4 Ways Mindfulness Can Make Your Life Less Chaotic
For a while now, you haven’t felt quite like yourself. You’re eating more than usual, you can’t sleep, and there seems to be a permanent edge to the tone of your voice, even when talking to your loved ones. You’ve searched different ways to reduce stress, but article after article suggest the same things: eating well and exercising. Your schedule is already insane—how the heck are you supposed to fit that in? There simply are not enough hours in the day!
You’ve been feeling this way for waayyyyy too long. It has affected your job performance, the way you connect with your friends and family, and your sanity. The person you’ve become is almost unrecognizable, and you can’t seem to stop yourself from doing or saying things you later regret. Where in the world is the light at the end of the tunnel?!
Luckily, there’s a way you can reduce your stress that only takes 5 minutes a day, and you can do it anywhere and at any time—mindfulness. You may feel like this is a hippy-dippy buzz word, and there’s no way it would work for you. While certainly not every strategy works for every person, research shows that many people who practice mindfulness show improvements in different areas of their life.
How Mindfulness Can Reduce the Chaos in Your Life
Mindfulness is effective at:
Improving attention. You have a million things to do every day. What if you could stay focused and do them more efficiently?
Decreasing job burnout. When you started your job, you were excited about your company’s mission, but the expectations and demands became too much. What if you could regain your passion for the work you once loved?
Improving sleep. Not only does sleeping well help reduce stress, but it improves your mood as well. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel more like yourself again?
Reducing stress. Your to-do list isn’t going anywhere. But what if you felt calmer and had the energy to tackle it?
Too often we fixate on the future or the past, which can actually increase our levels of stress. We focus so much on trying to make ourselves “feel better” with a quick fix. But what if we allowed ourselves to sit with the emotion and gave ourselves permission to fully experience it? We label the decisions we make as either being right or wrong, and feel empowered or defeated depending on which choice we select. But what if instead of reacting to our thoughts as though they are facts, we took the time to check their validity?
Imagine having the time, energy, and desire to do the things you love most instead of constantly being bogged down by stress. Mindfulness may be the answer for you.
Okay, I might be willing to give mindfulness a try. But what exactly is it?
Mindfulness is a process and an approach to experiencing the world we live in. Instead of judging yourself for having certain feelings, mindfulness helps you accept your feelings and thoughts as just that—feelings and thoughts. When we stay open-minded about our experiences, we learn to respond according to facts instead of our initial (and often impulsive) perception of the situation.
Mindfulness is about living in the present moment. Life will undoubtedly throw challenges at you—mindfulness prepares you to adapt and accept whatever comes your way. By distancing yourself during uncomfortable situations, you are better prepared to select an action that best matches your values. Mindfulness suggests that the thoughts we have are not the issue, but rather how we react to those thoughts. When we practice mindfulness, we practice giving ourselves the space to reframe thoughts and explore new perspectives.
One of the best ways to fully understand mindfulness is to jump right in and experience it yourself!
So how do I do it then?
Step 1: Designate a time and space to practice your 5 minutes of mindfulness meditation. It can be anywhere—a park in your neighborhood, a room in your home where you won’t be interrupted, or even the comfortable couch in the staff break room. I find that setting a 5-minute alarm on my phone is helpful so I don’t feel the urge to continuously check the time (although you could practice sitting with that urge!)
Step 2: Pick an anchor to focus on. An anchor can be just about anything that uses one or more of your 5 senses. You might choose to focus on the sound of birds chirping in the park, the sight of waves crashing on the sand, the feeling of your fingertips touching, the scent of a fragrant candle, or even the taste of a piece of fruit sitting in your mouth. Many people use the feeling and sound of their own breath as an anchor. Take notice of what’s around you, and choose something you feel will hold your attention when your mind begins to wander.
Step 3: Turn your attention to your anchor and begin! You will likely have thoughts that run through your mind during your meditation—practice accepting them, and gently return your focus to the anchor. You’re not doing it “wrong” if thoughts pop up constantly; with practice, it will become easier to focus your attention.
That’s it! During your first few meditations, you may find yourself feeling that the practice is silly or weird. That’s okay! Sit with those feelings. Try a 5-minute meditation every day for a week and notice how you feel. After a second week and if your schedule allows for it, consider increasing the time of your meditation to 10 minutes.
I’d like to try this, but I might need some more direction.
Mindfulness can be difficult and uncomfortable to start initially. I’m happy to help! If you’re ready to learn a proven technique to live a less stressful life, contact me to schedule an appointment and learn more. We’ll discuss the root of your stress, identify barriers to your mindfulness practice, and formulate a plan to get you heading in the right direction.
Feel free to share your mindfulness experience in the comments below!