Life happens in the here and now. We’ve become so overwhelmed that our minds are more busy and more distracted than ever. Adopting a mindfulness practice can lead to more happiness, more health and even better productivity over time.
Mindfulness is to experience one present moment with full attention in the experience while letting go of judgement. It’s to actually live in the present moment without having to be hyper stimulated by so much information coming in. In other words it’s the exact opposite of multitasking. You could call it mono-tasking.
Backed By Science
I grew up with meditation at a young age through my martial arts practice. Even with that experience when mindfulness began it’s upswing it left me rolling my eyes. It seemed so impractical and esoteric that it wouldn’t warrant including it into my life or my clients lives. After trusted professional friends and clients alike kept praising the benefits of adopting it as a practice I finally jumped into the research to see if it supported their claims.
The benefits of mindfulness aren’t ambiguous or mystical, you can actually measure the results. A 2013 study out of the University of Pittsburg found the amygdala actually shrinks and shows less activity with a mindfulness practice. The amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for the “flight or fight” response. Another study published in 1994 in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience found that after mindfulness based meditation practices participants anxiety reduced by 15 to 22% (1).
Implement A Mindfulness Practice
Many think of mindfulness as being practices like QiGong, Yoga, Tai Chi and Buddhist prayers or Buddhist meditation. There are more practical ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life without having to sell all of your worldly belongings and going to live in a temple high up on a mountain. Here are 4 practical ways to incorporate mindfulness into your days:
1. AM and PM Meditation:
The PM meditation will help you unwind the chaotic mind and program your dreams for peace and tranquility. Your AM practice primes your mind for the first things you choose to put into it. Instead of having carry over from the day before or being reactive to the first things you are presented with you can focus your mind on that which you decide.
The easiest form of meditation I know is called box breathing. Think of your breathing pattern like a box in that you breath in for a 4 count, hold for a 4 count, release for a 4 count and then hold again for a 4 count. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Once you start simply focus on your breath in this fashion. If thoughts come notice them, but return back to your breath
2. Mindful Meals:
Slow down and be in the moment with your meals. Let any phones or distractions go and simply chew a few more times than you normally do. Most people report needing less food because they felt fuller faster and actually enjoyed their meals more (2). This goes to show mindful eating may contribute to weight loss/fat loss.
3. Go Device-Less:
Spend the last few hours of your day without an electronic of any kind. The blue light from screens can really disrupt your brain at the moment it’s attempting to start winding down. Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher, noted light at night is part of the reason so many people don’t get enough sleep. Lockley and his research team linked shortened sleep cycles to an increased risk of depression, diabetes and cardiovascular issues.
4. Take a Hike:
Instead of plodding for hours on end in front of the computer take a few mindful breaks through out the day. Set an alarm every few hours and get out of the led or synthetic lighting. Go for a walk outside or simply just step out to get some air.
Putting It Together
Don’t expect to do this all at once if it’s a daunting task. Remember I had been meditating for 5-10 minutes every day, on and off, since I was 10 years old. Adding another 10 minutes to it and also a second session took me over 30 years to do.
Isn’t the whole point to actually have less stress and not more? Putting one thing into your life at a time until it’s a habit will help to start reducing the anxiety, stress and ill effects of our busy life.
Your Mind-Body Transformation Coach,
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1.Fadel Zeidan, Katherine T. Martucci, et al. Neural correlates of mindfulness meditation-related anxiety relief. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2014 Jun; 9(6): 751–759.
2. Andrade AM, Greene GW and Melanson KJ. Eating slowly led to decreases in energy intake within meals in healthy women. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Jul;108(7):1186-91.