Recently, the concept of mindfulness has increased in popularity, and researchers have determined that regular practice decreases stress and anxiety. Before one can incorporate mindfulness in daily life, it is necessary to understand what it means to be mindful. In short, mindfulness is present moment awareness. It is the state in which one observes feelings and thoughts and withholds judgment in an effort to live actively in the moment. With daily practice, mindfulness can be as relaxing as a massage. There are many ways in which to practice mindfulness, but the following two exercises are perfect for the beginner’s mind.
Meals were once a time when families gathered together to recap their days and share experiences, but with the hustle and bustle of increasing obligations, we often rush through meals to pick up kids, drive to appointments, and buy groceries for our next hurried meals. To start your journey to mindfulness, eat mindfully. Eating mindfully is the awareness of the internal and external experiences of eating. While you eat, pay attention to the colors, textures, and flavors. Listen to the noise your food makes and observe the changes in temperature that occur from the beginning of your meal to the end. Look closely at your food and note the various shapes and shades. While you mindfully observe the external experience, the second step is to pay attention to your thoughts. Try to refrain from the impulse of watching television, reading, or checking phones and computers. When your mind pulls you to your to-do list, gently bring it back to the experience of eating. Practicing mindful eating will increase the ease with which one is able to slip into the present moment.
When practicing mindful listening, the goal is to observe sound in a non-judgmental way. That is to say, listen for the sole purpose of absorbing sounds. Mindful listening encourages the present moment to blossom while nudging the past farther in the distance. For five minutes each day, sit in silence – either indoors or outdoors – close your eyes and listen to the symphony occurring around you. Acknowledge sounds and catch new ones. The next time you sit outside or listen to a piece of music, close your eyes and allow the sonic threads to flourish in your mind. Concentrate on each thread without passing judgment (e.g. That bird’s chirp is too loud), and enjoy the experience of listening. You will begin to notice that your breathing and heart rate slow down while engaging in mindful listening.
Mindfulness is an excellent way to decrease stress and anxiety, and anyone can master this technique with daily practice. As with most new undertakings, mindfulness may initially feel pointless or unhelpful, but there is great value in taking time out of one’s life and living in the moment.