Chances are that in the past few weeks, you’ve heard at least one thing about “mindfulness” and how you should be practicing it. What exactly is mindfulness and what health benefits does it have to offer you?
Mindfulness is merely tuning in to what you are feeling at any given time and maintaining that awareness. For example, while taking a walk focus on what you are feeling and seeing. Tune in to what your feet feel like as they strike the ground, the breeze on your face, the noises surrounding you. By doing this you will really experience your walk and relax fully. Much better than worrying about what is waiting for you to do when you return, right?
One easy way to begin practicing this is to focus on your breathing. Slow your breath and count the moments in and then out. Try lengthening your breaths, making them longer, a little deeper. Notice whether you are breathing from your chest or from your stomach. Especially in emotionally heavy moments, this can quickly calm you down. Other ways are to notice what’s happening around you, be aware of your body and how it feels, and use all five senses to experience a moment.
Some people will find this easier than other forms of meditation. In practicing mindfulness, you’re focusing on something yet you aren’t required to “empty” your mind. This focus can help reduce your feelings of anxiety about a situation and leave you calmer. Studies have shown that it increases your immune system, improves relationships, and helps you to be more in tune to what you feel thereby allowing you to deal with emotions as they come, instead of allowing them to build to an unhealthy level. Naturally, practicing mindfulness won’t address all anxiety. The next step in addressing anxiety and other troublesome mental health symptoms is taking a free and anonymous screening which Summit Counseling Center offers at http://screening.mentalhealthscreening.org/SUMMIT.