If someone asked you right now to close your eyes and silence your mind, you may find it hard to forget about everything on your overflowing to-do list. However, simple breathing exercises just like that are examples of practicing mindfulness and have been shown to have significant health and productivity benefits.
In its simplest terms, mindfulness is about being aware and present. Techniques that help you be mindful are helping you to increase your overall awareness of the present moment. By detaching from your thoughts, you can enhance the vibrancy of your daily life experiences and navigate life’s everyday challenges.
Mindfulness has been shown to have stress buffering effects, including promoting bodily awareness, coping skills, and resilience. Additionally, it has been linked to reduction in chronic pain, fatigue, inflammation, depression relapse, and anxiety symptoms. While it is not normally a replacement, mindfulness when used in combination with psychological treatments – such as cognitive behavioral therapy, and/or medication – can have lasting positive impacts on mental health and well-being.
My New Year’s Resolution for 2019 was to incorporate mindfulness into my everyday routine. Over these past five months, I’ve learned a lot. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’ve gathered my top 5 tips for incorporating mindfulness into your everyday life to improve your mental health.
1. Start your day off right.
As your phone alarm beep-beeps jolting you up from your deep sleep in the morning, it can be human nature to let out a grumpy groan, hit snooze, and toss your phone into another dimension. Instead, try using that time you would normally hit snooze on your alarm as an extra 5 minutes for mindfulness. Setting an intention for your day before you even leave your bed every morning can be a great way for you to improve your productivity and reduce your anxiety. I usually ask myself a few questions such as:
How am I feeling today physically and mentally?
What do I have to be grateful for?
What is on the docket for today?
2. Identify frustrating situations and WAIT.
If you struggle with patience and find waiting to be an anxiety trigger for you, a great way to practice mindfulness can be when waiting – in line, on hold, for an Uber, in traffic, on your commute when your train is delayed, etc. One of the best mindfulness tips I have received is to take those times in your day when you are normally frustrated and try to be mindful. For me, I hate waiting – so using the acronym WAIT helps me stay present.
W – Watch. What is actually happening around me
A – Accept. The speed of this line is out of my control.
I – Investigate. Take inventory of your thoughts and feelings and ask yourself if you have evidence for thoughts like, “It’s the END of the world if I’m late to work.”
T – Tend. Practice compassion for others around you.
3. Get your coworkers on board.
If you feel like you don’t have time to fit meditation into your routine, try to squeeze it into your work day, and see if other coworkers may be interested. A great way to boost morale of your office is to start team meetings with an optional 5-minute group meditation. It can be a great way to check in with how your coworkers are feeling and get a sense of who may need extra assistance in the coming weeks. In fact, our research group starts most of our weekly lab meetings with a 5-minute meditation.
4. Find the right resources for you.
With so many resources out there, it can be overwhelming trying to find something that works for you. There are countless apps that offer guided meditations, breathing techniques, and even stress-relieving exercises to help improve your mental health. Some apps even allow you to tailor your meditation or mindfulness activity to a struggle you may be facing in your life currently. My favorites are Stop, Breathe & Think, and Headspace which both offer a number of free mediation sessions.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, and try, (and try) again. You may find it helpful to start out with scheduling in a few minutes each day to check-in with yourself and notice how you feel and then work your way up to longer, more intense mindfulness practices. Taking baby steps when it comes to mindfulness can be useful when trying to make a larger life change.