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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

3 Mindfulness Techniques for Living in the Present Moment

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 February 26, 2021

3 Common Causes Of Stress That Are Depleting Your Energy

3 Common Causes Of Stress That Are Depleting Your Energy

Are you feeling amplified anxiety, sadness, or anger lately? An astounding 84% of adults have felt at least one of these stress-related emotions in the two weeks prior to being surveyed, according to this recent Stress in America report.[1] Although it’s often comforting to know you’re not alone, the pervasiveness of this particular shared experience is disconcerting. But first, what causes stress?

What Causes Stress?

Lurking beneath the surface of this collective situation are some deeper factors: feelings of powerlessness and a diminished sense of certainty.

Due to a variety of events over the past year, control over numerous elements of our lives has been stripped away, leaving us feeling frustrated, afraid, and unsure about the future. It’s as if someone took the puzzle of our lives, broke apart every segment we had painstakingly pieced together, then shook them up and dumped them into a scrambled mess on the floor. On top of that, we’re trying to put it all back together while slogging through in survival mode, every day, on repeat—it’s enough to make even the Energizer Bunny feel depleted.

From this place of disempowered overwhelm, it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like there is little we can do to regain our footing and overcome the stress. However, that is the furthest thing from the truth.

Let’s look on the bright side: We can all improve our energy and relieve stress simply by shifting a few essential habits.

When everything feels out of control, here are 3 often-overlooked areas where you can be in control and obliterate the common causes of stress that are depleting your energy. Each is proven to directly compound stress and deplete energy when neglected but enhance energy and stress relief when managed proactively.

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1. Sleep Quality Secrets to Snub the Stubborn Stress-Fatigue Cycle

You may be well aware of how stress disrupts or prevents a good night’s rest. Frustrations over the day’s events or anxiety about what’s coming tomorrow are common blocks to getting enough zzzz’s. But did you know that the reverse is also true?

Studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood. One such study found that subjects who were limited to 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. They also cited a dramatic improvement in mood upon return to normal sleep. [2]

In addition to these directly mood-related symptoms, lack of sleep can cause muddled focus, fatigue, and impairment of information processing which often result in secondary causes of stress. We feel like the walls are falling around us as we run behind schedule, struggle to collect scrambled thoughts, suffer the consequences of knee-jerk reactions, and fight the inevitable downsides of exhaustion, including clouded judgment, inhibited self-control, and difficulty in making decisions or completing tasks.

Unfortunately, our favorite fixes are actually counterproductive. Two of the most common substances used in direct response to not getting enough sleep—alcohol to relax us enough to fall asleep and caffeine to perk us up after inadequate sleep—only worsen our ability to secure consistent and restful slumber, creating a vicious cycle. Relying on these “band-aid fixes” only amplifies and prolongs our feelings of stress.[3][4]

Ultimately, sleep deprivation secretly undermines our ability to make smart choices when it comes to regaining control over the other causes of stress which are depleting our energy.

Here are two simple tips to help you sleep better tonight:

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  • Turn off all screens at least one hour before hitting the hay to send the signal to your brain that it’s bedtime and ease your mind into sleepy relaxation.
  • Be intentional with your soothing bedtime rituals. Instead of mindlessly passing the time in the hours before you turn in, focus on an activity that feels soothing and nurturing like a foot massage or a few gentle yoga poses.

2. Focus on Comfort Food for Extra Energy and Simple Stress Relief

The word “malnutrition” is commonly associated with poverty-related food shortages. However, in the medical world, the prefix “mal-” is also defined as “defective.” By broadening our understanding of this term, we can see that nutrient deficiencies can happen for people of any socioeconomic status—and they do.

The hustle culture endorsed by the industrialized world has created an abundance of quick and convenient food (and, let’s be honest, “fake food”) options that are minimally nourishing. The USDA’s most recent Dietary Guidelines reports that about two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, yet inadequate intake of nutrients that are proven to both relieve stress and increase energy (e.g., B vitamins and magnesium) remains common.[5][6] The data clearly shows that, for the majority of adults in the USA, the quality of our food is disproportionate to the quantity.

This reality has been compounded by pandemic-related stress eating, which is so prevalent that participants of a study published in September 2020 averaged a staggering 7 lbs weight gain in only 4 months.[7] This snapshot demonstrates that the foods we tend to crave, either for comfort or convenience, are usually high in sugars, saturated fats, and simple carbohydrates—all of which actually amplifies the stress response in the body.[8]

There is a funny-not-funny irony in the fact that the acronym for the U.S. eating style is SAD (Standard American Diet). We readily sacrifice nutrient needs for the sake of saving our time and money, which are poured right back into the culture that requires us to be so busy. We are drawn to unhealthy comfort foods like moths to a flame in an attempt to soothe ourselves—yet these exact foods only lead to feeling even more stressed and depleted.

So, what can we do?

Making smart food choices in itself is inherently stressful for many people. The internal battle can be just as impactful in causing stress and depleting your energy as the food choices themselves. If you can relate, don’t worry. It’s not necessary to focus on calorie counting or weight loss here.

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Instead, take comfort in a couple of easily doable steps toward shifting your dietary habits:

  • Be mindful of your intake of highly processed foods, and enjoy the benefits of simply adding a few stress-relieving, energizing foods and beverages to your daily repertoire.
  • Water, green tea, Brazil nuts, sweet potatoes, fresh baby spinach, brown rice, avocados, oatmeal, bananas, salmon, lean beef, and blueberries are all great choices to get you started.

3. A Surprising Battle for Your Attention, and How to Win the War

The pressure to be “always-on” has long been a major cause of stress for highly driven people. We live in an internet-centric world that has only been compounded by the circumstances of the pandemic. Working from home has blurred the lines between personal and professional boundaries, and many are suffering the consequences.

The combination of issues culminating from the past year has also kept people glued to the media and their newsfeeds. If you ever feel angry, anxious, sad, hopeless, or exhausted after watching the news or scrolling social media, this could be one of the main causes of stress that is depleting your energy. In fact, a study showed elevated levels of stress hormone (cortisol) and increased negative response to subsequent stressors after watching negative news.[9]

Research even shows that smartphones and social media apps manipulate the dopamine-driven reward system in our brains to create a habit that mimics gambling addiction.[10] Even when these tools don’t cost money, they have the capacity to deplete something much more valuable—our time, energy, and peace of mind.

This volatile mix may be generating a baseline cause of stress that has led directly to some of the other causes of stress mentioned in this article, including lack of sleep, alcohol or caffeine use, and unsupportive food choices/mindless eating.

Now, more than ever, we need to resist the urge to bombard our brains with fear-based information and distraction-inducing habits.

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Forward-focused actions to take now:

  • Create firm boundaries around your “check-in” time for reading and responding to emails or social media, both personal and professional.
  • Disable notifications on your devices to eliminate distractions.
  • Eliminate or minimize news exposure and only consume news from deliberately selected sources.
  • Stay focused on your top priorities and make sure your actions are aligned. Put this note on your screensaver/wallpaper as a reminder: “Is my behavior getting me what I want?”

Putting the Pieces Back Together

By flipping our perspective, we can see these lifestyle choices as the active causes of stress that they are, instead of stress aftereffects that are outside of our control. Circumstance might have made a mess of our puzzles, but we each have the power to pick up the pieces.

With a few simple shifts and a dedication to change, we can stop approaching them from a passive or reactive stance and take intentional action to improve our daily life. Just pause, look at the big picture, and reclaim control—then, watch as the puzzle pieces of your life click back into place with more energized ease and calm.

Tips on How to Handle Stress

Featured photo credit: engin akyurt via unsplash.com

Reference

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