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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

3 Mindfulness Techniques for Living in the Present Moment

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3 Mindfulness Techniques for Living in the Present Moment

Life on Earth is an expression of the present moment and a journey with a beginning and end. Living and creating it shapes the concepts of past and future. While reading this you shape a new understanding and create your next move. We’re about to tackle two of the most complex concepts of all: mindfulness and presence.

To use mindfulness techniques effectively and efficiently, first we need to understand the basics of mental energy. The techniques won’t serve you if you are not capable of managing your mental fluctuations and the emotions produced by them.

Knowing this, we can effectively and efficiently apply a mindfulness technique and get the most out of the present moment.

Scratching the Surface of the Present

The mind is naturally collecting and processing information permanently, so it’s constantly occupied. We’re filling it up, and we’ve been doing so ever since we were born: childhood memories, imaginations, habits, traumas, ideas, and so on. Our mind is full of information, but it is not always mindful in a way that makes us aware of that information.

So, how do mindfulness techniques coordinate all this information in the present?

Since the mind is processing thoughts at an incredible speed, sometimes there is awareness of what is going on, and sometimes there isn’t. We often lack awareness when dealing with multiple emotions, thoughts, or events at once. Thinking always happens in the present moment, but that doesn’t mean we are conscious of what that thinking is producing.

It is not enough to say: “Yes, there is nothing but the present moment, and yes, I am fully aware of here and now.” And then? What happens when you have to deal with complex conflicts and negative emotions here and now?

You can be well aware of your memories, ideas, and knowledge, but if you fail to understand how they create mental energy, your present moment may end up being occupied with the past and the future.

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The Basics of Mental Energy

Our mental energy is developed through five mental fluctuations.

Simply put, a thought is a mental construct that produces certain emotions, such as enthusiasm, sadness, frustration, and happiness. The feeling, or mental energy, is the output or the capacity of the mind you get as a result of your thinking. Be aware that the five mental fluctuations can be applied positively as well as negatively:

  1. Righteous Knowledge – Cognition of the level of quality values lived in the present moment.
  2. False Knowledge – Taking the wrong for right; wrong perception or misconception.
  3. Imagination – The origin of an idea, and the power of creation.
  4. Memory – A recalling capability of how presence was lived.
  5. Sleep – A state of re-setting the fluctuations; the replenishment of mental energy, resting of mind and body.

These fluctuations and how they’re applied shape you as an individual: your mental energy (emotions) develops from the coordination of these fluctuations.

Knowledge + memories + imaginations + misconception = Emotions

The Present Moment

Presence, which is the ultimate reality of existence on a cosmic scale, untouched by any human concept, is interrupted by our ability to think and use intelligence, which can memorize or imagine a present moment. These mental activities — the recalling and constructing of thoughts — have created the concepts of past and future.

This is also where “time” comes in as an invention for the means of measurement and communication in our conscious world. We use time to label our past, present, and future but are often more concerned with the past and future as we attempt to rework past memories or plan for future events.

The present moment is difficult to tap into because it feels so fleeting. The past and future feel lengthy, tangible in some way. It is much more difficult to bring yourself to a moment that you know will soon pass. However, it is important to do so if you want to improve your focus and mental health.

The Length of the Present Moment

The present moment is as long as you want it to be. It can be as long as a beautiful melody, as the sound of the crashing waves upon the shore, or as the sound of a slamming door. Your perception decides. And the technique below can help you.

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To live in the present moment, you need a continuous, tangible experience. That continuous experience is your breathing. Breathing is so powerful because you will always be able to find it in the present moment.

The longer you are conscious of your breathing, the longer you live in the present moment and the longer your mindfulness is present. Here we come to the mindfulness techniques.

Mindfulness Techniques

The following are techniques to move you into the present moment. Experiment with each of these and find which one resonates with you.

