How would you like to reduce stress and emotional reactivity, and increase focus and well-being? You can improve your health while you're at it. What if I told you that cultivating mindfulness can bring these rewards? There are even more benefits. Research suggests memory gains and relationship satisfaction are also associated with mindfulness practices.
There are as many ways to become more mindful as there are people, so here are my suggestions for cultivating your mindfulness. You have to try them out, and see what fits for you.
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Breathe mindfully, by taking slow breaths that start in the abdomen and work their way up to the top of your head, exhaling as slowly as you breathe in. Spend 5 minutes a day breathing this way. Try breathing into your stress, be it a stressed muscle or a stressful thought.
Notice your thoughts without judgment. This means just noticing, not questioning, editing, criticizing or controlling your thinking. Observe your thoughts nonjudgmentally for 5 minutes each day.
Experience what you're feeling in your body without trying to change it. Take 5 minutes daily to do a body scan. Start at your toes and work your way up to the scalp, just noticing what's going on in your body. Simply be aware of places you're tight, loose or neutral.
Focus on what you're doing with awareness. Whether you're walking (feel the air on your face and your feet hitting the ground), eating (notice texture and taste) or sitting (attend to body temperature and heart rate), try noticing all the perceptions and sensations you experience during a 5 minute period.
Meditate daily. Choose a type of meditation that suits you. There are many options. Do it daily for 5 minutes on your own, or find a meditation center or group where you can practice and learn. Many people find that practicing with a group deepens the experience.
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Practice loving kindness toward yourself and others. This is a meditation in which you wish for things like safety, health, happiness or freedom for yourself. Then you extend that wish to your loved ones, to acquaintances, and finally, to your not-so-loved ones, for 5 minutes of your day.
Practice an ancient healing art like yoga, tai chi or qi gong by spending 5 minutes a day on it. Taking a few classes will teach you the basics. Simple poses can be learned in no time on-line. You can practice alone. As with meditation, sometimes practicing with your kids, partner or a friend is a nice change.