Tame stress with these 5 mindfulness techniques
Mindfulness, often used synonymously with meditation, is a way of life. Although meditation is a mindfulness practice and helps you live mindfully they are two separate things. Mindfulness is a combination of practices that enable you to live with your mind in the present, without judgement with consideration of your reactions and behaviours. Mindfulness means having awareness and presence.
When you live mindfully you learn to take control of yourself. As life happens around you there is time for you to consider how you react to situations and people. You enjoy the moment more with less anxiety about the past or future. When life feels stressful, mindfulness techniques will bring your focus to the present and reduce your physical reactions to the stress. Self hypnosis, like meditation, will help you train your brain to maintain focus. In addition to some sessions with a hypnotherapist you can use the following mindfulness exercises at home to reduce your stress.
There are many ways to meditate, regardless of which type of meditation you choose they all have some things in common. You remain free from judgement or interpretation and your focus is in the present. Mindfulness is a way of life, meditation is a practice with a beginning and end.
All meditation is mindful, a simple meditation you can start today is a breath focus meditation. In time you will have the tools to meditate in all environments, alone in a quiet space or on the commuter train to work. You might find it easier to start in a quiet space without disturbances.
Make yourself comfortable. If necessary, set yourself an alarm for when you need to finish.
Relax the muscles of your body, starting with your scalp and moving down to your toes. This is a progressive relaxation. If necessary you can tense the muscle first and then relax it. Close your eyes if you wish.
Once you have released every muscle in your body, focus on your breathing. Notice everything you can, how the air moves in and out of your body. Where you feel it internally. How much air you take in and how much you send out. Increase your observations with each practice whilst maintaining a non judgemental, non interpretive mindset.
A popular mindful eating exercise is the mindful raisin eating exercise. This is a brilliant practice to help you understand how to eat mindfully every day. You do this by eating one raisin mindfully, beginning with the picking up of the box / packet. Use all your senses to observe everything about eating the raisin. When you pick up the packet, notice what that feels like. Is there a sound when you shake it? As you open it to take out your raisin do you smell anything?
Remove the raisin from the packet and observe how it feels. Look at it closely with the acknowledgement that like a fingerprint, no two raisins will have the exact same look or feel. Smell the raisin and when you feel ready take it into your mouth. Before you chew, move the raisen around your mouth, noticing the texture on your tongue and the taste before you bite. When you chew, listen to the sounds it makes, continue to use all your senses as you observe everything about eating the raisen slowly.
You can eat mindfully every time you eat, this prescribed exercise will help you learn how to do that but once you have the information stored in your brain you will remember to use it with every piece of food you eat.
The mindful eating exercise shows you how to use your five senses. When you live mindfully every day you will always use your senses in this way. You can use the five senses exercise to practice this. Take a moment to observe five things you can see. Next notice four things you can hear. Touch three things. Smell two things and taste one thing. You can mix this up, for example observe five things you can smell and two things you can taste. Not only will this exercise help you live mindfully but it will reduce your current stress. If you have a particularly stressful moment, take a minute to practise this exercise. You will feel grounded and back in control.
Your breathing regulates your heartbeat. When you breathe in it stimulates your sympathetic nervous system, this is the part of your body that deals with your stress response. When you exhale you stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, the part that manages the relaxed state. Therefore your inhale causes your heartbeat to speed up and your exhale causes it to slow down. This should leave you with a steady rhythm to your heart. If you feel stress and experience the racing heartbeat typical of anxiety, you can use your breath to regulate yourself.
Focus on making your exhale slightly longer than your inhale. Some people with strong visual abilities like to imagine themselves breathing around a rectangle, the inhale is the shorter side and the exhale the longer. Other people like to count, yogis will use 7-11 breathing, counting in for seven and out for 11. You can change these numbers to something that works better for you and increase the counts as you become more experienced.
A body scan is similar to the progressive relaxation mentioned above. The body scan is best done as a meditation, beginners might find it easier in a quiet, comfortable space. Close your eyes and slowly scan your body. Without judgement, observe all the sensations as you work your way through your body. You can work as deeply with this as you choose, including your internal organs if it feels right to you. This exercise helps you bring yourself back into your body. Strengthening your mind body connection and reducing stress as you do so.