Adult life can be hard: work, bills and other worries can cause a lot of stress, which can quickly build up and cause serious problems. For instance, stress has been linked to heart disease and obesity as well as mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.
When you feel as if stress and anxiety are taking over your life, with thoughts and worries battling one another, this is where mindfulness and meditation comes in.
You may have heard of mindfulness, as the concept has been around in Buddhist practices for millennia, but recently it has become very popular in the West, especially with working professionals.
Mindfulness is scientifically proven to help fight anxiety and stress, and add to your wellbeing. As a result, it is recommended by the NHS. We also have articles on how exercise can aid mental wellbeing, and how to reduce stress at the workplace.
So what exactly is mindfulness?
Basically, it’s all about focusing on the physical reality of your body, and the world around you. It’s about slowing down and noticing (really NOTICING) what your senses pick up, and your body.
For instance, notice your breathing. What can you smell? What can you see? Notice the shapes and colours around you.
By focusing on your senses, you are separating your thoughts from the real, physical world around you. In other words, it allows you to experience the world in an open, non-judgemental way.
This is essentially a form of meditation that helps you gain control over your mind: no wonder it’s become so popular!
However, if you have a busy lifestyle, you don’t have to worry about finding a big chunk of time to sit down and meditate. Mindfulness is all about taking a couple of minutes (or even a few seconds!) to slow down and notice the world around you.
So below, we’ve gathered some exercises that you can literally as part of your daily routine, and you can even do them in public, as people won’t notice you’re meditating!
Exercise 1: Pay Attention to your breathing.
It’s as simple as that. When you are having a stressful day, simply pause and actually pay attention to your breathing.
- Follow the air as it flows into your nose. Pay attention to how it feels: is it cool air? Warm?
- As you inhale, pay attention to the breath as it travels down your throat and into your stomach, feeling it expand.
- Hold your breath for a few seconds.
- Let go of your breath, paying attention to how your body feels.
- Do this a few times, and see how you feel! Notice, you will feel a lot calmer.
Exercise 2: Analyse your thoughts
Chronic stress and anxiety is often caused by various thoughts and worries building up over time. Mindfulness helps us to confront these thoughts and see what’s the cause of all the worry.
- Often stress is a tangle of different worries, so separate them and look at them one by one.
- Objectively look at your thoughts and name them. This way, you’re emotionally distancing yourself from it. For instance, ‘here is the worry I may not be able to make my deadline’.
- Try and find a solution to them, or if you can’t do anything about it, admit that you can’t control everything in the world, and move on. After all, if you can’t do anything about a problem now, what is the point of worrying?
Exercise 3: Count your Breaths
This is a very simple but effective exercise to help you regain control of your breathing.
- Breathe in for 4 seconds.
- Hold that breath for 2 seconds.
- Exhale for 6 seconds.
- Repeat this for a few cycles until you feel yourself becoming calmer and less stressed.
Stress is a part of everyday life, but when you find yourself overwhelmed, focusing on your breathing and bringing your attention back to your body, and to these exercises will help distract you, and help you gain control of your thoughts.