American novelist Louis L'Amour once said: “Few of us ever live in the
present. We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what
has gone.” Obsession with the past and the future could be a sign of anxiety
and depression, the two most common mental health disorders worldwide.
Living in the moment by bringing more mindfulness into your day can help
prevent or alleviate anxiety and depressive symptoms.
So, what exactly is mindfulness? And how do I start being mindful and living in the moment?
Mindfulness is all about awareness and acceptance. To be mindful is to be
aware of one’s internal experiences such as your own thoughts and feelings
and readily accepting them without denial and judgment. By living in the
moment and focusing on the present, a lot of people who practice mindfulness find that they worried less about the future and ruminated less over the past.
They also become much more able to form deep connections with other
Recent studies have shown how mindfulness is beneficial in many ways.
Mindfulness can be applied in psychotherapy by combining it with other
methods, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and it has been useful in the treatment of mental health conditions, including depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, relationship conflicts, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Mindfulness techniques also improve one’s physical health because it can help relieve stress, treat cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep quality, and lessen gastrointestinal difficulties.
Below are three great ways to bring more mindfulness into your day:
1. Mindful breathing
A mindful breathing technique is all about focusing on how you breathe.
It may sound so easy but concentrating on something as simple as
breathing can actually take some discipline and practice, since your
mind will wander off constantly. You might take a few mindful breaths
when you suddenly just find yourself thinking about your work
assignments or what you’ll have for dinner.
But once you begin to accept that the mind is always going to stray from
your mindfulness practices, you’ll find mindful breathing easier to do,
says Rachael Kable, published author and host of The Mindful Kind
podcast. She recommends a few breathing techniques that you can
practice one at a time: you can start with observing your breath and
being curious about how breathing works, as if doing it for the first time.
Notice how you inhale and exhale, without changing its pattern. “Try to
notice each breath of air as it travels down your nose and throat, to your
chest and diaphragm. Follow the journey of your breath as it travels
back out again,” she says.
You can also do the hand-over-heart technique. Place one hand over
your chest and notice the movement that each breath makes. Focus on
the sensation of your chest rising and falling as you inhale and exhale. If
you like how it feels, try placing your other hand just above your
stomach to feel your breath moving in and out of your diaphragm.
2. Mindful meditation
Mindfulness and meditation are related, but they are not the same thing;
mindfulness is one of the various types of meditation. Mindful
meditation happens when you pay attention to your thoughts as they
come to your mind. You don’t try to avoid or judge them; you simply
observe and accept them as they come.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to meditate mindfully, according to
mindful.org: Start by sitting on a stable, solid seat. Observe your legs
and take note of what they’re doing. Straighten – but don’t stiffen - your
upper body. Situate your upper arms parallel to your upper body. Then
let your hands drop onto the tops of your legs. With your upper arms at
your sides, your hands will land in the right spot. Drop your chin a little
and let your eyes fall gently downward. You may close your eyes, but it’s
not necessary when meditating. Finally, just focus on the here and now.
Relax then go about your day.
3. Mindful eating
Since eating is something that we do every day, it would be easy to
incorporate mindfulness into our daily lives. Mindful eating about using
mindfulness to understand your eating habits by paying attention to
how you eat. Mindful eating involves eating slowly and without
distraction. Turn off the TV or your phone and just focus on what you
eat. Make use of your senses by noticing the colors, smells, sounds,
textures, and flavors of the food you’re eating and appreciating it.
Mindful eating is also about making a distinction between actual,
physical hunger and psychological hunger, which makes it especially
useful to those who are prone to binge- or stress-eating. It will also help
you cope with guilt and anxiety about food, which is why mindfulness is
beneficial to those with eating disorders. Eating mindfully will help you
notice the effects that food has on your feelings and it will help you lose
weight and keep the weight off.