Recently I’ve discovered the positive effects of practicing mindfulness. Simply put, mindfulness is the act of focusing on the present moment. If you’re someone like me with an overactive mind, who’s constantly thinking and analyzing and ultimately worrying too much, you’ll find that those thoughts can negatively impact your overall well-being. Mindfulness teaches you to curb anxious thoughts, to be calmer and less tense, and the beauty of it is that simple techniques can prove to be extremely effective.
One big practice of mindfulness is meditation. There’s no one right way to meditate. It’s all about your personal preference. You can meditate in the morning as a relaxing way to start your day. You can meditate in the evening as a way to decompress. You can meditate whenever you have a few minutes and want to clear your head and re-focus.
I’ll give you a crash course: Start by sitting in a chair with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Relax your shoulders. Rest your hands in your lap. Shut your eyes. Breathe in deeply, paying attention to only the air you’re drawing in. Hold the breath for a few moments, and then leisurely release the breath in a long exhale. Repeat this breathing technique several times, focusing only on the breath. If you find your mind wandering to other things, like a task you need to get done, simply bring your attention back to the breath. Don’t berate yourself for losing focus, as it’s natural for your mind to wander. Gently, calmly, return your attention to your breathing.
Another great technique is yoga, which I’ll admit I have yet to get into, though it’s something I plan to start doing in the near future. In the meantime, if you find yourself getting bogged down by negative thoughts, try using what author Mallika Chopra calls the STOP method: Stop, take three breaths, observe what you’re feeling and proceed. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings to help you figure out why you’re feeling the way you are. However, it’s just as important not to dwell on things that are out of our control. It’s also important not to worry about things in the future when we should be focusing on the present.
Recognizing your thought patterns and finding ways to think more constructively will only help you in the long run. The next time you find yourself thinking about a past mistake, or worrying about how you’re going to deal with something in the future, be sure to anchor yourself back to the present. Focus on whatever it is you’re doing. Tell yourself, right here, right now, you’re fine. If you find yourself having doubts, you can give yourself a mantra to repeat. “I’m strong. I’m confident. I’m capable.” The more you internalize these types of positive thoughts, the better off you’ll be.