In today’s hectic world, it’s easy to feel distracted. That’s probably why mindfulness — a means of finding your way back to the present moment — is such a popular mind-body movement. “Our tech-packed days and busy schedules encourage productivity, but also constant worry over the past and future,” says Belisa Vranich, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist and founder of The Breathing Class. “Being mindful means being aware and conscious of your situation and surroundings in the present.” Some research shows that being more mindful can increase positive emotions, be as effective as antidepressants in fighting depression, and can help improve memory.
Here’s how to start working some more mindfulness into your life:
- Watch what you eat. It may sound like a foreign concept to ponder what’s on your plate — especially if you eat in front of the TV or a computer — but taking the time to eat with awareness reminds you of the true pleasure of food. You can prevent mindless munching by slowly chewing your food and putting down the fork between bites. Bonus: You’ll taste every bite and be less likely to overeat.
- Breathe deeply. When you take short and shallow breaths, your body automatically releases stress hormones. You can stay relaxed and calm your nervous system by paying attention to your breathing. Most people need practice though, says Dr. Vranich. Try this technique to improve your breathing: “Inhale for five seconds, expanding your bottom ribs and belly. Exhale for another five seconds, consciously squeezing out the air with your abs.” Repeat for six or seven breaths.
- Take a walk. Stretching your legs on a stroll is good exercise and it’s also a great opportunity to work your awareness muscles. Put the phone and headphones away — the point is to be present. As you move, notice how your body feels, feeling each step as your feet hit the ground and staying tuned into your environment. Notice the sun on your face or the breeze against your skin. Eventually you’ll find it easier to let go of nagging thoughts and learn to relax.
- Try a mini meditation. You don’t need to twist yourself into a pretzel or hold still for hours to meditate. Settling a restless mind is as simple as sitting down in a comfortable position for a few minutes, which has a peaceful, calming affect on your mood. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Visualize a peaceful image or phrase to allow your mind to quiet.
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