Mindfulness for Stress Management

Mindfulness (n):

  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something
  2. A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique

It seems so simple, but it’s difficult for many. In our hurried (harried) world, we forget to stop and smell the roses. Yet, mindfulness has many benefits including stress reduction, increased focus, boosting working memory, reducing rumination, being less emotionally reactive and more flexible cognitively, and improving relationship satisfaction. It also enhances self-insight, morality, intuition, and fear modulation.

Mindfulness can counteract stress by helping us become more aware of our habitual negative reactions and to interrupt this cycle to create the opportunity for a better choice. Establishing a mindfulness practice can be as complex or as simple as you like. The trick is to find something that works consistently for you.

Meditation

Mindful Practice – Traditional Meditation

Meditation comes in many forms, like Transcendental Meditation, Kundalini, Guided, and Qi Gong. It can be as simple as a concentrated mindful practice, a time to focus on breathing and being in the moment.

There are many ways to practice mindfulness meditation. They are similar in approach focused on finding a seated position, focusing on breathing, and pulling yourself back to the moment when your mind wanders.  One good step-by-step guide is found at Mindful.org.

Mindful Practice – Alternative Forms of Meditation

Some people might look for a more creative or active form of meditation as seen in recent trends. A couple are easy to start and may be a comfortable place for a beginner or a change of pace for the seasoned meditation practitioner.

Zentangle – Zentangle’s creators describe it as a ”practice [that] builds on the Zentangle Method of simple deliberate strokes which build on each other in beautiful, mesmerizing and surprising ways.” The tools needed are paper and a black pen. According to an article in Psychology Today, Zentangle has multiple benefits like calming anxiety, increasing self-confidence, and cultivating awareness.

Coloring – This activity may be so helpful just because of its recall of the simpler days of childhood, but like Zentangle, it is also a creative way to switch off our brains and refocus our attention to be in the moment. There is tranquility in focusing on the spaces and lines and colors. Studies have shown stress-relief health benefits from coloring. Coloring books are readily available or you may even find the same benefits on your tablet.

Walking – This practice combines the movement benefits of walking with the intention of seated meditation. Referred to as walking meditation or mindful walking, it’s incorporates the focus on breathing and mindfulness and staying in the moment. As with sitting meditation, there are different approaches, but this UC Berkeley article lays out one system.

Mindful Practice – Throughout the Day

You don’t have to have a structured routine to benefit from mindfulness. Pick a regularly occurring event and create the intention to stop, breathe, and observe when that event happens.

  • When waiting at a crosswalk or traffic light, take a few deep breaths and find 5 details around you that you may not have noticed before.
  • Each time you get in your car, before putting your seatbelt on and inserting the key in the ignition, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and note what your senses discover.
  • As you brush your teeth, focus on the experience, how the bristles feel on your teeth, the flavors and textures of the toothpaste, the feel of the toothbrush in your hand.

Stress Relief

April is Stress Awareness Month, an ideal time to adopt new routines to manage your stress. Which mindfulness practice would work for you?