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Practicing mindfulness — Slow down for what matters

Practicing Mindfulness

Life can get pretty chaotic. From multitasking, working a full-time job, and getting the kids to the babysitter, to making dinner, staying on top of laundry, exercising, and everything in-between, it’s no wonder we can sometimes feel really stressed. And in the rush of everyday tasks, we may feel that we have lost our connection with the present moment.

I’ll admit, I have been there, and I’ve found that it’s not a fun place to be. But there’s help — mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing attention and energy to being in the present moment and having an awareness and acceptance of one’s feelings, thoughts, and body. It’s simply the art of being in the here and now.

Research published in the Journal of Health Psychology shows that mindfulness is not only associated with feeling less stressed, it’s also linked with decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Even better is that the benefits far surpass just stress reduction. Other studies suggest that by practicing mindfulness, you may sleep better, experience lower blood pressure, and feel less anxiety.

So how can you get started with mindfulness?

Pause and slow down

Balancing everything can be stressful. But taking a moment to connect with the things you are doing can change your mindset and leave you feeling less stressed. For example, enjoy every moment of your walk to work; notice your surroundings and think about and feel the crisp air on your face.

Listen carefully

Hearing and listening are not the same thing. When you focus on listening, you are intentionally paying full attention to what’s going on around you or the conversation you are engaged in. This includes the tone of voice as well as body language. For example when talking on the phone, try not to multitask. Instead pay full attention to every word you hear through the phone.

Pay attention to your attitudes and judgements

You may judge and be judged by others on a daily basis. This can have a major effect on your attitudes. When you become more aware of the times you are passing judgement, you can watch for them. Then you can start to experience things differently. At first, try to pay attention to when your mind is judging something or someone. Notice your patterns of likes and dislikes. When you start to have those thoughts, simply let them pass without acting on them

Focus on feeling

One of the simplest concepts in mindfulness is being in the present. Being in the present means focusing your attention on what you are doing while you are doing it rather than thinking about what’s next or what just passed. Take a few moments to relax and breathe the next time you are experiencing a stressful situation. Take one deep breath by inhaling through your nose, and notice the air going into your chest all the way to your abdomen. As you exhale, imagine a balloon deflating. Repeat as many times as you wish, remembering to concentrate on the feeling of each breath.

Making small changes with mindfulness doesn’t have to add more stress to your day. By starting out small and working on one thing at a time, you may find that you are able to make every moment count. You may experience greater connections with yourself and others. Once you have a base, you can look for areas to improve. What ideas do you have for starting to be mindful?