Mindfulness Techniques to Reduce Stress
We hear, and talk, a lot about stress these days, and there’s a good reason. The power of stress to complicate and even cause disease, pave the way to depression, cause and exacerbate pain, and poison our relationships with ourselves and others, is a formidable one. Our easy access to world events broadens our knowledge and horizons, but also adds weight to the stress we feel just from the concerns of our individual lives.
It’s good news, then, that there are many ways to ease that burden, and mindfulness techniques are among the simplest to apply. They are free, they are natural, and they don’t require the purchase of outside props or services. Here are just a few examples:
- Sit quietly, in stillness, and take slow, deep breaths. Was the first breath shallower or deeper than the second one? What parts of your body are tense? Do you feel them relax? Are you holding in your stomach, or allowing it to fill with each breath? Pay attention to your own experience and allow yourself to simply be who- and how-ever you are in that moment.
- Practice focusing on one object. Take your hand, for instance. Notice the skin, the veins, the textures, the shape and length of the nails. Continue to pay attention throughout the day. How do you use your hands? How do you hold them? What do you do with them when you’re not using them?
- Create a ‘gratitude list’. It’s common to focus on worries, pains, and injustices, and what we focus on colors our attitude, our mindset, and our approach to daily life. Take time to count your blessings, so you don’t take them for granted. It’s ok to acknowledge that things aren’t always peachy, but it’s also good to keep in mind that they could always be worse.
- Schedule mindfulness ‘wake-up calls’. Life gets busy, our minds get busy, and most of us frequently get lost in our thoughts and tasks throughout the day. Setting a timer to chime every hour or so can remind us to stop and pay attention to our breath, our bodies, our emotions, and our environments.
Mindfulness informs us and enables us to respond to situations instead of reacting. When we make conscious choices, we feel more capable, confident, and relaxed. Stressors will always exist, but they don’t need to rule our lives.