A blaring alarm wakes us early – always too early. We hurry through the morning getting ready for work or getting kids ready for school. Our days are filled with meetings, supervisors and coworkers needing project tasks done, all of this with the undercurrent of emails, texts and endless sitting at a desk before a screen. Then after an already long day, there is rush hour traffic, after school activities, a hurried dinner and chores to do, all before crashing into bed to do it all over again the next day.
We rush through our lives and are constantly thinking of what’s next and what else to add to our to-do list. More than half of Americans don’t take all their vacation days. And even when people aren’t at work, as many as 59% of them are checking work emails. When are we supposed to recharge?
You don’t have to seclude yourself like a monk for weeks or walk around barefoot all day in order to access a more peaceful life. The term “mindfulness” is gaining momentum in our society that is obsessed with doing more in less time. Here are some tips for becoming more mindful and how it can benefit your health.
Yes, the simple act of breathing can bring about a more mindful state. When a stressor triggers the sympathetic nervous system into a fight or flight response, your heart rate increases, breathing quickens and blood pressure rises. By turning your awareness to your breath, your parasympathetic system has a chance to “catch up” and reduce the effects of stress.
Become An Observer
A really simple way to become more mindful is to try meditating. Many people think meditation is hard because you must sit still, clear your mind, or be the most disciplined person you know. But meditation is more about becoming an aware observer. If you sit back and simply notice your thoughts, instead of getting wrapped up in their dramatic story, your subsequent reactions are less emotional and more logical. Let your thoughts just be what they are. You don’t have to interact with them.
Perhaps one of the hardest things for people in our busy society to do is turn down a request. It can be as complex as an employer asking you to cover a late shift or as simple as an invitation to dinner. We often feel compelled to say “yes,” even at the detriment of our own well being. Mindfully considering your options and choosing to politely decline a request means you are self-aware, considering your own limits and putting your health first.
Simply taking a few moments each day to remember what you are thankful for can change your outlook on life. Consider keeping a gratitude journal; it can be beneficial to be able to look back and see how far you’ve come. A good daily gratitude journaling practice is to end your day writing down three things you’re grateful for from your day.