Mindfulness isn’t just a new age term — it’s an effective tool for managing emotions, especially when they’re overwhelming. Mindfulness works by helping you become more aware of the current experience and move forward when it feels like you’re stuck. It’s all about checking in with yourself to see how you’re feeling, and then accepting that feeling without judgement.
Here are some easy ways you can practice mindfulness in everyday life.
Taking things one breath at a time
You don’t need to be seated on a yoga mat with your legs crossed— you can execute mindfulness from anywhere. All you need to do is think about your breath: focus your thoughts on noticing the air going in through your nose and out through your mouth. Since you’re breathing in the current moment, and you’re thinking about each breath while it’s happening, this is considered mindfulness. You are simply taking things one breath — and moment — at a time.
Getting in a daily mindful workout
Another mindfulness exercise you can try is what’s called a “sensory inventory.” Take note of everything you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch in the present moment.
Another example is mindful eating. When you sit down to eat your next snack or meal, don’t turn on the TV or open the newspaper. Simply sit and eat, smelling each piece of food before you take a bite. Let the food sit on your tongue, and really soak up the taste and feel the texture. This actually helps with overeating, because it quenches cravings so that you feel fulfilled.
You could also try mindful walking. Head out for a walk but turn off your music and avoid glancing at your phone. Take in your surroundings. Just walk without feeling the need to multitask or do something. Sometimes we need to just be, and that is enough.
How can mindfulness help with anger?
One study had participants perform mindfulness meditation 5-10 minutes every day for a week. Participants in the study recorded how much they were ruminating, or overthinking. They also kept track of the arousal level of their anger as well as how long they felt angry. They tracked these criteria before, just after, and one month after their participation in the study.
So what did they find? Those who continued meditation after completion of the study had lower anger rumination scores both immediately, just after, and one month after the study was conducted. Participants also kept track of their mood, and “pleasantness” scores were higher after meditation almost every day they participated.
This shows that mindfulness meditation is an effective way to improve the tendency to ruminate — whether it’s about something that made you angry, frustrated, or otherwise out of balance.
How can mindfulness help with anxiety?
Studies have shown that mindfulness is extremely beneficial for those with anxiety disorders. One study looked at an eight-week outpatient physician-referred group stress reduction therapy. This intervention was based on mindfulness meditation. Their results were promising: they found that there were statistically and clinically significant improvements in signs and symptoms of anxiety and panic after the intervention. Not only were anxiety scores lower after the intervention, but they stayed lower 3 months afterwards, too. Participants were able to maintain their progress, with lower quantities and severity of panic attacks.
This shows us that mindfulness meditation can have long term effects, particularly in people who have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
How can mindfulness help with depression?
Researchers have also studied whether mindfulness can play a role in the treatment of depression. One specific study involved an eight-week course in mindfulness-based stress reduction for depression. They found that it helped to decrease ruminations, a key problem in those with depression. Researchers postulated that mindfulness reduces the tendency to ruminate by actually changing cognitive processes within the brain. Whether you have a history of depression, or you are experiencing a temporary bout of melancholy, practicing mindfulness can help.
One last mindful thought …
Since mindfulness is such a low-risk tool, you may want to add it to your to-do list this week. Mindfulness can help you shift your perspective and put you on a more peaceful path.
Finding a Toronto psychologist or psychotherapist can be the first step to learning how mindfulness can help you. Contact Bhatia Psychology Group today to book a FREE consultation with our Clinical Director, Dr. Maneet Bhatia.