Research shows that people who practice mindfulness—focusing on the present moment—enjoy many benefits, including lower levels of stress. That’s because being mindful helps us feel less caught up in our worries and more fully engaged with (and appreciative of) the lives we’re living. Here are some ideas for being more mindful.
The Road to Stress Reduction
1. Be present
“Being more mindful is about paying attention to what we’re doing,” notes Dr. Francoise Adan, a psychiatrist and medical director of University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network in Cleveland, Ohio. “If we are having dinner with each other, it’s setting aside our phones. If we are driving, we can be mindful of driving. This does not take extra time.”
2. Scan your senses.
The next time you are feeling overwhelmed—and worrying too much about what’s happened or what needs to happen—Adan suggests using your senses to pull you back to the present. Simply take a few minutes to take stock of the “right now” using your senses. What are you hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and seeing?
3. Use a breathing exercise.
Another way to practice being mindful is to use simple breathing exercises. Here’s one of Adan’s favorites: breathe in to the count of four, hold your breath for the count of three, then exhale to the count of seven. Repeat. “This is just one way to center ourselves and relax,” notes Adan. “It stops the crazy thoughts you have in your head because you have to focus on your breath.”
4. Practice gratitude.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the benefits of practicing gratitude, which include a more positive outlook. Gratitude is also a form of mindfulness because, like other mindfulness techniques, it helps you focus on the present. “It’s taking a moment to be thankful for what we already have,” explains Adan.
5. Use an app.
Another simple way to start practicing mindfulness is to download one of the many mindfulness apps available for your smartphone. Most offer daily guided meditations that take just a few minutes. Popular apps include Headspace, Omvana, and Bhuddify.