When’s the last time you really allowed your mind’s thoughts to freely flow? By practicing mindfulness you’re opening the doors of creativity and awareness. There are many misconceptions about practicing mindfulness, one being that you have to sit perfectly still and quite for a certain period of time to reap the benefits. That’s simply not true.
Mindfulness is a simple, yet effective kind of meditation that enables you to gain control of your thoughts. Besides being more focused even when not meditating, people who practice mindfulness handle stress better and get sick less often. Overall, it’s a great way to make it through the day feeling unruffled, even when your day is anything but calm.
Moments in Mindfulness is a new web series sponsored by Aetna®, aimed at helping you improve how you feel in your daily life. Watch to learn how to live in the present and improve your overall mindset.
Moments In Mindfulness: Journaling
Keeping a journal serves two purposes: a permanent record for posterity, and cathartic release for the people writing them. Even if you don’t think you need either, the benefits of keeping a journal will be apparent almost immediately.
Regular writing helps you re-live the events of the day or week in a safe environment where you can process them without fear. And if you want to bring science into the equation, keeping a journal can boost your immune system.
Besides allowing for creative expression, recording your experiences ore even free-flow writing can help with resolving problems and understanding one’s emotions.
Practicing Mindfulness In The Garden
Buddhist monks have tapped into the mindfulness of gardening centuries ago, as it is a meaningful way to be still and present in the moment. We’re connected to nature and gardening is a way of tapping into that connection, nurturing both ourselves and plant life.
Treat your gardening time as a meditative, calming experience. Make a pact with yourself that you will have no cell phones, TV, computers, or kids running around.
Do one thing at a time. Whether it’s preparing a pot for planting, watering or trimming a bush. Don’t try to knock off a few tasks in the garden all at the same time. Keep in mind the Zen proverb: “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.”
Combining mindfulness with gardening, journaling or exercise, is just as much about nurturing the flowers in the garden, as it is about nurturing yourself.
Practice Mindfulness With Regular Stretching
Every one of us should be stretching on a regular basis. Regardless if we’re an athlete or about to hit the gym, stretching is one of the simplest ways to give our muscles an extra boost and strengthen the connection between mind and body.
There’s a reason that mindfulness and stretching go together so well. Regular stretching both improves flexibility and works as a combatant against daily stress.
Unlike so many exercises, stretching can be done anywhere at nearly anytime. From taking a quick moment on an elevator ride to stretch out one’s neck to simply extending your fingers while sitting at your desk. Every single muscle in your body can benefit from stetching. There’s no required number of repetitions or checkoff list of must-do stretches, it’s all up to you to choose the stretches that feel the best.
Open Yourself Up Through Body Scanning
There’s probably no greater tip to healthy living than to listen to one’s body. Not just in moments when an ache or pain strikes of course, but in everyday practice. Through practicing regular body scanning we can become more aware of our bodies and how we feel in the moment.
Best of all, anybody can do it and all it really takes is a minute or two. You don’t need any special tools, just a quiet place where you can feel comfortable and take a minute to listen to your body. Start by closing your eyes and focusing on your toes, wiggle them around a little and try to direct your attention to each one. Then move up to your knees, stomach, chest, fingers arms, nose, eyes and so forth. It’s about moving up your body with intention while paying attention.
By zoning in with focus on certain parts of our body, we can become more mindful and aware of our bodies while capturing a moment of peace at the same time.
Mindful Muscle Relaxation
Similar to body scanning, muscle relaxation is a great way to practice mindfulness that will leave you both relaxed and energized. And like body scanning, all you need is a few quiet moments and a comfortable place where you can stretch out.
Try to find somewhere free of distraction and start off by doing a few simple stretches. Close your eyes and tense up a certain group of muscles. Maybe start with your toes or hands, but hold the tension for a few seconds and then release. Focus on how your muscles feel when both tense and relaxed and then move onto another set of muscles until you’ve repeated the process throughout your whole body.
Muscle relaxation is an easy way of practicing mindfulness will allow you to be more aware of your body’s muscle groups and take a moment all for yourself. Once your body can relax, your mind is sure to follow.
Channel A Sense Of Peace With Inversions
Creating mindfulness is all about being present in the moment and allowing your mind to focus on your body and experiences. Practicing inversions is a great way to align your heart and mind to capture a moment of mindfulness. Despite what many believe, inversions are not only for the yoga advanced, they’re simply a form of stretching where your head is below your heart.
Find a quiet and comfortable space where you can stretch out and practice something simple like leaning forward over your knees and folding at the hip. Then work your way up to a downward facing dog or shoulder stand if you feel comfortable.
Practice a few of these for just five minutes at the start or end of the day and you’ll soon find yourself letting go of concerns and focusing on your breathing and heart. Remember, inversions might look tricky, but the goal isn’t to strike the perfect balancing pose, it’s to allow yourself to channel a sense of peace from within.
Show me a person who says they don’t enjoy a refreshing shower and I’ll show you a liar. A hot shower — or cold if you’re one of those folks — is truly one of the greatest simple pleasures in life. It also happens to be a perfect place for a moment of mindfulness. Think about it, you’re naked, likely alone and either about to finish up or start your day.
Next time you take a shower, take a few extra minutes to allow your mind to focus on being in the moment before letting it drift. Close your eyes and feel the beads of water hitting your skin and running down your body. It doesn’t take a lot to turn your everyday shower into a moment of mindfulness. All you need to do is close your eyes, focus and enjoy the moment.
*Cover art “Parable Visions” Art By Cameron Gray