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Mindfulness 101
Categories: Caregiving Articles, Prevention, Taking Care of Yourself | Posted: 2/15/2017 | Views: 2535

Breathing in and out. Seems so simple. Mindfulness is about being “in the present,” “single-tasking,” and focusing on the simplest thing – like your breath, your surroundings, or even your big toe! It is taking your mind and putting it fully in the present moment with focus and when it wanders into thoughts about last night’s argument or tomorrow’s bills, just brining your focus and attention back to a moment – this moment.



So, why is this something useful to do? Well, for one thing, it reduces stress. Researchers have found that mindfulness can help with:

  • Reducing blood pressure
  • Improving sleep
  • Alleviating gastrointestinal problems
  • Calming anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems
  • Heart health

Mindfulness is an ancient practice with its roots in Buddhism – but it is not a religion. And, today, unlike the past, meditation or mindfulness does not require a specific pillow, shrine, incense, ritual, or posture. It really can be tailored to meet your own needs.

You can practice mindfulness by single-tasking. This means instead of doing three things at once like eating a burger while driving and talking on the phone, you instead focus all your energy and thoughts and focus on one simple task like washing the dishes. This calms the heart rate and other bodily systems and allows your mind to relax.

Another way to practice mindfulness is to just lie or sit comfortably where you will not be interrupted, close your eyes, and repeat the following:

“Breathing in I know that I am breathing in.
Breathing out I know that I am breathing out.”

When your mind wanders – as it often does – just bring your attention back to your breath and those phrases. Set a timer at first for 5 minutes and gradually work your way up to 20 minutes a day. The health benefits increase with the amount of time and the consistency of your daily practice.

Another way to help yourself with mindfulness is to just notice your surroundings. This technique can be particularly helpful when you are feeling very stressed but are not at home. You can simply have a “go to” thing you do like look for 5 yellow things in your field of vision. Why does this help? It gives your mind something to do besides think thoughts that are upsetting. For example, if you are stuck in traffic, you may start thinking thing like “I’m going to be late and that may get me fired, I hate this!, life stinks, etc.” The emotional reaction to these thoughts is typically stressful and disturbing. But, there are not many emotional reactions to “hey – look that sign over there is yellow.” Since you can’t do anything about your situation, focusing on the present helps you stay connected to what is really happening instead of worries about the future or regrets of the past.

One thing that is helpful when you are feeling emotional is to repeat the mantra “I am okay in this moment though.” All that means is you are alive and your needs are met in this moment. This can bring the emotional volume down since many of our emotions are fear-based. Knowing you are really okay in this moment is the focus.

For all mindfulness exercises, remember a few things. These practices are helped along when you can observe the present moment WITHOUT judgment. This means you will not judge yourself when your mind wanders or when you have a negative thought – you will simply say “oh, my mind went off to worry – I will now bring it back to my breath.” The more “matter-of-fact” you can be in your thoughts about yourself and your situation and simply notice the present without judgment, the less emotionally reactive you will be – and that is good for your health.

Save emotional reactions for true emergencies! This is how our bodies are designed – to react to bears chasing us – not to worries about what we said to our boss last week.
The more in tune you stay in the present moment, maybe the more you will enjoy each moment and maybe the more moments you will have!



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