Health Advocate Blog

Mindfulness: A practice to enjoy life more right now

Getting caught up in the busyness of life can leave you feeling distracted, anxious, disconnected and generally discontent. Your work, relationships, sleep and well-being can suffer. Using simple mindfulness techniques that you can use anytime offers a convenient way to focus on the present moment, slowing down your body and mind, helping you cope better with everyday stress.  Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis has been shown to reduce anxiety, improve moods, attention and performance, and increase overall well-being. Here are three general things to know:

  • The simplest mindfulness technique is focusing on your breath. When you pause to become fully aware of each inhale and exhale, your breathing and heart rate slow down, and anxious, stressful feelings begin to fade away. Your thinking becomes clearer. With practice, you’ll feel more focused, energetic and better able to handle life’s challenges. In time, you can expand your focus to include what you’re hearing, seeing, tasting or even thinking.
  • Mindfulness can easily fit into your everyday life. Some examples: Pause to focus on your breath when starting a new activity, in the middle of an activity (like washing dishes or eating a meal), or while waiting at a red light or in the grocery line. And don’t forget to try mindfulness before sleeping!
  • You can make mindfulness more formal. Setting aside a half hour or more from other distractions to listen to guided meditations, or joining a meditation group, can help build your ability to practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere.

To benefit from mindfulness, it’s important that you make it part of your daily life. Mindfulness can help you find meaning, purpose and happiness and lead to a more productive life. The more you integrate mindfulness into your routine, the greater the benefits you’ll experience. These tips will help you adopt mindfulness as part of your lifestyle and help you better cultivate the habit of living in awareness of the moment:

  • Be aware of the small details of your life. One simple way to develop the mindfulness habit is to bring your full attention to the sky as you commute to work or on your lunch break. Pay attention to the color, positioning of the clouds, and silhouettes of trees. Do you hear birds? Do you feel a breeze? Focusing on the sights, sounds and other sensations around you can help train your mind to stay in the moment.
  • Create reminders. Identify areas of your life where you are typically distracted, and not being present in the moment, such as on your commute, for example. You can set an alarm on your phone before you leave on your commute, alerting you that it’s time to be mindful. Or, put a sticky note on your dashboard that it’s time to focus on your commute and not dwell on things that happened earlier or may happen later.
  • Reduce your distractions. The constant bombardment of social media feeds, news headlines, tabloids, TV, and even negative chatter within your workplace, circle of friends or family, can detract from your ability to be present in the moment. Figure out how you can reduce your exposure to these distractions.
  • Notice if worrying is derailing you. Being overly worried can lead to anxiety and prevent you from living in the moment. If worrying regularly snags your attention, remind yourself to stop and refocus on the present moment.
  • Slow down and give up acting on “autopilot.” It’s common to mindlessly rush through completing the demands of life. However, when you act deliberately—being fully aware of every task while you are doing them–
  • whether it’s sweeping the floor or taking out the trash, is the essence of living mindfully. Too many demands taking over your life? Think about how you can prioritize your to-do list to make sure you’re focusing on what is necessary while allowing yourself to do things for pleasure.
  • Stay engaged. Whether you are working on a project, having a conversation, reading a book or watching a movie, give whatever you are doing your full attention.
  • Strive to be content every day. Living a more mindful life involves acceptance, kindness and being nonjudgmental. Celebrate your achievements, acknowledge the positive aspects and people in your life and have simple appreciation and gratitude for each day.

Talk to your healthcare practitioner if you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress, worry or anxiety and get advice about methods or treatments to feel calmer, more focused, and in control.