, particularly the types that require you to focus on your breathing, naturally narrows your attention to what is going on in your body. Yoga, Pilates and even running center your mind on how you are feeling and encourage relaxation.
Related closely to physical activity is nutrition. Many people struggle with how to eat in such a way that they feel truly nourished. Diet culture and body image issues leave many people with a complicated relationship with food.
Intuitive eating is a way to take your focus off what you're eating and practice mindfulness about how it makes you feel. It teaches you to ignore the unhelpful (and often unfounded) advice about eating and listen to your body. You learn how it feels to be sated and respect your body's signals.
When many people hear about mindfulness, they think of meditation and assume it is a goal outside their reach. Meditation is only one tool that can be used to practice mindfulness, and it's not as complicated as some believe it to be. Even beginners can experience its benefits by following a few simple steps:
- Set an alarm for five minutes.
- Sit in a comfortable, neutral position.
- Pay attention to every inhale and exhale, and try to breathe more deeply and slowly.
- If your mind wanders, recognize it and refocus on your breathing.
- Try to remain in the same position, concentrating on your breath, until the alarm goes off.
The first time you try meditation, you may not make it the whole time. That's ok. Over time, your practice will become easier, and you may notice that you are better able to remain calm in stressful situations. This is mindfulness at work.
The practice of mindfulness relies on being fully present with your senses. There's no better place to do this than in nature. Get outside and listen to the wind and the wildlife. Smell the fresh air. Spend some time in the garden running your hands through rich soil. Look at the beauty around you. Even if you live in the middle of a city, there is likely a park nearby where you can experience the joy of natural surroundings. Being outdoors is a great way to invigorate your senses and promote mindfulness. This is a skill you can take with you when you go back home.
You don't have to be an experienced yogi or meditation master to practice effective mindfulness in your everyday life. By incorporating a few habits that keep you centered, you can tap into this natural stress relief at any time. Before long, you are likely to find yourself handling stressful situations with more confidence and ease.