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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Practice Mindfulness (A Beginner’s Guide)

How to Practice Mindfulness (A Beginner’s Guide)

Mindfulness is a mental practice. It’s simply being aware of your thoughts, actions, and behaviors throughout the day, in your relationships, and interactions with the world around you.

There are some myths (which will be debunked below) that plague mindfulness as an overwhelming, “fake” attitude toward the typical and harsh realities of life; but mindfulness is simply a turning of attention to the direction in which our mind goes, without judgement.

It’s not wishing we were more positive or happy or friendly with others; instead, it’s a silent and objective observation of your own reactions, which surprisingly, you’re very much in control of! Instead of pretending into your feelings and emotions, and acting from a place of unconscious thought, mindfulness shows you how to remove the blind filters from your behavior, and tune into how you really act and feel.

From this place of truth, you can make changes that are in your highest good. So how to practice mindfulness?

1. Meditation

The most effective way of tuning into your thoughts and feelings is through meditation. It’s a practice by which you can slow down, sit down, and allow the world around you (and within you) to simply pause.

It’s a chance to tune into your breathing, which will automatically affect your nervous system, lower your blood pressure, and minimize any stress you may be bringing into your day. It’s also a chance to tune into your thoughts, and notice the ones that may be bringing you down.

We go through life at an incredibly rapid pace, and we seldom get the opportunity to slow down and listen to our thoughts. Meditation is that pause button we can hit, to acknowledge the quality of our thoughts.

What thoughts can stay and feel good for us to have? What thoughts can go, and no longer serve us? This is the epitome of a mindfulness practice.

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Creating a consistent meditation practice – 3-4 times per week – is a great way of using this tool to its advantage. How long you meditate is entirely up to you; know that even a few minutes per day is serving you well!

2. Affirmations

When life gets hectic and your mind wanders to overthinking and stress, it can be helpful to have a word or a phrase to come back to. This is called an affirmation.

It’s a simple phrase, said in the present tense, that acts as a lifeline to bring you back to not just the present moment, but to the kind of mental state you’d like to be in to take on the rest of your day.

Affirmations are powerful statements that you can use over and over again, whenever needed. You can have a few that you can recycle as the situation calls for it; or you can have one dedicated one that you keep coming back to.

Here is a list of affirmations that you can try. You can also make use of these affirmation apps to find inspirations. When you feel yourself mentally wandering away, pause; come back to your affirmation and say it out loud or to yourself three times. Take a few breaths and notice how you feel.[1]

3. Mindful Walking

Mindful walking is a type of meditation practice that encourages you to truly take notice of how you walk. It’s a great practice to begin to tune into your physical body, and the anatomical contractions that happen on a reflexive level (most of which we’re absolutely unaware of!) It also re-focuses your brain on the task at hand, and keeps it concentrated and disciplined.

Either inside or outside, begin to simply walk. You can walk in any direction, but make the pace nice and slow. Become aware of each step, as you plant your entire foot down onto the Earth.

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Go deeper into your awareness, and begin to take note of how the toes feel as they splay out in your footstep; how the leg lifts and the hips move; how the torso shifts as you balance your walk forward.

All of these simple yet complex movements pull you deeper into awareness of your physical body in space.

Take this mindful approach to the rest of your day. Can you become just as aware of everything else you do that may have been on autopilot?

4. Journaling

Journaling is a practice of writing down your thoughts as they come up. Creating a consistent practice means giving your thoughts and emotions a safe and healthy means of expression.

You may like to sit down at the end of your day and journal about how you felt, what came up, what brought you challenges, and what brought you joys. It’s a practice that pulls you into the present moment, and gives you a platform on which you can analyze your thoughts and dissect your feelings into something deeper:

How does it feel to be vulnerable and honest in your words? What emotions come up as you jot down your thoughts for the day? And can you begin to see these little snippets of truth and revelation without judgement?

One of the myths of a mindfulness practice is that it promotes a sense of “fake positivity.” We think that by meditating, journaling and speaking loving affirmations to ourselves, we’ve somehow covered up feelings of sadness or struggle that we undoubtedly face as human beings.

But beginning a mindfulness practice allows us to face these moments of hardship without being too harsh or critical on ourselves.

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With meditation and journaling as some of our tools, we can allow ourselves to be sad or angry, but know that we have a choice in how long we stay there… which brings us to another practice tool.

