Do you ever find yourself with racing thoughts? Unable to take part and enjoy the present moment? Using mindfulness based stress reduction can help you to reconnect with yourself. Spending time present moment will help reduce stress and improve focus and clarity.
To jumpstart your journey into mindfulness we’ll begin by learning:
- What mindfulness based stress reduction is?
- Why is it beneficial?
- Mindfulness Resources
- 4 Ways to Use Mindfulness in your Daily Life
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What is mindfulness based stress reduction?
Mindfulness is the act of being aware in the present moment; of your thoughts, movements
The practice of mindfulness finds its ancient roots in Buddhism. However, the study of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a little more modern. Jon Kabat-Zinn introduced MBSR to the world in 1979.
Kabat-Zinn describes mindful meditation techniques as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”.
Jon Kabat-Zinn worked with chronically ill patients who were unchanged by traditional treatments at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. He combined meditation, yoga, body awareness, and exploration of personal patterns. These patterns included the patient’s emotional, physical, and mental states.
The study showed a drastic decrease in pain and stress among the participants. The 8-week study involved weekly two+ hour group training sessions, 45 minutes of self guided study, and a daylong mindfulness retreat. This is now considered the clinical standard for MBSR.
So why is mindfulness based stress reduction so popular?
- Mindfulness helps our bodies by boosting our immune systems, reducing stress and improving sleep quality.
- Our brains use mindfulness to reduce stress and negative emotions. It has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Practicing mindfulness helps entrepreneurs to be more creative, more confident and improve client interactions.
- Schools are using mindfulness to improve focus, decrease behavioral problems and decrease depression among students and staff alike.
Many big-name celebrities practice routine meditation and mindfulness exercises. Oprah, Madonna, and Katy Perry are all helping to make mindfulness more mainstream
Resources for Mindfulness
- Mindful.org– for great resources and a useful beginners guide visit this site.
- Psychologytoday.com– great resources for mental health/illness. Their blog has many ideas for mindfulness in your daily life.
- Synctuition– This high quality meditation app is perfect for helping to focus and calm your brain. Each 25-minute session has similar benefits to a 4 hour meditation!
4 Ways to Use Mindfulness in your Daily Life:
1. Pay Attention to your breath
How are you breathing? Do certain emotions change the way you breath? Breathing can have a very strong effect on our central nervous system. Which means unsteady breathing can effect the way we think.
Inhaling deeply through your nose and out through your mouth is a great way to get started. Doing this can help you to recenter yourself. There are many different ways to practice breathing. There are many ways to practice mindful breathing. Here are a few.
Box Breathing Technique:
- Breathe in for a count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of four.
- Breathe out slowly for a count of four.
- Then hold for a count of four.
- Repeat the above steps for 10+ breaths.
- Lie down on the floor or a bed.
- Put your hands on your a belly.
- Take a big deep breath in through your nose.
- Feel your abdomen expand like a balloon.
- Slowly breathe out through your mouth while contracting your belly muscles.
- Repeat as necessary (5-10 breathes)
2. Perform a Body Scan
A body scan is a great way to call attention to your each area of your body. Body scans help train your brain to bring your full attention to the present moment. You do this by checking in with each body part.
A body scan is best preformed while lying down with your eyes closed. Quietly check in with each body part starting from your head and working your way down to your toes.
Pay attention to any sensations you may come across. Do you feel a tightness in your lower back? A pain in your knee? Look for tingling, warmth, tightness, pain, buzzing, coolness, and anything that just feels “different”.
Investigate these sensations as you feel them. When you feel you understand these sensations intentionally let yourself move on to your other body parts. If your attention drifts during a body scan take note and recenter your thinking back on your body scan.
3. Express Gratitude
Creating a gratitude practice is a mindfulness activity that helps to cultivate appreciation and understanding. Expressing gratitude helps us stay mindful in our everyday lives.
You can express gratitude to yourself. Your body. The universe. The food you eat. And, the people in your life. You can express gratitude in many different ways. For instance, you can write down a few moments of gratitude each day.
Try writing down the things you’re thankful for at the beginning or end of each day. You can also go out of your way to tell the cashier, barista, and others “thank you” in a sincere way to show your appreciation. Or you can keep a jar of gratitude and each day place a slip of paper with a note of gratitude inside.
4. Meditation for Mindfulness
Meditation is a way to focus and quiet your mind. Which can be super helpful at reducing stress, improving cardiovascular health, and even reducing pain.
By spending a few minutes each day looking inward we can also improve our self-awareness. This can help to increase our confidence and empathy for ourself and others.
To get started find a guided meditation that you enjoy. Quieting your mind is a practice that can take time to master, however taking just 3 minutes to do so each day can help center yourself.
My favorite time of day to meditate is right before bed. This helps me to quiet down after a busy day and let go of anything that might be bothering me.
Tips for Easy Meditation
- First, sit or lay comfortably.
- Then close your eyes gently.
- Begin to breathe naturally.
- Then focus your attention on your breath and how your body reacts to each breath. Try breathing in for a count of 4 and out for a count of 5.
- As outside thoughts come up gently brush them aside and refocus on your breath.
Also, you can try guided meditations:
If meditation is difficult you can start your meditation practice by following guided meditations. A guided meditation is a recording that will walk you through each step of the meditation.
- 5 Minute Guided Meditation to Breathe and Relax
- Meditation for Gratitude 5 Minute Meditation
- 10 Minute Chakra Meditation
Mindfulness and You
Mindfulness based stress reduction is a great way to quiet your mind, appreciate the good in life, and recenter yourself. By adding simple mindfulness practices like the ones above into your life you can relieve stress more easily.
I try to meditate and practice gratitude each day. And I get outside at least 5 days a week. The time commitment is very minimal (approx. 10min a day) and this practice makes me so much happier!
Do you practice mindfulness? Leave a comment below and tell us about your experience with mindfulness.