8 Mindfulness Practices to Combat Stress and Foster Inner Peace
Mindfulness can add to the quality of our lives in numerous ways, including nurturing a sense of inner calm, helping us cultivate more meaningful relationships with others, boosting self-confidence, improving focus and building overall mental strength and resilience.
Because we are so over-stimulated as a society, most people have a very difficult time relaxing and concentrating, therefore sitting in silent meditation can be a near impossible task, at first, as it requires both. Concentration requires focusing your awareness on one singular point, exclusive of all other thoughts or topics. Since our minds are accustomed to continuously wandering and shifting from topic to topic – a condition commonly referred to as “monkey brain” – it can be quite a challenge to achieve continuous selective focus. The first step is to learn how to relax and allow the mind to slow down and enter deeper states of relaxation until concentration becomes the spontaneous activity of consciousness.
Meditation, mindfulness, and breathing practices are the perfect methods to relax, as well as build your focus and resilience, bringing you to this high-performing state of flow more often. But, like any other healthy habit, you have to START, and then put it into practice a little bit every day.
Here are a few simple techniques you can try on your own at home, at the office or on-the-go to increase your consciousness:
Deep Breaths: Spend a few minutes taking rounds of really deep breaths, breathing in and out through the nose. Keep your belly soft and let it inflate, fully, on the inhale like a big balloon, and then deflate fully on the exhale as you pull your belly button back towards your spine. Then try a few with open-mouth exhales. You could also place your hands on your abdomen to help you stay focused on breathing deeply through the belly.
Nature Watching: Intently watch the clouds, trees or whatever is happening outside the closest window for a few minutes, focusing intently on every detail. For example, if clouds, note their shape and size, the way they transform as they move across the sky, the color of the sky, etc. You could also use any other element in nature with this technique.
Counting Breaths: Breathing techniques help you release stress, increase focus and improve clarity, and are convenient to practice almost anywhere. Spend a few minutes counting rounds of really deep breaths before a big meeting or presentation, when you’re feeling anxious, distracted or overwhelmed. Count the length of your inhales and exhales, beginning with a count of 3-4, and work your way up. Try to keep your inhales and exhales the same length. Stay fully absorbed in counting and drawing out the breath longer and deeper with each breath. You’ll find yourself feeling refreshed, confident and ready to take-on whatever is next.
Take a Walk: Initiate walking meetings with colleagues to endorse exercise and stimulate creativity -- and encourage others to do the same! If you work from home, you can use your call-time (when you don’t need to access your computer, of course) to walk laps in your house. We sit entirely too much in our modern lives; movement helps release built-up tension and tightness caused by stress and sitting, and additionally stimulates healthy brain activity. You could also set a reminder (or use an apple watch) to periodically get up from your desk or meeting room to stretch and practice a few office-suitable yoga postures or stretches.
Mindful Eating: Slowing down is one of the best ways we can get our mind and body to communicate what we really need for nutrition. Try to avoid multitasking while you eat your lunch whenever possible, even if you’re sitting at your desk. Take at least 15 minutes away from your work to focus completely on enjoying your meal and allowing it to re-energize you. Being mindful in the experience of tastes and sensations in a meal is shown to boost your mood and registers more satisfaction, which curbs over-eating.
Take a Break: Tune-into when your brain needs a break, and give yourself time (5-10 minutes) periodically throughout the day to allow your brain to rest and re-focus. You’ll return to work feeling rejuvenated and more prepared to take-on the remainder of your day. Extra bonus points if you can spend any of those breaks taking a few breaths outdoors, which is shown to improve memory and have positive effects on brain function. Dependent on your work lifestyle, you could use the time to walk your dog, grab your favorite beverage from your favorite coffee shop or even just take a few deep breaths of fresh air from your porch out outside your office building.
Streamline Your Workflow: Dedicate your efforts to streamlining your workflow. Instead of multitasking at work, focus on the areas that add the most immediate value first, working through your to-do list one item at a time. Concentrate exclusively on each item until it is complete before moving on, whenever possible. If other distractions enter your mind, gently remind yourself none of that matters in the moment, and return to your task at-hand.
Practice Meditation: Meditation, mindfulness, and breathing practices are the perfect methods to relax, as well as build your focus and resilience, bringing you to this high-performing state of flow more often. Sign-up to receive the free guided meditation and breathing practices on my homepage at Artisan Farmacy, which can be practiced using headphones from your mobile device. I am also currently teaching live and on-demand meditation classes through the Meditation.LIVE app, which is available to download in the Apple and Google App Stores. You can also check the schedule and join classes for FREE by visiting www.meditation.live.