5. Acceptance

Life is not always going to be easy to love. We can say the same for ourselves and our loved ones.

One of the founding pillars of a solid mindfulness practice is allowing yourself to simply accept every emotion that comes your way: be that sadness, anger, apathy, confusion, and the like.

Feel all the feelings. They’re a part of you.

While some are not pleasant to endure, they teach you how to accept all parts of yourself that make up the whole. It’s not just a practice of mindfulness; it’s a practice of wholesome self-love, because you can’t only love the pretty, neat, easy parts of you.

Mindfulness teaches you how to welcome all feelings and thoughts without judgement or criticism. So the next time you’re feeling hard on yourself and are in a tough spot, allow the emotions and thoughts to rise up. They simply want to be seen. Imagine them like a sea of clouds on a bright, sunny summer day. See each of them come into your view, and then with your breath, watch them float on by.

Just like clouds, our thoughts and emotions are temporary. They don’t define us, much like clouds don’t define an infinite summer sky.

Keep coming back to this practice any time you feel overwhelmed and self-judgmental.

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6. Mindful Eating

Our eating routine has become synonymous with distractions: watching TV, talking with friends, working, etc. We no longer just eat.

Mindful eating is just that: a chance for you to get really aware of what and how you’re nourishing your body with food. Not only will you begin to enjoy your food even more (now that you’re aware of it), but you’ll be able to chew longer (which processes the food fully and actually helps you prevent overeating) and taste the food you’re enjoying.

Next time you’re having a meal, put away all distractions. Turn off your TV, put your phone away, and sit down to be fully present with your food.

If possible, eat in silence. It’s a game-changer! Chew your food fully, and notice the smells, tastes, and appearances of what you’re eating. This food is nourishing your body and going into your system, so become more curious about it and how it benefits you.[2]

Final Thoughts

Beginning a mindfulness practice doesn’t have to overhaul your entire life’s routine. It simply asks you to become more aware of your thoughts, actions, and behaviors throughout the day. If you’re aware, you can implement changes that are for your highest good.

Through tools such as meditation, mindful walking and eating, journaling, and affirmations, you can rewire your brain’s default setting that’s stuck in struggle, to a way out of complacency and into mental and emotional freedom.

The key is in accepting yourself as you are, and taking that awareness approach deeper with tools that are always at your disposal.

More About Practicing Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Lua Valentia via unsplash.com

Reference

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Aleksandra Slijepcevic

Accredited and Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher writing for Health & Fitness

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Published on March 2, 2021

How To Not Stress: 10 Stress Management Techniques

How To Not Stress: 10 Stress Management Techniques

It is not easy to decipher how to not stress, as stress is a part of life. Stress is the wear and tear of our mental and physical being as we continue to find soothing ways to cope with the constant change in our surroundings.

People often think of stress as related to work, chores at home, illnesses, and trying to beat rush hour traffic—which is not wrong—but it is more. Several factors trigger stress, but stress is the body’s internal reaction to fight or take flight in the presence of adversity.

In simple biological terms, stress is the state of increased arousal necessary for the human body to defend itself from a clear and present danger. Whenever we feel anxious, angered, tired, frightened, happy, excited, sad, or afraid, we are undergoing stress.

From minor challenges to major issues, stress is an acceptable and unavoidable pressure of human life. Stress is normal until we are incapable of controlling and coping with the overwhelming effect that stress becomes a problem.

Three in every four adults American suffer from stress—that is about 77 percent of the population.[1] Stress is triggered by anything from the economy, jobs, home front, kids, illnesses, and so on.

Types of Stress

In learning how not to stress, you must understand the types of stress and how you encourage it in your life. The causes of stress (stressors) are varied and multiple, but I am grouping them into two sectors.

External Stressors

These are external triggers that affect your immediate ability to stay focused or composed. They are:

  • Physical environment – confined spaces, light, noise, heat, brightness, and even darkness
  • Organizational – rules, regulation, deadlines, office gossips, pressure from work, etc
  • Social interaction – bullying, bossiness, disregard, harassment, aggressiveness (general human behavior towards you)
  • Life crises – death, relocation, new baby, marriage, losing your job, divorce, etc
  • Daily hassles – late in catching the bus, misplacing your car/house keys, mechanical breakdown, etc

Internal Stressors

These are stressors that emanate from our thoughts, mindset, and attitude. For example:

  • Your lifestyle – not getting enough sleep, busy schedules, caffeine or alcohol
  • Negative thoughts – pessimism, self-criticism, overthinking, feeling incapable.
  • Mind traps – being too personal about issues, unrealistic expectations, exaggerated or rigid mindset, etc
  • Personality traits – workaholic, OCD, perfectionist, etc

These factors contribute heavily to mental and physical stress leading to fear, anger, unforgiveness, and depression.

