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Staying organized to reduce stress: Part 2

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Dealing with Stress: Staying in the Moment Through Mindfulness

In this blog post: What is mindfulness? Why practice mindfulness? What are quick and easy things you can do throughout the day to stay mindful? 

Last time we saw how staying organized can help us reduce our stress levels by allowing us to focus on the current moment, rather than the future. In this article, we will see some other ways we can reduce our stress by staying in the moment.

What is Mindfulness and Why Should We Practice It?

More and more, we are starting to hear about mindfulness and its benefits from researchers, psychologists, doctors, educators, as well as the general public. But what exactly is mindfulness? According to pediatrician and meditation teacher Jan Chozen Bays (2011), mindfulness is “deliberately paying full attention to what is happening around you and within you—in your body, heart, and mind. Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgment” (p. 2). Sometimes we are mindful, living in the moment, but for much of our life we are on a sort of autopilot, completing tasks while our minds are elsewhere. Though being able to complete tasks on autopilot can be helpful, when we are not present, we tend to feel “vaguely but persistently dissatisfied” (Bays, 2011, p. 3). This, in turn, can lead to feelings of doubt, loneliness, and anxiety. However, if we can learn to “be present with things just as they are” (Bays, 2011, p. 4), much of this dissatisfaction will disappear. 

 In addition to being a pleasing experience, mindfulness has been found to reduce stress and anxiety, and increase our focus, energy, happiness, and feelings of fulfillment. It’s important to note that mindfulness does not involve thinking really hard about something, or doing everything very slowly, nor does it require that you set aside a huge amount of time to practice it; these are common misconceptions. Instead mindfulness is a way of being and can be incorporated into your daily activities. For some tips about how to do this, keep reading.

My Top 5 Favourite Ways to Stay Mindful

  1. Do a task with your non-dominant hand. This could be brushing your teeth, combing your hair, eating part of a meal, or anything else you can think of. This practice forces you to focus on the task as if you were a beginner.
  1. Appreciate your hands. Several times throughout the day, when your hands are busy, watch them as if they belonged to a stranger. You can also do this when your hands are still. This change in perspective is a very effective way of bringing yourself into the present moment.
  1. When eating, just eat. When you are eating or drinking, do not do anything else–don’t be watching tv, or doing work–just eat and open all of your senses. Look at the colours, shapes, and textures; smell the scents; taste the flavours; and listen to the sounds of chewing, sipping, and swallowing. If you prefer to do other things while eating meals, consider doing this while eating a snack.
  1. Mindfulness of posture. Several times throughout the day, become aware of your posture. How does it feel inside your body? Closing your eyes, what clues indicate whether you are standing or sitting or lying down? Where is there pressure? Movement? Then, if you notice your posture is not ideal, adjust it. If your head is forward, pull your chin back. If you are slouching, straighten up. If your shoulders are tensed, relax and roll them back and down. In addition to bringing you into the moment, this exercise is great for preventing muscle strain throughout the day (especially if you spend a lot of time at a desk or looking at a screen). Correcting your posture also helps give your lungs space to fill with air, and improves your state of mind.
  1. Bottoms of the feet. As often as possible throughout the day, bring your awareness to the bottom of your feet. Become aware of the sensations: pressure from the floor, coldness or warmth. This exercise is especially useful if you are anxious or upset, as it can help to ground you. 

Bonus: Silly walking. Several times in a day, especially if you are not in an ideal state of mind, do a silly walk of some kind (not necessarily in public). The easiest of these is to walk backwards, skip, or hop on one foot, but the sillier the better. Notice what happens to your state of mind or your mood. You’ll be surprised how effective this practice is. 

See part 1 of Staying Organized to Reduce Stress↗

For a deeper discussion of mindfulness and more tips like these, check out How to Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness↗ by Jan Chozen Bays.

References:

Bays, J. C. (2011). How to train a wild elephant: And other adventures in mindfulness

Shambhala. 

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