How I Practice Mindfulness Each Day
Mindfulness is a powerful thing. I had never really practiced it in my life, or even really heard about it until I started working with mental health professionals in my marketing company in 2017. I started working with a few great mental health professionals like Amy Boyers at Galen Hope, and I kept hearing a theme from them about “being mindful.” So I started researching this concept and why you should practice mindfulness.
What I learned from my research and talking with mental health pros was that mindfulness is a tool used to overcome conditions like anxiety and depression, which I find myself in throughout my adult life. According to mindful.org, mindfulness is “a pretty straightforward word. It suggests that the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving through.”
For me personally, my mind likes to wander in the past and in the future. I think about events that happened in the past (often negative), conversations replay over and over again, and I worry about a million things that haven’t even happened yet.
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Who is mindfulness for?
Mindfulness is for anyone and everyone! Whether you’re a dentist, a lawyer like my client Alicia who practices mindfulness to overcome stress in her job and life, or even a mental health professional yourself, mindfulness is a power tool that helps you stay grounded in the present and avoid the pitfalls that your mind traveling in the past or future too often can bring.
How to be mindful
Being mindful seems like an easy concept, but the practice of it is just that: practice. We have to practice catching ourselves when our minds go deep into the past or future. We can take cues from our body, such as:
- Is my jaw or muscles tense?
- How’s my breathing? Am I taking in deep breaths or are they short ones? Am I holding my breath?
- What’s going on in my body? Do I feel stressed, anxious, scared?
The above are cues that we might be feeling stressed. Everyone reacts differently to stress. Once you catch yourself thinking about the past or the future and see signs that it’s stressing you out, you can practice a method called S.T.O.P.
S.T.O.P. approach to mindfulness
S.T.O.P. is an acronym that’s widely used by mental health professionals. When you feel sadness, anxiety, or anything negative you can take a moment to remind yourself to stop to become more aware of your thoughts and the environment around you. It will make a massive difference as it has for me. S.T.O.P. stands for:
- S: Stop and take a step back
- T: Take a breath, and come back to the present
- O: Observe what’s happening inside and externally without judgement.
- P: Proceed with awareness
The S.T.O.P. method has helped me come back to center and be in the present. Here are a few more methods I use to help me practice mindfulness each day:
Walk each morning
Walking in the morning helps me focus my mind and get my heart rate up. Usually, in the morning, I wake up with racing thoughts. I can’t help these thoughts, but I can practice mindfulness by getting out of my environment and being present as I walk. I notice each step, each breath, and the scenery around me. I even touch things as I walk to help me embrace the present and what’s directly around me. I work on keeping my thoughts there on the walk.
Practicing breathing is super important for me to be mindful. I typically practice taking in 20 deep in and out breaths while I am walking. This is one set, and I do 3 sets. This helps me empty my mind of thoughts and anxiety, and gets me hyper-focused on the present.
Prayer and thankfulness
I typically practice praying and being thankful to God each morning while on my walk after I am finished doing my breathing techniques. I find that feeling genuine thankfulness for even the most simple things helps me be present. Sometimes I get into negative thought patterns and it’s difficult to be thankful for anything. I often start meditating on simple things I’m thankful for, like being able to walk, breathe, and have a warm place to sleep.
Avoid using technology for a time
Technology, at least for me, can have an extremely negative effect on my mental health. Social media specifically clutters my mind and makes me be everywhere except the present. I try to shut off social media for a period of time. If I don’t catch myself, I am looking at social media throughout the day and constantly seeing negative news or posts that make me feel negative or anxious.
Final thoughts on mindfulness
Mindfulness is an extremely powerful tool that helps me be present. Not only does it have the effect of reducing my stress, anxiety, and depression, but it also helps me enjoy my day by keeping me grounded in the moment. If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, I’d recommend trying out some of the ideas above that have helped me.
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