Stress and You

To consider stress as an ailment of modernity and technology is misinforming. Yes, our fast-paced lives and lifestyle are stressful, straining, and under relentless pressure. But we have actually created these triggers on our own. This is due to a desire for intense competitiveness and to match up with our peers. Stress is different for every individual, even if they are in the same situation.

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For example, a couple going through a bitter divorce will see the man enjoying himself while the lady suffers from bouts of emotional ups and downs. What is distressing to you may be nothing to another.

Take this example: a man works effectively in the comfort of his home yet finds working in a team or office stressful and overwhelming.

It is necessary to know that most of the stresses we experience are self-generated and self-induced. How we perceive (life)—whether a situation is threatening, sad, or happy—depends on how we see ourselves. The ability to recognize the stresses we create is the first step toward preventing stress.

Symptoms of Stress

Excessive, prolonging, and denying the existent of stress in our lives is detrimental and affects our entirety—and if left unresolved, results in a feeling of fear, anger, frustration, and depression.

Stress contributes to simple illnesses like headaches, skin diseases, ulcers, insomnia, and digestive problems. In severe cases, stress can lead to suicidal thoughts and death. The following are the symptoms of stress grouped into four categories.

Physical Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Change in sleep pattern without any obvious reason
  • Unstable digestive system resulting in diarrhea and inability to hold down food
  • Low sexual libido
  • Headaches and body pain
  • Dizziness, unnecessary sweating, and feeling faint
  • Palpitations, breathlessness, quickened heartbeats, or missed heartbeats

Mental Symptoms

  • Inability to focus
  • Memory lapses
  • Indecisiveness
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Fear/panic attack

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Eating disorder and appetite
  • Increase smoking and alcohol intake
  • Restlessness, fidgeting, and nail-biting

Emotional Symptoms

  • Depression
  • Easily irritated
  • Anger, rage, cry easily
  • Deterioration in hygiene habit and appearance

The primary triggers of stress are lack of financial stability, job security, family responsibility, personal relationship, health issues, and safety. Now that we have successfully categorized stress, it is time to recognize the one you are suffering from and choose a simple technique to manage it.

Remember, stress can be controlled, allowing you to live a fulfilling life.

10 Stress Management Techniques

The most common stress management techniques are eating right, exercise, yoga, and meditation. However, some stress is beyond these four techniques, so we will try to list out as many as possible to help you beat that stressful situation.

A set of simple yet effective techniques to help individuals identify, understand, and effectively deal with the stress in their lives to minimize the impact.

1. Change the Perspective

How many times have you replayed a negative situation and outcome in your head that never happens? We are all human, and as crazy as it sounds, negativity is appealing and more creative than positive things. However, stress is tied to negativity and our inability to break free from them.

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Changing your perspective is not as simple as ABC. However, you can start by analyzing the feeling, removing all exaggerated parts, pick out the truth (be honest here) and discard the rest. Phew, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Now, take the truth and work on it from a positive angle. You will immediately feel less stressed, disoriented, and angered. It will take some time, but never judge an issue from an exaggerated point of view.

2. Create a Journal

A problem shared is half solved. While we cannot all go about blabbing our predicaments to others, an effective way of sharing and solving is journaling. There is really nothing difficult about journaling—it is just you writing the day’s events and how they made you feel.

Stress takes clarity, focus, and awareness of our immediate environment from us. Well, journaling restores them back to you. When you write down your feelings, you can identify, understand and deal with them better than replaying them in your head. It allows you to separate your feelings, accurately define emotion connect with your internal aura for better clarity.

3. Mindful Breathing

Stress takes peace and stability away from your life. Breathing is held in high regard by Buddhists, Hindus, and Taoists who believe breathing is a system of reintroducing peace into a troubled soul.

Mindful breathing is breathing that comes from the pit of your belly. It is, deep consistent, and stress relieving breathes which calm you down.

