There are two things many of us experience that can drag us down: Stress and Anxiety. Enter Mindfulness and Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of mindful based stress reduction or MBSR. Kabat-Zinn referred to mindfulness as an awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. By being mindful, your awakened conscience allows you to decide how you react and process situations. It also allows us to connect with who we are. Examples of mindfulness can be tricky, but luckily you’ve come here, where we break it down and keep it simple.
It’s important to talk about the benefits of mindfulness to know it’s not just yoga and meditation.
We can be guilty of taking ourselves too seriously— whether it stems from fear of being criticized or just caring too much about what people think. Making decisions is a part of life, and the way we deal with making decisions, and their results is something that we can control through mindfulness.
Sara Davin, PsyD, MPH, explains how the practice of mindfulness has become the most rapid, universally accepted techniques to improve mental health across populations. Some benefits include:
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved mental health
- Improved brain and immune health
- Decreased chronic pain
- Improved sleep and ability to pay attention
Through practicing mindfulness, we can rid ourselves of those negative emotions that bounce around in our heads and leave them in the dust.
Let the practice begin!
Examples of mindfulness can take many forms, and these are just a few:
1. Be Present IN the Moment
It’s easier said than done – this means consciously being aware of your thoughts and behavior.
Observe the room you’re in – what you’re wearing, your thoughts and feelings, or even the time of day. Then recognize that this is your current situation and accept it. Allow yourself to acknowledge the thoughts forming in your brain. No judgment allowed.
2. Recognize the Rabbit Hole
In times of anxiety and stress, we enter what my therapist likes to call “The Rabbit Hole.” This type of feeling can spiral you into a roller coaster of worry and doom.
One thing escalates to another, and another, and you may feel like it’s the end of the world. You’ll know it’s hit you when you start feeling panicky, have trouble breathing, or sink into a state of constant dread – like you might not survive.
Here is the point where you take a step back and realize – this is the rabbit hole, now let me climb out. Take a moment to reason with yourself and let your mind know that this moment will pass. You need to acknowledge the feelings you’re having and remember the worst-case scenarios we create often are not as bad as they seem.
3. Focus Your Breathing
Breathing awareness is crucial for examples of mindfulness and also many performance-based activities. It’s especially useful in mindful meditation and yoga.
To focus on your breath, close your eyes. Bring attention to the push of air out your nose, the movement of your stomach, and the rhythm of your breathing. Try to slow your breath, so each one becomes deep and long. Your goal is to be fully present.
Another common practice is the 4-7-8 method, in which you breathe in for four seconds, hold it for seven and breathe out for eight. By focusing on something as simple as your breath, you distract your mind from whatever was bothering you and come back to the present.
4. Think Steps, Not Big Picture
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
There is a time and place to think about life’s big picture, but I can promise you it is not when you’re feeling stressed or anxious.
Times when you feel overwhelmed, and not good enough, take a look at what you can control. What is the next step you need to make? What changes can you make right now?
By identifying the things you can control and change, it helps minimize anxiety. Start by setting small goals and use those as stepping stones. By making small changes, it helps make the road to improvement more manageable and less overwhelming.
5. Be Kind to Your Wandering Mind
Mindful exercises can be challenging when your thoughts become negative. Try to recognize when you have moments of self-doubt and take a second to relax your body, then focus on the present moment. When you breathe, release those negative thoughts with each exhale and imagine them leaving your body through each breath. Now that you’ve cleared some room in your head use this space to create new positive thoughts. Remind yourself of the blessings you have in your life and dedicate these thoughts to something that makes you feel grateful. These can be simple things like your health, your pet, or your family.
A major thing you have to come to terms with when doing these exercises is that your mind wanders. There are going to be times when focusing is hard, and that’s okay.
6. No Electronics 1 Hour Before Bed
For many people, myself included, the worst anxiety and stress comes at night, and using your electronics doesn’t help. The Sleep Foundation found that the blue light from your electronics can suppress your body’s internal clock, which in turn will create more stress.
A healthy alternative to your phone is reading. Reading not only keeps your body’s internal clock in tune, but it also occupies the mind by focusing on a current activity rather than a future one.
7. Mindful Eating
One of the best examples of mindfulness is conscious eating. Many of us are guilty of multi-tasking while we eat. Have you ever been looking forward to a meal but then found yourself working at the same time? Chances are you didn’t fully get to enjoy your food, and when we do that, it’s emotionally unfulfilling and not physically satisfying. As a result, it can cause us to eat more than we should.
It’s important to remember that a healthy mind needs the right fuel. The practice of mindful eating has to do with enjoying the food that you eat. Most importantly, if you feel good about your food, then you’re more likely to feel good about yourself.
Mindful eating is a type of mindfulness that might take a little longer to feel the effects, but they can be long-lasting if you stick with it.
8. Slow Down
Life can be very go-go-go, which can catch up to you after a while and leave you feeling ragged. To prevent burnout, we need to be able to slow things down when we can.
Take advantage of the little moments that you have to yourself, like the commute to work or a lunch break – use this time to pause and take it all in. One big mistake we make is thinking that we always have to be doing something “productive.” Instead, take this time to blast some feel-good music or listen to your favorite podcast.
They say you never know the good old days until they’re gone, so make sure you appreciate them while they’re here.
9. Set A Timer
Sometimes all you need to destress is a couple of moments to yourself. An example of mindfulness is taking a couple of moments to yourself has become so well recognized as a source of relief that Apple built in a breathing app in their apple watch, which you can use to remind yourself to take some time for yourself.
If you don’t have an Apple watch, don’t fret. You can set a timer during the day using your phone. This is a manageable way to schedule some much needed you time.
10. Focus on Growth
We are continually changing, and that can be scary. Entering unknown territory in your life is a major cause of anxiety and stress. However, you don’t have to be scared.
Practice mindfulness by switching your mindset from “I don’t know if I can do this” to “I’m growing right now, and it’s okay if I’m not perfect.” Take pride in how far you’ve come and how far you’ll continue to go.