In last month’s article, I delved into the concept of mindfulness and the proven effectiveness it has on reducing stress. The calming effects are significant, and when mindfulness is applied on a daily basis, you move out of a state of reactive stress and begin to take back control of your thought patterns and resultant behavior by embracing the power of the present moment.
Being “present” starts from the moment you wake up and open your eyes. Mindfulness can and should become a daily habit, a positive habitual pattern that is practiced every day. Just like any skill, mastering the art of relaxation will reward you with a lifetime of less stress. With World health experts predicting stress to be the health epidemic of the 21st Century, surely stressing less is our goal!
So many of us in today’s tech-based culture, are at times, addictively oblivious to the fact we start most mornings by disconnecting from ourselves – an existence of total disengagement from our own thoughts, feelings, and motivations. Instead, we connect and “check-in” with our virtual world dominated by social media and electronic correspondence. Immediately we take ourselves away from our core energy and distract ourselves with the “I wish” reality of consuming and judging other people’s soap opera rollercoasters, inflated egos, and fragmented energies. This couldn’t be more UNMINDFUL.
Mindfulness requires you to let go of any thought that is unrelated to the present moment. Any thoughts that are making you worry about the past or anxious about the future, are only going to take you off your path. Remember we are aiming to reduce stress and it starts from the moment you wake up. Try placing the phone face down and check it later during breakfast, as for now, you are committed to cultivating a relaxation response.
Why? Because it frames your day in a positive light aligning you with your core beliefs and motivations and as Paulo Coelho wrote in his amazing book The Alchemist – “… when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” So it makes sense during your morning mindfulness to let the universe know of your true intentions.
Professor Herbert Benson, a pioneer of mindfulness concepts, offers some great advice:
“As you awaken in the morning, bring your attention to your breathing. Instead of letting your mind spin off into yesterday or today, take mindful breaths. Focus on your breathing and sense the effects of breathing throughout your body.”
Sounds pretty simple right? Yes! Imagine spending just 5 mins every morning doing the above – breathing, connecting to your beliefs and of course being grateful for all you have. Try it and experience for yourself the magic of mindfulness meditation.
I am also a huge advocate of the stress reducing benefits of “earthing”, which I also recommend as a mindfulness technique. If you don’t have time in the mornings, it is ideal for lunchtime breaks at work to help you re-connect and re-energise halfway through your day. If you can’t or prefer not to take your shoes off, well bask in the sunshine and soak up some rays. A walk along the beach after work will ‘ground’ you as you feel the waves wash over your feet whilst smelling the fresh salty air.
Furthermore, to start or end your day with stretching or body movement exercises like yoga and pilates, are excellent options to slow you down to the present moment, focus on breathing and distress. You will be calmer, clearer of mind, refreshed and will experience improved sleeping patterns.
In my opinion, an expert in the field of “mindful breathing” is Amercian based health and wellness writer and coach – Ed Harrold. He has dedicated the vast majority of his career to mastering the science of yoga and mindful breathing …
“Mindful conscious breathing is the most undervalued tool we use for health and human performance whether it be corporate and/or athletic performance. Learning to “control the breath,” also known as conscious breathing, has countless positive effects on our mental, physical and emotional state of being. In addition to supporting overall health & well-being, conscious breathing cultivates mindfulness. Mindfulness has been linked to improved cognitive functioning, stress reduction and organizational performance.”
As the Author of The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh states, “To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds.” This is why I recommend the habit of starting every day with mindfulness in the form of breathing, meditating, earthing, setting of positive intentions and projecting gratefulness. As a result of framing your day in a positive way, it will help reduce the adverse effects of reactive stress.
In Part Three of The Power of Mindfulness, I will go into more detail on how to apply mindfulness techniques while in the work environment to identify and alleviate muscle tension, but until then take some deep breaths and stress less…