Anxiety is usually based on the past or the future. You worry about something you think you did wrong in the past or anticipate a future event negatively. Mindfulness helps to reduce anxiety by bringing your thoughts back to the present moment. You release the anxiety about the past or future by focusing on what is happening in this very moment.
The following are four exercises to help you practice mindfulness:
When you eat do you think of it as a way to nourish your body? Or do you eat simply to fill a need? Do you enjoy your meal or do you stuff your mouth without thinking about it? One way to practice mindfulness is to pay attention when eating. Notice the smell, the texture, the feel of the fork in your hand. Notice how the food tastes, how it feels going down your throat. Notice how the food looks on the plate. Take your time and pay attention to every detail. Don’t rush through eating, savor each bite. Enjoy the moment.
Shortcut: Be mindful during the first three bites of your meal. Before starting take a minute to appreciate how the food looks and smells. Then, slowly take three bites of your food, paying attention to the details described in the previous section.
Watch the Moment Unfold
Several times a day, stop what you are doing to watch the moment unfold, as if you are watching a movie. You might be at your desk and stop to observe your coworkers and notice what each person is doing. You might stop and look out a window, paying attention to whether the leaves are swaying or are still, to listen to the birds sing or the rain fall. Take in the sights, sounds and smells. Savor this one moment in time.
Remember not to judge or form opinions about what is going on. Simply watch what is happening.
One of the most classic mindfulness exercises is to sit and breath. Pay attention to the sensation as you breath in, notice how it feels, how what happens to your shoulders, the sensation in your nostril. Pay attention to how your abdomen rises. Slowly let your breathe out and notice all the sensations in your body as the air escapes from your body. Sit quietly for ten minutes as you breath in and out.
Shortcut: Take one minute to notice your breathing.
Watching Thoughts Float By
When practicing mindfulness, you don’t need to empty your mind, the goal is to suspend any judgement or opinions and just be. But that doesn’t mean you stop thinking. Pay attention to each thought you have. Imagine putting each thought into a balloon and watching it float off to the sky. Remember, your thoughts are not good or bad, they are simply thoughts. Notice your thought and then let it go.
As you include mindfulness practice in each day, you will find it becomes more natural. You won’t need to think about it or focus in order to become mindful. You might find yourself stopping throughout the day to take in the moment or stopping to take a few breaths when feeling tense or nervous. The more you practice, the easier it becomes and the more you can use this tool to reduce feelings of anxiety.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.