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 to 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 technique 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
As feelings and thoughts arise within you due to a situation or experience, observe yourself having this experience and notice the words that come to the forefront of your mind.
Next, create a barrier between you and these words or thoughts. Do not become them – Simply have the experience of these thoughts. Notice how different it feels to have this awareness of mindfulness by creating that barrier. You regain control of your emotions by changing your mindset.
As you ground yourself in the here-and-now, you’re creating space to experience joy. Being in the present is the best way to feel joy or gratitude by rooting oneself in that very moment.
We may be feeling lost or regretful about something that didn’t go our way in the past or worrying and worrying about something that may never happen in the future (fear). By controlling these thoughts and living in the moment, we are now living in the moment.
Example of Being Present:
One of the best examples of mindfulness and being present we can learn from toddlers.
Have you ever watched a toddler eat fruit? Notice how they savor every single bite. Observe how they look at the piece of fruit before they bite into it. It’s incredible to watch simply because they are fully immersed in that moment, experiencing what is directly in front of them-the fruit. Young children do not understand the concept of past or future. All they have is now. This can explain why they find so much joy in the smallest acts, things that we may take for granted due to having an overactive mind stuck somewhere between here or there.
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.
Our breathing is the most important act a person can do. Without the ability to breathe, our organs cannot function. Every time you take a breath, it allows oxygen to flow and expand in the blood. It also lowers our heart rate and blood pressure and assists in our digestion. Fresh air and breathing release serotonin into the brain that lies dormant. Taking slow and repeated breaths outdoors is a natural, simple and effective way to help manage racing thoughts.
When one focuses on just breathing, this interrupts the brain from having a stream of intrusive thoughts because the brain can only focus on one thing at a time.
To focus your attention 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
One of the most important things to remember when practicing examples of mindfulness is that 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.
During 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?
Start small and set yourself up for success when creating an action plan to reduce your stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. Try identifying three of your favorite things that bring relief or joy to you, and then implement them during those challenging times. The more we are able to control what we can in our immediate environment during stressful times, the better we feel with any internalized anxiety. And the better we feel, the more we are able to manage our stress. It is interconnected.
Another helpful tip is to eliminate or reduce negative external stimuli that add to our stress, such as the things we cannot control (i.e., other people, the news, global events, etc.)
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.
Another healthy alternative is listening to a meditation on an app or YouTube that targets quieting the mind and aids you in progressively relaxing your entire body. By reaching a deep state of relaxation, the mind will slowly quiet itself that will promote good sleep. When doing this, make sure to dim the light on your phone or electronic (as dark as possible) or have it face down while you listen to the meditation with headphones in the dark. Create a safe and very comfortable space for you to have this experience invoking your senses (experiential) to achieve this desired result, which is to fall asleep.
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.
Another important relationship is the one we have with food and what we choose to feed ourselves. Are you emotionally eating from anxiety? Did you skip a meal due to sadness or overwhelm? Do you live to eat or eating to live? It’s important to stay informed about which foods promote energy, vitality, and good health while others do the exact opposite, creating lethargy and depression.
Stay mindful and conscious when choosing the fuel you are giving your body, which is the only vessel you have in this lifetime.
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.
It is also important when practicing examples of mindfulness to set realistic goals for the day, week, and month in order to set yourself up for success. Start small. Complete tasks and meet your responsibilities on time, but it also imperative to create room in our day for some “me-time.”
When is your flex time? Meaning, what time of the day are you most energetic or productive? That’s when you should be optimizing your potential. Are you a morning person? Do you like to watch the sunrise? Then this would be your flex time to gift yourself a morning routine that will set your tone for the day (i.e., meditation, yoga, journaling, exercise, etc.). If it’s the evening, then try to be consistent with certain hours that you will block off to be finished with work responsibilities, and try your best to stick to this plan whenever possible.
Make yourself the priority so that you can be sustainable in your career and in life.
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.
Humans are similar to plants and trees. We, too, need certain elements ingredients to grow. Just like a flower needs sunshine, water, good nutrients, and positive communication to blossom over time, we also thrive with the same ingredients to remain healthy.
Growth requires faith in yourself and a positive mindset. Practice these examples of 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.