If you’re facing a difficult period in life — maybe you’ve just been diagnosed with a serious illness, are experiencing a breakup of sorts, or are simply dealing with hopeless feelings — mindfulness could be a great help.
Often emotions of fear, anxiety, and confusion arise during difficult times, along with many unanswered questions.Read More
But the question remains: does it really work? We think it does.
5 tips for practicing mindfulness:
- Choose one daily activity to practice mindfully (e.g. eating your lunch, brushing your teeth or taking a shower). During this activity notice your breath and activity of your mind for a few moments.
- Take a pause throughout your day. During your day, find a moment to stop and take 5 deep breaths with your eyes closed.
- Kindly acknowledge a moment you’re experiencing a difficulty by putting your hand on your heart and saying, “I feel my pain. How can I be kind to myself in this moment?”
- Get curious about your emotions. Experiment with welcoming your emotions as they come, instead of pushing them away.
- Become aware when you’re in a rush. Ask yourself, “Do I really need to hurry?”
Jon Kabat Zinn, founder of the eight-week stress-reduction program, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a course that has entered the mainstream of health care, scientific study, and public policy, describes mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” The first step to being able to pay attention in the present moment is slowing down the mind — often referred to as the “monkey mind.” This is done through a regular meditation practice.
Regularly meditating allows people to start to become more aware of the emotions in the physical body and the thoughts running through the mind, to feel into their emotions and acknowledge their thoughts as they arise, and then gently let them go. Shannon Masur, a colon cancer and Lynch Syndrome survivor, describes this as “… when a thought comes in, to feel it, feel the fear, but let it go after a few seconds.”
All of this is said to result in an overall reduction in stress and anxiety in the body. It may also help patients to control problems such as pain, difficulty sleeping, tiredness, feeling sick and high blood pressure. This was confirmed in a 2011 study in which most participants expressed a number of perceived positive effects after participating in a mindfulness program.
These benefits included increased calm, enhanced sleep quality, more energy, less physical pain, and increased well-being. These findings show that through mindfulness, you may be able to enhance your capacity to handle the life stresses that affect the body’s ability to heal.
Caution … it can take time to feel the benefits of meditation. So be patient! When you first start to meditate you might feel more stressed as you see how busy your mind is. But if you keep trying to meditate (even a short time each day) you will hopefully notice it gets easier. Gradually you’ll feel calmer and less stressed. Regular practice is key.