How Does Mindfulness Alleviate Stress and Anxiety?

People have been using mindfulness to enhance their peace of mind for thousands of years. It is still useful today to treat stress and anxiety.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a form of self-care that calms both the mind and body, helping to slow down thoughts and increase concentration. Other benefits are physical and include lower blood pressure and improved circulation.

The point of mindfulness is to stay in the moment and quiet the mind. Staying in the here and now prevents people from spending time regretting the past or fearing the future. The past cannot be changed. The future is unknown and cannot be predicted. By focusing on the present moment, you are relieving your mind of the stress and anxiety caused by thinking about what has happened or what might happen.

There are countless forms of achieving mindfulness, including practicing meditation, yoga, and tai chi. Creating art and enjoying music are also mindful activities. Mindfulness can be applied to simple, everyday actions such as eating or watching the sunset. Paying attention to the senses can also help you stay in the moment.

During moments of fierce tension that accompany anxiety or stress, the mind often races. The worst possible scenarios play out in the mind’s eye. At such times, it can be helpful to take a deep breath, close your eyes and focus on nothing more than what’s in front of you: the present moment. The best way to train the mind to slow down and focus on the present is through meditation.

How to Meditate

There are many ways to meditate, both as part of a group and alone. One place to start is to find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. You might have to get up earlier than the rest of the household or sit in the bathroom, if necessary. Once you are comfortable, close your eyes and clear your head. It’s good to take a few deep breaths when you start. Fill your lungs slowly and fully, from the bottom to the top. While inhaling, let the belly expand. Exhale slower than you inhaled. After three deep breaths, breathe normally.

Focus on the inhale and exhale of the breath. Recognize how it feels going in and out of your nose or lungs. Concentrate on the feeling you get in the back of the throat as air passes through. No matter how hard you try to focus on the breath, your mind will wander. Don’t get discouraged. The object is to slow the mind down, not to make it completely still. When thoughts wander, simply notice it and return to focusing on the breath. If it is challenging to stay focused for the recommended minimum of 20 minutes, start by setting a timer for five minutes. Over time, you can increase the time you spend meditating as you progress.

If focusing on the breath doesn’t seem to be working, you can employ a mantra in your meditation practice. A mantra is repeating a word or short phrase as you meditate. Words and concepts such as “peace,” “love” and “relax” can be used in formulating a mantra. If your mind wanders or you become distracted, take note and return to repeating the mantra you have chosen.

Some people meditate best while doing exercises like running or walking. Focusing on anything positive that brings you into the present moment works as well, such as watching the sunset or thinking about your child’s smile.

Resources for Starting Your Practice

For some time, meditating might seem boring or even impossible. If this is the case, seek guidance. YouTube has an endless selection of spoken-word guided meditations and music for meditation. Guided meditation can focus on breathing exercises, visualization, or muscle relaxation. Type “meditation for beginners” into the search bar on YouTube or any search engine to find articles and tips on where to begin. If you know someone who actively meditates, ask them for suggestions.

If you don’t have time to spend in the meditation practices mentioned above, another option is to ground yourself in the present. Using the five senses, you can focus on:

  • What you see
  • What you feel
  • What you hear
  • What you smell
  • Something you can taste

Eating mindfully means being aware of how your food looks and tastes. Pay attention to the texture and how it feels to eat, rather than passively eating while your mind wanders or races.

It’s important to practice mindfulness and meditation regularly – daily, if possible – whether you are experiencing tense feelings or not. Regular meditation can foster acts of relaxation in everyday life. You might find yourself taking a deep, relaxing breath the very moment a stressor occurs. Mindfulness and meditation can also make it easier to accept difficult situations. Be patient while developing a mindfulness or meditation practice. It takes time, effort, and dedication.

Mindfulness can ease symptoms of anxiety and stress while increasing your peace of mind. The intent of mindfulness is to focus on the present moment. This reduces the fear and regret associated with stress and anxiety. Meditating, performing yoga or tai chi, using the five senses, and exercising are some examples of activities that spur mindfulness. You can simply focus on the breath in a quiet, comfortable place to start a meditation practice. It can be a challenge to set aside time every day to meditate when establishing a mindfulness routine. Eating, watching the sunset, or focusing on your child’s smile are gateways to practicing mindfulness. If stress and anxiety are aggravating your mental illness, mindfulness can be an important part of your recovery journey. At Achieve Concierge, we offer comprehensive mental health services for adults, children, and families. Recovery is possible. Start your journey by calling us today at (619) 393-5871.

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