Stress persists and we are overloaded with information.
When are minds are full it can feel overwhelming! There’s a simple, quick practice you can do anywhere at any time to reduce stress is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is step 2 on our journey to becoming more resilient.
For practical purposes, we’ll describe mindfulness as gently slowing down, and bring our awareness and attention inward, and without judgment, accepting the present moment.
Stress can result in closed mindedness and even mindlessness, as if running on autopilot. This limits our ability to be present and prevents us from connecting compassionately with ourselves and others. Mindfulness increases our open awareness, decreases arousal and brings us calm and peace of mind.
Practicing mindfulness has health benefits too. Mindfulness reduces stress, and the impact of stress on our bodies, resulting in:
- Decreased anxiety
- Decreased blood pressure
- Improved immune function
- Improved circulation
- Improved digestion
- Decreased pain
- Improved sleep
Sound too good to be true? It’s not. However, it takes practice, patience and commitment.
Our minds are often consumed with information, lists of tasks to complete, and responsibilities. In these instances, we can re-focus our attention on our breath and our body to bring us back to the present moment.
In the following exercise I will introduce a guided meditation. It is designed to focus your attention inward to how you’re feeling, beginning with the breath, and expanding your awareness to include our whole body.
Let’s get started. Sit down in your chair and adjust your posture to an upright seated position.
If you feel comfortable, close your eyes. Let your gaze rest in the area of your third eye, in the middle of your forehead, behind your eyelids.
Start by drawing your awareness inward and tuning out distractions in your environment.
If your thoughts are distracting, gently pull your attention away and back towards yourself and your body sensations.
Notice any physical mental or physical discomfort? Don’t resist it. Just observe it, gently from a distance.
Now, redirect your focus on the sensation of your breath.
Breathe deeply, notice how the air slowly fills your lungs and how your abdomen expands. Visualize them filling up with clean air. Breathe out old air, and let the tension go with it.
Bring your attention back to your third eye. Let your mind rest here, in the present moment. Sit quietly, letting your thoughts drift by, connecting deeply with yourself and enjoy the quiet and calm.
This is your space. You matter.
When you’re ready to transition out of this space, bring your awareness and attention back to your body, feel your feet on the ground and slowly open your eyes.
Congratulations! You did it! What did you notice?
Mindfulness is simple, but not easy! With all the noise and information around us it is easy to get swept away and distracted. It can be hard to find inner peace when the world around you feels unsettled and chaotic. That’s OK.
Try again without judgment. Just practice. Be kind to yourself. This exercise gets easier with practice. Remember, I can give you tools but you have to use them! If you do, it will decrease your stress and anxiety. It’s your choice. Mindfulness helps build your resilience to stress, and increase your overall health, happiness and well-being. One step at a time. Let’s walk. We can do this together!
Dr. Jackie Kinley is a psychiatrist, author of Mental Fitness: The Game Changer and founder of the Atlantic Institute for Resilience in Halifax, N.S.