Life can move pretty fast, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with stressful and anxious thoughts. Most of us know we need to slow down and quiet our minds, but how? Howard Chen, M.D., offers 11 ways to relax through mindfulness.
In today’s hectic world, we’re often racing from one task to the next, leaving our minds racing too. But too much stress can affect your health, not to mention your relationships, work and overall well-being. Howard Chen, M.D., medical director of Integrative Medicine at Renown, offers mindfulness as a solution.
“One of the most common outcomes of mindfulness is calmness,” Dr. Chen says. “Mindfulness has been shown to decrease anxiety and depression as much as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.”
Dr. Chen describes mindfulness as “present focus awareness” — bringing your attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, rather than focusing on the past or future concerns.
Chen says mindfulness can curb stress, insomnia, and acute and chronic pain. It can also help with dealing with emotions, restless thoughts, and improves compassion and gratitude. It’s been correlated with greater feelings of well-being and perceived health.
11 Ways to Practice Mindfulness
Dr. Chen offers 11 ways to slow down and practice being “present.”
- Pay attention to your breathing: Sense the flow of your breath, the rise and fall of your belly and how your body feels with shallow breaths versus deep breaths.
- Pay attention to your senses. For example, if you’re eating, pay attention to the way the food smells as well as its color, texture and taste.
- Remember that your thoughts are just thoughts — you don’t have to react to them, let them take center stage or even pay attention to them. It’s OK to let them come and them go.
- Notice that the mind likes to judge both yourself and others. In addition, the mind likes to catastrophize — the process of believing that something is far worse than it actually is. In short, don’t take every thought your mind has so seriously.
- Focus on the process of your movements as you’re doing them. When you’re walking, notice how your weight shifts, how your feet feel and how your body moves, rather than where you need to go.
- Practice listening without judgement or the need to reply.
- Spend time in nature.
- Take time to be with yourself, rather than “doing.” Don’t feel the need to fill up every second of your day with something.
- Immerse yourself in what you’re doing and pay close attention to all aspects of the activity.
- Appreciate five things today.
- Forgive yourself, repeatedly.
In addition to the tips above, Chen notes that mindfulness can be quickly achieved in almost any situation by simply focusing on your breath.