Part five of a five part series of articles on different stress management techniques that are easy to use and can be instantly applied to your every day life. This one is about mindfulness practice.
Part five of this five part series on easy stress management has to do with the practice of mindfulness. This is another simple technique you can easily incorporate into your emotional responses, easing yourself away from conflicting emotions towards peaceful emotions. Mindfulness practice has been validated in numerous studies as actually reducing anxiety, depression, and symptoms of chronic pain with just eight weeks of consistent practice. Mindfulness or mindfulness meditation is based on the Buddhist vipassana meditation. Vipassana practice is allowing yourself to see the world as it really is, shedding the foggy cloud of judgment and emotion.
To practice mindfulness, one can do this sitting in a chair. It is helpful to have your back straight, your feet on the floor. If you are infirm, your practice can be done laying down, it really can be done in any relaxed position, as long as your body is relaxed and open and the energy can flow freely.
As in other relaxation practices, let your body become relaxed, let your forehead, face, shoulders become soft. And allow the rest of your body to become relaxed. Now that you are relaxed, become aware of how you feel in the present moment. Feel the chair underneath your sit bones an and experience this fully. If your mind wanders to your to-do list, just gently acknowledge that wandering and bring your mind back to the present moment and the present experiences.
Begin practicing mindfulness in small ways, training yourself slowly to learn how to let go of disturbing emotions and learning to stay in the present moment. A small way to begin practicing mindfulness is to lick your lips slowly as you sit in meditation. As you do so, concentrate on the feeling of your lips and tongue. Let yourself become immersed in the feeling and think only about this moment and how you are in this present moment. Just be in the present moment. If distressing thoughts and feelings come up, just notice them, like an observer. The thoughts and feelings come and go, they are not part of the present experienced moment. Keep experiencing the feeling of your lips right now.
Another way to practice mindfulness is to eat a raisin or a piece of chocolate very slowly, savoring the texture, the taste, the smell as you slowly chew. If other thoughts or emotions come into play, then just note them and go back to your sensory experience in the moment. Let this be an oasis of calm and peace for you.
Start mindfulness practice slowly, maybe for ten minutes at first and then build up to twenty minutes a day of calm time. Studies show that meditation actually increase activity in parts of the brain associated with positive feelings and also actually encourages healthy brain growth, offsetting the effects of aging on the brain.
Davidson, R.J., Kabat-Zinn, J. et al. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Journal of Bio-behavioral Medicine, Psychosomatic Medicine, Jul-August, 65(4), 564-570.
Lane, J.D., Seskevich, J.E., Pieper, C.F.. (2007). Brief meditation training can improve perceived stress and negative mood. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 113(1), 38-44.