1. Conscious Breathing

This involves closing your eyes and focusing on the sound and movement of your breath. Find where you in your body you feel your breath the most. Some say it’s in their chest, others in their stomach. Some people find it helpful to focus on the movement of air in and out of the nose. Wherever you feel it most, focus on that.

If your mind wanders, that’s ok. Simply practice bringing yourself back to the breath over and over again.

Some of the benefits of this technique[1] include:

  • Calming mental fluctuations
  • Enabling identification and distinction of emotions
  • Fading of (negative) emotions
  • Increasing attention and concentration
  • Improving self-inquiry and self-knowledge
  • Improving the quality of imagination, memory, and knowledge

An excerpt from the book About the Power of Breath explains the connection between the breath, awareness, and presence:

“The breath is the only natural connection of the mind with the Presence. And this connection between the breath and the mind is constant, permanent, it cannot be interrupted, it cannot be left out while the process of life is happening.”[2]

Breathe consciously and notice that your mindfulness is given. With this technique, you can stretch the length of your present moment and all mental qualities you wish to acquire will develop as a result in its own time.

2. Gazing

The mindfulness technique of gazing is simple to perform and has an immediate effect. Pointing your eyes at a certain object for as long as you can will bring your thoughts into one place.

Choose a flower, a candle light, or any interesting object you like and just gaze at it. Don’t analyze the object; just stare at it for as long as you can, and you’ll notice the improvement of your concentration, the awareness of yourself, your state of being, and eventually of your thoughts.

During the gazing you will be able to see, to observe a thought interrupting this mindfulness technique, which indicates the level of your awareness.

Repeat this exercise at least three times a day for a few minutes and make notes of the progress of your concentration and awareness.

3. Humming

The technique of humming is another way to enhance awareness and focus the mind.

  1. Close your eyes, looking at the inner side of your eyelids, and inhale slowly and deeply through your nose.
  2. Cover your ears with your palms to feel the humming more intensely.
  3. Exhale, creating a humming sound that resonates from your belly.
  4. Right after the humming is over, before your next inhalation, hold your breath for a few seconds and observe the one-pointedness of your mind.

Repeat this for at least ten breaths and increase this practice as you see fit.

I personally love this technique, as it instantly focuses my mind in the present moment and has an immediate soothing effect on my whole body and mind. Whenever I feel stressed, I do the humming exercise, and it instantly relieves all the pressure.

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The subtle vibration of the humming is an inner massage of your body, mind and soul, and makes you one (mindful) with the present moment.

Why Is Mindfulness Important?

Once your awareness moves away from the breath, you become aware of things and activities inside and outside yourself again. You may be gaining knowledge, but the inquiry into your true being and your psychological evolvement often cannot take place.

Mindfulness, with practice, will help you focus on what’s important and get rid of negativity and harmful thought patterns. You will find that you capture more of the important things happening in life and that you’re able to construct positive memories based on what’s happening here and now.

Final Thoughts

The gazing and humming mindfulness techniques are great for practicing concentration, restoring mental and physical strength, and connecting to the present moment. They prepare you to be as present as possible in the outside world. However, as great as they are, they’re limited in their application as you cannot gaze or hum while communicating to people or performing daily activities.

It’s only the technique of conscious breathing that can be used in any situation, at any moment. Applying it does not require a tranquil set-up like a yoga studio or meditation center. You can apply it everywhere, at any time. By doing so, you remain in the present moment, mindful, for as long as you want.

More Tips on Mindfulness Techniques

Featured photo credit: Cristian Newman via unsplash.com

Reference

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Marcin Gil

Marcin is a spiritual being just like anyone challenging to uncover what we already have โ€“ spiritual freedom.

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Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

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Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

1. Stress Hormone Overload

Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

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You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

3. Negative Mindset

Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

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Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

4. Digestive Issues

It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

5. Depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

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Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

6. Breathing Problems

Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

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There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

7. Sleep Issues

Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

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More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

Reference

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