With busy lives, deadlines, chores, and long to-do lists, it’s quite easy to become overwhelmed and have anxious thoughts arise. While there are many great ways to cope with these feelings, one of the most researched/proven is mindfulness and meditation.
Have you ever meditated before? Able to be done in a variety of different forms, meditation is a beautiful way to tune into yourself and your surroundings. Some of its positive benefits include lowering stress levels, reducing harmful ruminating (thinking deeply about something), and protecting against anxiety and depression.
You might be wondering what exactly mindfulness truly means. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. This state encompasses observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad.
In the second part of this definition, I find it to be the most crucial. It’s the idea that your thoughts and feelings are valid, and not to let judgment overcome your experience. Some days you will not be able to have a completely clear mind, and that’s okay. There will be times when your mind begins to go down a winding path of rumination, but when this is happening, try your best to acknowledge this is happening, and bring your mind back to the now - revel in the present moment.
You might notice yourself utilizing mindfulness meditation in practice when you’re taking yoga classes, especially where you’re able to melt into supportive poses, but mindfulness can be done beyond the realm of the physical asana. You might even be practicing a version of this in your day to day life and not even be cognizant of it. Some ideas:
How we wake up can set up the pattern of consequent feelings for the rest of the day. When we wake up rushed and panicked, it can have lingering effects. Perhaps, instead of checking devices and scrolling through social media first thing, you start creating a morning routine that eases you into the day and sets an intention designed to keep you focused and calm. Maybe you sit on the edge of your bed with a straight spine, hands on the heart and lower stomach, and do 5 rounds of deep belly breathing, noticing the rise and fall. Then let your breath create it’s own natural rhythm until you feel ready to start the day.
Often done in the morning (but anytime really), mindfulness can be practiced sitting down with a nice cup of tea or coffee if that’s your thing. Even before you drink it, you may start to cultivate a ritual of making your drink. With each step perhaps you become more aware of the dance of the act. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, I suggest drinking herbal tea such as chamomile or hibiscus, or maybe enjoying a nice crisp cup of iced tea on hot days. It’s especially soothing with some local honey. Anyways, as you sit there holding your beverage, perhaps you tune into the temperature of the cup against your skin, smell it as the steam rises — notice the aromas, pay mind to how the flavor curls on your tastebuds, and then lastly come back to the breath and notice the in and out of air flowing.
It’s no wonder that “long walks on the beach” is the go-to answer for people who explain what they enjoy. Walking while listening to the relaxing hum of waves crashing sounds wonderful. But if you don’t have access to water, going on mindful walks within nature is a great alternative. Perhaps you tune into the way your feet feel connecting and leaving the ground, notice the way your muscles work to support you as your legs move one at a time, and how the fresh air feels flowing through your lungs. You can listen to music if that’s calling to you, but it might be delightful to listen to the sounds of your surroundings. The mixture of birds, insects, and various other animals harmoniously can be very calming and healing.
Above are just three ideas to incorporate into your life, but mindfulness is highly adaptive, and you might find other ways of incorporating it into your daily living. Even when harsh thoughts arise, know that these thoughts will still be there at another time — you are in charge of acknowledging them or not. On this, it’s important to realize that you are not your thoughts. By the mere fact that you can look at your thoughts at a distance proves this to be true. Know that thought patterns are like a ride showing up to your house unannounced. It’s up to you if you send them on their way or get in for the journey.