youThere’s a certain disconnect here that plagues just about everyone today: Your body is doing one thing — sitting in a meeting, having dinner with the family — while your brain is miles away.
Some might call it multitasking, but mental health experts say it’s more of a problem. Corrie Goldberg, a clinical psychologist and founder of the Shore Therapy Center for Wellness in the Chicago area, says that a lack of attention can rob us of a deep connection to our most meaningful experiences. “Our body moves through the motions of life, but our head isn’t in the game,” she says. Not being grounded in the moment, instead of allowing our thoughts to jump from one place to another, is an open invitation to stress and unpleasant emotions. “Our minds tend to focus on worries about the future or discomforts from the past, even when our bodies may be in a neutral or pleasant place.”
Get into mindfulness. The now ubiquitous concept, which has its roots in Buddhism, has grown in popularity in recent years and is generally defined as turning your attention inward and maintaining awareness of your thoughts, bodily sensations, and surroundings. The benefits are vast. A mindfulness practice can help lower stressreduce anxiety (as effective as medicationin some cases), increase a person’s ability to enjoy positive experiencesStop rumination, promote concentrationand more.
Mindfulness can also help cure the blahs. Three years into the pandemic, Kelly Neupert, a psychotherapist in Chicago, says many of her clients feel like they are languishing. Being more mindful has helped them get in touch with what they’re feeling and why, she says, and she’s cultivated a greater ability to handle life’s curves. After adopting a mindfulness practice, “I typically find them to be less reactive and more intentional,” says Neupert. “They may respond to other people instead of reacting. Things that used to trigger them, like being late for work or losing their job, feel more tolerable.”
Meditation is the best-known way to achieve mindfulness, but it’s not attractive or works for everyone. Some find it uncomfortable or have trouble staying still. Happily, “a person can practice mindfulness while doing literally any activity,” says Goldberg, and with any amount of Missed-news available.
Here are eight ways to practice mindfulness if meditation isn’t your thing.
Listen to music
The sound can be energizing, calming, or both. Losing yourself in a good song is considered an effective way to practice mindfulness.
Before you decide to consciously engage in any activity, including listening to a favorite album, consider what counts as focused attention, Goldberg advises. That way, you’ll be able to tell if your mind starts to wander. For example, concentrating on your playlist might mean “looking at the melody, noticing how your body feels and moves without judgment, or concentrating on the lyrics of the song or the sound of the instruments,” he says. If you’re in the middle of a tune and notice yourself thinking about your shopping list, let the thought go and return your attention to listening to the rhythm carefully.
Walk your dog
Let’s say you’re going out with your mini schnauzer. Instead of letting your mind wander to the work day ahead or the errands you need to run, focus on the present by cataloging all the things your senses are experiencing, advises Joy Rains, author of Enlightened Meditation: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind. “Watch your dog’s tail flick, the sounds of his panting or his nails clicking on the pavement, and the feel of his warm breath,” she says. “Whenever your mind wanders, gently return your attention to your dog, even if it’s every second or two.”
focus on your movements
When you walk into the office in the morning, or through any other door that makes you nervous, try to focus solely on your movements. Rains suggests paying special attention to the connection of your feet to the ground and repeating the words “lift, move, place, change.” “As you lift your right leg, silently say ‘lift,'” he instructs. As he moves forward, say “moving” and then “setting” when he makes contact with the ground. As he shifts his weight to the other foot, note what he is doing. Then he begins the process again with the left leg. “Continue repeating these words to yourself silently as you walk,” says Rains. If he does, he will help you avoid unwanted worries.
soak up nature
Research suggests that spending even brief amounts of Missed-news in nature promotes wellness, a pleasant mood, other surveillance. and a meta analysis published in 2019 concluded that “nature-based mindfulness is moderately superior to mindfulness conducted in non-natural settings.”
If you want to be mindful of nature, head to a favorite park or trail for walking or jogging. Pick a sense to focus on, suggests Maureen Kane, a therapist based in Bellingham, Washington. If you choose view, for example, ask yourself: What are you seeing, what colors stand out, and what textures can you identify? As Kane says: “How many blue things are there? Are there patterns on the leaves? Or maybe you will spend Missed-news with the sound. Pay attention to what you hear: sounds in the distance, as well as those from above. “Whenever your mind wanders, go back to the direction you were concentrating on, or change it if you get bored,” she says.
take a drink break
Coffee has a way of disappearing before you even know you’re drinking it, especially on busy mornings. Mindfulness experts suggest taking a few minutes to truly savor the hot beverage of your choice. “Feel your cup in your hands and smell the aroma,” suggests Kane. “How does your drink feel as it passes your lips, rolls off your tongue, down your throat?” Reflecting on these questions will help you stay grounded and start your day on a positive note.
Use the 5-4-3-2-1 method
A popular mindfulness exercise can be particularly helpful in times of panic, when you’re looking for shortcuts to calm down. The 5-4-3-2-1 method, as it’s often called, involves using all five senses to “get into your body and out of your busy mind,” says Tina Hnatiuk, a professor of mindfulness in British Columbia.
She describes it like this: Identify five things you can see and four things you can touch. Then listen to three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste, or are thankful for. Exercise helps people feel “safe, calm and at peace,” Hnatiuk says.
make a puzzle
The missing piece in your mindfulness routine could be solving a puzzle. In addition to being a fun way to pass the Missed-news, experts say that puzzles exercise the brain, encourage creativity, and promote mindfulness.
Neupert likes puzzles because they offer structure, without an overwhelming number of rules. As you begin to put the knobs and holes together, she suggests asking yourself these questions: “How does the puzzle piece feel in your hands? How is the image of the box? How does it feel to fit two pieces together? Do you feel an urgency to finish it or are you content to go at your own pace? All can help you focus on the present, driving away thoughts about what is about to happen or what has already happened.
Spend Missed-news journaling
Writing in a journal can reduce stresshelp foster a positive moodY improve short term memory. Experts say that journaling two to three times a week is a great way to become more aware and gain useful information about your everyday life.
If you don’t know how to get started, take the pressure off yourself: Instead of following a specific message, Neupert recommends taking a free-form approach. “Just unload the brain from whatever is going on in your mind, non-judgmental,” she says. “Whatever thoughts you’re having, whatever you’re noticing in the room, whatever you’re noticing in your body, just write it down.” Don’t worry about grammar or fancy word choice; instead, think of exercise as cultivating curiosity about what’s going on in your body and mind at that very moment, she says.
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