How often do we find our minds wandering into a frenzy? Maybe we’re dwelling over something that just happened, worrying about the future, or trying to multitask to get everything done. Our busy lives and schedules have made it extremely difficult to mentally and physically be present. Intentionally practicing mindfulness is a great way to pull our thoughts back into the present moment and focus on the here and now. Mindfulness can help manage the stressors of a wandering mind.
What is Mindfulness?
Maybe you’ve heard the term mindfulness but wonder what it means. According to Mayo Clinic, mindfulness is “a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment.” It’s like hitting the pause button in your brain to intentionally notice yourself and your environment in the present moment. Sometimes mindfulness is better understood by recognizing what mindfulness is not. It isn’t missing our exit on the highway because our thoughts weren’t focused on driving or polishing off an entire bag of potato chips while watching TV. Mindfulness isn’t multitasking to complete projects as quickly as possible. Instead, it is focusing purposefully on the details of what we’re currently doing, thinking, and feeling.
What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?
Practicing mindfulness allows us to be more thoughtful with healthier decision-making. It can improve our mental well-being with better stress management, improved focus, and more careful responses rather than quick emotional reactions (American Psychological Association). Studies have shown that mindfulness can benefit us physically by positively impacting our heart, cognitive, and immune health. The Greater Good Science Center expands on this by highlighting research linking mindfulness to lowered blood pressure, improved cardiovascular capacity, increased attention, better immune response, and less inflammation.
Mindfulness is a key part of our health and wellness journeys. When we eat mindfully, we make healthier choices, manage weight better, and help promote good digestion. It can benefit our exercise goals by making more consistent habits around exercise, helping us recognize our physical activity achievements, and lowering the risk of injury. In general, mindfulness can help with injury prevention because it minimizes distraction, multitasking, and chronic stress. When you’re evaluating your health goals, take a moment to consider how mindfulness can be part of your program.
How Can I be Mindful?
You can practice mindfulness in a variety of ways. Here are a few options to help you get started:
Self-Reflection. Take a few seconds for a quick self-check-in and ask yourself specific questions throughout the day. Observe your current thoughts, feelings, and actions. For example, before mindlessly grabbing a snack near you, ask yourself why you want that snack and if you’re actually hungry. Also, ask yourself how much you will eat, where you will eat it, and when you will eat it. Self-reflection allows you to be more conscious of the choices you’re making.
Deep Breathing Exercises. There are so many ways to practice deep breathing. Try a method like the 4-7-8 exercise where you inhale and count to four, hold your breath and count to seven, then exhale and count to eight. We breathe all day long without thinking much about it. But when we take the time to acknowledge each breath in and out, it helps our minds return to the present.
5-4-3-2-1 Mindful Senses Exercise. Wherever you are, take just a few seconds and find five things you can see around you, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Like deep breathing, this helps divert our attention away from anxious thoughts and back into the here and now.
Guided Meditations. When you have a few more minutes, you can practice a guided meditation focusing on deep breathing, muscle relaxation, music, and more. These practices involve video or audio content with prompts to follow during the exercise. Guided meditation allows your mindfulness practice to be more structured.
When we practice mindfulness regularly, we’re more intentional about making healthier choices instead of putting poor habits on autopilot. It allows us to see opportunities for a healthy future rather than dwelling on any obstacles that arise along the way.
Written by BWS Lead Health Coach- Kelly Schlather, BS, ASCM – CEP
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