With the busy pace of life today, it’s no surprise that many of us are left navigating and managing daily stress and anxiety. The endless to-do lists, deadlines and juggling of multiple schedules can be overwhelming and exhausting. How can we help ourselves cope with stress and the endless demands of our time? Enter mindfulness!
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present, observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judgement. When we engage in mindfulness, we are observing the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or trying to anticipate the future.
Stress and anxiety can cause uncomfortable emotions and even trigger our fight-or-flight response, which is great for escaping predators but not very well-suited to modern-day chronic stressors. Engaging in simple daily mindfulness exercises can help us reduce stress and anxiety, and improve our overall well-being.
Here are two mindfulness exercises I find very useful. The best part is they can be done anywhere, anytime, and they’re all free!
Mindful breathing is gently slowing down and focusing on the breath and noticing each breath as you inhale and exhale. Research has shown that engaging in mindful breathing can reduce stress and anxiety while increasing feelings of calm and clarity. Mindful or focused breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system and lowers your heart rate and blood pressure.
Whether you set aside a few minutes every day to practice mindful breathing, or you engage with it as needed, this simple exercise can make a big difference in your day. If you find your mind starting to wander, gently bring your awareness back to the present moment.
The benefits of getting out in nature and getting fresh air and exercise are endless. Instead of gapping out and letting your mind wander, mindful walking involves tuning in and consciously observing the details around you. For example, notice how your feet feel as they connect to the ground, and notice the different sounds and smells in your environment. Even if you’ve walked that same path a thousand times before, mindful walking makes every experience unique and different. Get those steps in with the added bonus of calming your mind and improving your focus.
As with any new skill, mindfulness takes time and patience to be mastered! You don’t become an expert driver or even learn how to ride a bike after one attempt. Be kind and patient with yourself as you practice these exercises, and you will reap the benefits.
For more mindfulness exercises, or to learn more about how mindfulness works to reduce stress and anxiety, don’t hesitate to reach out!
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