Mindfulness is the quality or state of being aware of something, or as Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally.”
Many people think that mindfulness is about removing thoughts from your mind, but it is actually about being aware of your thoughts and emotions, without reacting or directly being involved in them. It’s about experiencing the moment as it is and not trying to make it into anything else. So why should you practice mindfulness?
Some of the amazing benefits of mindfulness include:
- Reduced anxiety (2013, Massachusetts General Hospital study)
- Improved mood (2010, Consciousness and Cognition Journal)
- Reduced distractions (2011, Harvard University)
- Less stress (2013, Health Psychology Journal)
- Increased emotion regulation, self-awareness and body awareness (2011, Psychological Science)
There are many ways that we can help bring more mindfulness into our lives.
Here are 5 of the best ways I’ve found and incorporated into my life:
1) Adult Coloring
Have you heard that the most recent mindfulness trend is coloring? It’s not just for kids anymore!
Adult coloring has become very popular for a reason. It can help get you into a meditative, mindful state where your focus is solely on one thing.
With so much technology right at our fingertips, it’s often hard to pull yourself away, but try to make it a point to designate time away from your phone and computer, to grab some markers and color. Adult coloring books are readily available in grocery stores, book stores and online. My favorite thing to do is to put on some music, channel my inner-child and wind down after a long day with coloring.
Prefer not to color alone? There are meet-up groups being formed for like-minded people to come together and have a coloring party. If you can’t find any in your area, now is a great time to meet some new people and start your own! Mindfulness+ Community = Magic.
2) Body Scan
Doing a body scan is one of my favorite ways to practice mindfulness. According to MBSR Training, practicing the body scan can help you find links between physical sensations and emotions, explore how to work with your physical pain and understand how stress and anxiety affect you.
The best part is, it is incredibly EASY. If you’ve never done it before, I would suggest doing a guided body scan to understand exactly how it works. My favorite guided body scan meditation to do right now is via the app “Calm“. It is a guided meditation that helps you visualize each part of your body from your head to your toes and notice how everything feels. You can choose any length of time and can even do it for as little as 3 minutes and build up to more.
3) Walk in Nature
Walks can be incredibly calming and I always feel like it’s an extra-special bonus when I can walk in nature. Have you ever truly appreciated the beauty of nature while you walk?
Here’s what I do: While walking, I occasionally stop and just gaze out into the distance. I take in the whole scene and then choose something to focus on for a few minutes in nature. It could be a bird, the clouds or a tree. Every time, I choose something different and study how it looks. The goal is to become completely consumed with that object or being’s role in the universe and hold your attention there for as long as you can. It is a great way to practice mindfulness because you get to notice what is happening around you and not try to change anything.
These types of walks help me relax and deeply connect with nature. In fact, a 2011 study found that “connection to nature was associated with feelings of awe, vitality, purpose in live, and positive emotions.”
4) Yawn & Stretch Every Hour
I recently learned a trick from PsychCentral that I love. Yawning brings your attention back to the here and now. The practice is to set a timer for every hour. When the timer goes off, take a break from whatever you’re doing to yawn and stretch.
If you don’t have to yawn at that exact time, try to fake yawn because it will trigger a real yawn. I tend to shut my eyes when I yawn to truly be aware of the moment.
Once you’ve yawned, stretch for 10-15 seconds. I do it all the time at my desk and no one even notices. When you’re stretching, notice how your body feels as you stretch. Are certain muscles more sore than others? Become aware of your body with these subtle movements. This easy exercise will help you practice mindfulness without ever leaving your seat.
Doing yoga offers a variety of health benefits including lowered blood pressure, decreased heart rate, improved mood and reduced stress. Yoga is seen as a mindful movement and increases mindfulness because it makes you aware of your movements from one moment to the next.
Though there are many different types of yoga, from Hatha to Kundalini to Vinyasa, you can practice mindfulness in all of them. Not only do the slow, thoughtful movements allow you to take the time to notice your body, but the focus on your breath can also bring you back to the present moment as well.
As you can see, mindfulness can be achieved in a variety of ways. The most important thing is that you find an activity that resonates with you. While you might not love doing yoga, you could find that coloring really brings you to a zen-like meditative state. I encourage you to try many things to see what you like best!
About the writer: Kelli Pease is a writer for the Happsters and ClubConnect. She has created a happiness community of over 90,000 people. She spends her free time learning everything she can about mindfulness, gratitude and happiness, drawing, hand-lettering, hosting community gatherings and taking beach walks with friends and family.