What if I was selling a pill that would:
- Improve your memory and processing speed.
- Increase your ability to stay focused.
- Strengthen your immune system.
- Reduce anxiety and stress.
- Make you a happier person.
If that isn’t enough, this pill would also:
- Improve your relationship satisfaction.
- Make you yell less.
- Make you become more empathetic, compassionate and emotionally intelligent.
Would you take it?
Would you be willing to pay for it?
What if I told you it was free?
Of course, you realize I am not talking about a pill.
What I am talking about is a state of mind and the practice that promotes these proven benefits is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. Several disciplines and practices that can cultivate mindfulness are yoga and tai chi, but most of the literature and studies focus on mindfulness that is developed through mindfulness mediation.
Over the last several years I have been strengthening my mindfulness through mindfulness mediation. I must confess, as a Christian I wasn’t sure about mindfulness mediation at first. Mindfulness has gotten bad press in some Christian circles. A few Christian’s I have encountered have thought it to be a Buddhist or occult practice. I have not found this to be true. My ability to see God’s presence with me everywhere I go has been strengthened and the benefits in my life have been numerous.
There has been much scientific and medical evidence that has show it to be a powerful way to deal with one’s health, well-being, and happiness. There are huge relationship benefits as well. When we feel stressed or overwhelmed, mindfulness can help deactivate the stress reaction.
Mindfulness activates the body’s built-in calming response lessening the likelihood that the next time we are stressed we will yell at our kids or run to the pantry and scarf down the left over brownies—OK, no studies on scarfing down the brownies, but I bet it could help!.
Mindfulness meditation helps us to be less distracted as we quiet our minds. As the chatter in our minds lessens we are able to be observant of the present moment. We observe our thoughts, feelings and mind chatter non-judgmentally. When our minds get distracted we practice bringing the focus back to our breath.
I have found one of the powerful benefits of mindfulness meditation is increasing my ability to have compassion and kindness towards others and myself. I am quicker to catch myself when I am triggered and tempted to react in less than helpful ways.
Becoming more mindful has become a pathway to peace for me. Mindfulness has helped me to let go of worries and take a break from trying to solve problems. I am learning to relax and we present in the moment. Solutions arise more easily and naturally instead of worrying about problems or forcing solutions.
Here is a simple one minute mindfulness exercise to try anywhere and anytime.
A Minute of Mindful Breathing
This exercise can be done standing up or sitting down, and pretty much anywhere at any time. I find my car can be a great place and even while standing in the line at the grocery store.
All you have to do is be still and focus on your breath for just one minute.
Start by breathing in and out slowly. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, letting your breath flow naturally in and out of your body.
Let go of your thoughts for a minute. Let go of the things you have to do later in the day. Let go of your worries and concerns.
Purposefully watch your breath, focusing on how you feel as the breath enters and leaves your body. Imagine your breath filling you with life. You can breath in what you need in that moment(peace, calm, confidence, compassion) and exhale what you want to release—anxiety, stress, self-criticism.
Notice how you feel afterwards. You can also find mindfulness meditations when through google.
Here are a few fun exercises from www.practicingmindfulness.com to try that will help you to be present and mindful in the moment:
Mental Focus Exercise
Stare at any object and try to remain focused on just that object for as long as possible. Keep a mental watch on when your mind starts to wander, then just bring it back to the object. The longer you can remain focused, the more your mindfulness will increase.
Musical Stimuli Exercise
Listen to your favorite song and pay attention to how it makes you feel. What emotions stir? What memories come up, and how do those memories make you feel? Engage the emotions and see where they lead.
Full Sensory Awareness Exercise
Wherever you are, just stop and look around when safe to do so. Become aware of everything that your senses pick up. How do you feel? Do you feel over-stimulated? Do you feel anxious?
Challenge Your Beliefs Exercise
Take one long held belief and pretend that you believe the direct opposite. Make a mental note of how you feel and what thoughts come into your mind.
As you go about your day, slow down, breathe, and be present in the moment. Focus your attention on the things you would not normally notice. When you take a shower, notice how the water feels; when you eat, taste; when you walk, observe how your feet feel; as you sit at your desk, tune into the sensations in your body and relax your tense areas.
Practicing mindfulness brings us a greater sense of peace and balance. We are reminded that in spite of difficulties and unsolved problems, peace abounds. All is well. Things will work out.
Mindfulness helps us to be present in the moment where life is lived; not in the future, not in the past. When we embrace the present moment, we set ourselves free from regret, anxiety, and fear. The moment is where we find peace.
Question: What helps you better manage your stress?
 Barnes et al., 2007; Barnes et al., 2007; Wachs & Cordova, 2007