Where does the time go? Modern life is speeding up, asking us to do more and more with our 24 hours. It seems like the more we get done, the more is asked from us. And this leads many of us to feeling tired, anxious, and burnt out. Not to mention, our relaxation times can be inundated with distractions as well. Waking up in the middle of the night to your phone lighting up, getting phone calls while exercising, or needing to respond to work issues on vacation are all-too-common examples of the challenges associated with disconnecting. It can feel like a luxury to slow down and enjoy simple pleasures in our lives without being distracted. More and more, people are turning to mindfulness to help bring the important things back into focus. As buzzworthy as this word is, it can be difficult to know where to begin. And the research is staggering on the health benefits of mindfulness. From decreased anxiety and depression, to pain management and increase immunohealth, it’s benefits are broad. Mindfulness can be as flexible as we are, and it can help us all slow down a little. Here are some strategies to start integrating it into your everyday life.
Find What Works
The number of mindfulness resources at our disposal is incredible, and always growing. From books (Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn), to apps (Headspace, Calm), to activities (yoga, mindful walks), the possibilities are endless. Find what appeals to you, and then try it out. Anyone can do mindfulness, so trying out different kinds will help orient you to what works best. A great place to start is with breathing exercises. Square breathing(Inhale for 5 seconds, hold the breath for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, repeat) and triangle breathing (inhale for 5 seconds, hold the breath for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, repeat) can be great gateways into mindfulness practice, and you can do them anywhere and any time. Start small, and see what works.
In Yoga classes, they call it setting an intention. The idea can be a powerful one: Commit to slowing down. One minute, five minutes, ten – whatever you’re willing to give to focus on doing one thing at a time. It can be as simple as starting with turning off your phone. The idea behind mindfulness is to do one thing and commit your attention to that thing. If you’re walking – walk (No phone, no music). This helps us increase contact with the present moment, which is a major component to mindfulness.
Meet Yourself Where You Are
One of the most common reactions people have to their first mindfulness experiences is, “I’m no good at this.” Our world is set up to be fast-paced and encourages us to multitask, so doing something in the other direction is not what we’re used to. And we often bring unrealistic expectations to mindfulness. It is not about finding a zen place where you are in peace. Mindfulness is act to bring myself back to the present moment when I notice myself distracted. You don’t have to be a pro to see benefits, and it takes practice, so bring patience! As soon as you notice you’re distracted from the mindfulness, you’re doing mindfulness!
Mindfulness can be a powerful, helpful practice to integrate into our busy lives. It’s an opportunity to take a breath from all the movement our days demand. It is a simple act of self-care and self-compassion that can allow us to make use of the time we have.
If you’ve found that life is moving too fast and you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, distracted, or unfulfilled in your job or relationships, it may be useful to try counseling. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!