Today in society, people tend to live life in the past and future, but rarely remember to live in the present.
For many, the majority of their day is spent agonizing over to-do lists, worrying about something they did or didn”t do in the past, or going through the motions on autopilot. How often do you take time to live in the moment and focus on yourself?
A thousand-year-old technique has become increasingly popular in helping individuals to be present in the here and now. It can be practiced anywhere, anytime, and the only tool you need is your mind.
Mindfulness is a mental state of awareness that assists the mind in being present in the moment, without judgment. This awareness creates a focused recognition of how an individual is feeling, what they are doing and what they are thinking at that particular moment. When a person is aware of the present it allows them to appreciate life to its fullest potential, promoting optimism, calmness and focus.
According to the American Psychological Association, there are multiple mind and body benefits for individuals who practice mindfulness. These benefits include a decrease in stress, an increase in working memory and an increase in focus. It can also promote cognitive flexibility, better sleep, increased immune functioning and enhanced relationship satisfaction.
In order to reap these benefits, there are countless techniques that can be practiced. However, a general rule of thumb when utilizing these exercises is to not criticize yourself.
When you begin employing mindfulness, your thoughts will go on a tangent, but it is critical to not judge yourself. Note that your mind wandered off and wasn”t focusing on what it was supposed to, accept it and then move on. You will experience this multiple times, so it is important to not get frustrated because it is not a task that can be mastered in a day.
Brief mindfulness exercises incorporated into a daily routine can slowly turn into a habit. This could begin when you wake up in the morning lying in bed, during lunch, when you get in your car or go to bed.
The first step is to put everything you”re doing down for at least a minute. Focus on your breathing coming in through your nose and out through your mouth. Observe how you are feeling and thinking as various emotions wash over you. Realize that any emotion you experience is temporary, take note of it and then let it go.
Next, detect how your body is feeling. How is your posture? Are your socks itchy? Is hair tickling the back of your neck? Do your arms feel heavy? The observations you can make are endless.
This is just a start to staying in tune with your body. These steps can be progressed while walking, or adding in positive affirmations, and much more.
If you are interested in expanding your arsenal of mindfulness skills the University of Idaho offers free mindfulness and meditation classes every Wednesday from 12-12:30 p.m. in the Borah Theatre of the Bruce Pitman Center. The class is taught by Jamie Derrick, a UCLA certified mindfulness instructor. Take advantage of this lifestyle altering resource.
Mykaela Robinson is a peer health educator for Vandal Health Education. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org