April is Stress Awareness Month. There are many benefits to being mindful. Mindfulness makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur, helps you become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events. Mindfulness can help relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep and alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties.
Below are five short (five minutes or less) mindfulness practices that you can utilize to effectively manage stress, and help you feel more grounded and connected.
Breath Meditation - Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing. Allow your breath to come and go without trying to control it, but simply focus your awareness on the breath. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return your focus to the breath.
Gratitude Journal – At the end of each day write down three things that went well in your day or anything or anyone for which you are grateful. These might be things that would normally go unappreciated, such as water from the faucet, electricity that powers the lights, the cashier at the grocery store who smiles and asks about your day, etc.
Mindful eating – Take two to three minutes to eat one raisin, strawberry, or another small fruit of your choice. Take a few deep breaths first, and then take the fruit in your hand to examine it. Observe the color, size, shape, contours, etc. Take a couple more deep breaths and let go of any feelings or emotions that come up as you think about the fruit. Then bring the fruit to your nose and notice it’s scent. Next put the fruit in your mouth, but before you chew, notice the texture and how it feels in your mouth. Then begin to chew it slowly. Experience the taste, the feel, and notice where in your mouth you are chewing it. Think about what you know about this fruit. As you get ready to swallow it, notice the experience of the impulse to swallow. When you can no longer feel the fruit, observe any reactions you have to eating the fruit. Take the next couple of breaths to take note of anything you are feeling.
Mindful Observation - Choose a natural object such as a flower or leaf to watch for two minutes. Look at this object as if you are seeing it for the first time, exploring each aspect such as color, surface (is it smooth, soft, wrinkled). Take a moment to smell and touch the flower or leaf to involve multiple senses in your observation.
Mindful Immersion – Pick an everyday routine task, such as doing the dishes or folding laundry, and fully experience the activity as never before to cultivate contentment in the moment. Rather than anxiously wanting to finish the task to get on with doing something else, take the time to fully embrace the activity. Notice what you feel in your body as you move through the task.