Mindful breathing can be done anyway in two easy steps:

  • Gentle inhale air to fill your lungs and stomach while slowly counting to 3 or five through your nose
  • Hold for a second or two and gradually exhale while counting 1 through 5

Repeat this as many times as possible until you feel your power returning to you. As you exhale, imagine that you are breathing out the stressors and tension.

4. Positive and Guided Daydreaming

We all daydream—some are good, and others run wild with our imagination. Using guided images and thoughts, you can avert a stress situation from escalating.

For example, you just had a heated argument with your spouse on the phone, and you are at work. Two things can happen: have your mood down all day, or you can identify the stress and calm dissipate it with happier images—daydreaming.

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Close your eyes and imagine a happy memory. Use good thoughts to counteract negative ones ad build your confidence from deep within. Also, forgive the situation and yourself, else you will keep playing the thought in your mind.

5. Go Back to Your To-Do List

If you cannot complete the chores, let it be. Remember that trying to squeeze in more than you can handle is actually killing you gradually. Even superman rests once in a while, so you should, too.

Reducing or prioritizing your workload could be the solution to the constant headaches, backaches, and shoulders. If you are a mom, learn to delegate duties to your kids or allocate time to work for yourself.

6. Yoga It

Yoga is an Indian form of meditation that combines simple poses, deep breathing, and relaxation techniques to ward off stress and stressors. Yoga is an effective stress relief technique because it deals with the physical, emotional, and mental organs that stress hacks into. The immediate benefits of yoga are felt immediately, but the long-term impact is also beautiful.

To get started, you can follow simple yoga programs online or enroll in a class to help you to master the poses at your own pace. Yoga enables you to breathe easily, improves the clarity of thoughts and mind, relaxes the body and mental health. However, if the twist and turns of yoga are not for you, then you will enjoy the next technique.

7. Add Exercise to Your Routine

Our body is like a car engine, if you do not maintain it, it will crash when you need it most. Regular exercise builds a strong body, no doubt. However, it also builds a strong mind to deal with stresses that affect us daily. You do not have to HIIT or do any strenuous exercise, choose something simple and for 7 to 15 minutes every day.

Joining a gym or community fitness center is outstanding, but you can choose to walk, run, jog, swim or go dancing. The idea is to keep your body moving for fun. Furthermore, if you are the outdoorsy type, indulge in your passion and watch the stress melt away.

8. Massage and Detox Therapy

When your insides are unclean, it can lead to stress. Equally, tired and over-working can double the stress effect leading to illness and mental breakdown.

There are many reasons to go for a massage, and stress is one of them. Massages are an ideal tool for maintaining physical and emotional health. While detoxification is a way to relieve the stress on your internal organs, both will make you feel light and relaxed.

9. Imbibe in the Power of Positive Affirmations

The power of positive talk has proven to increases positive emotion, compassion, and confidence in the speaker. How we treat ourselves determines the outcome. If you begin the day with negativity, you are likely to attract negativity and problems to yourself.

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However, if you take your time to affirm positive thoughts in your life, you will succeed. Affirmations are more than mere words; they are meant to awaken the optimistic and daring part of your being.

So, when you feel that negative emotions are building up or images are flashing before your eyes, take a moment and remind yourself of your capabilities and believe it, too. What you perceive is what you are.

10. Getting Enough Sleep

Let’s be honest, it is almost impossible to get 8 hours of sleep as recommended, but you can get a good night’s sleep instead. Many people sleep for 8 hours or more but are restless in their sleep and wake up feeling exhausted, drained, and stressed.

Sleep is a fundamental way for the body to recuperate for the day’s activities. However, your sleeping condition should be prioritized for relaxing sleep. To do this, ensure your mattress is comfortable and your bedroom is at the right temperature.

If you cannot get 8 hours at night, try to nap in the afternoons and watch your diet before bed. Finally, create a sleep routine. You do not have to “do-or-die” it, but gradually ease your way into better sleep.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, stress is the baggage you refuse to let go of. The more you pile on, the deeper you are sinking into a place of darkness.

Let go of the excess load now. Start by following these stress management techniques on how not to stress. Do you have one or two methods you are currently using to relieve stress? Feel free to add them to the list.

More Tips on Stress Management

Featured photo credit: whoislimos via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] American Psychological Association: Stress in America™ 2020

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