If you find yourself anxious and worried about the future or depressed about the past, practice being present more often.
Buddhist monks have been practicing meditation and mindfulness for centuries and more and more people are starting to use mindfulness daily to reduce stress and anxiety. Mindfulness and meditation practices can teach you how to be fully present in the moment. Practicing mindfulness during day-to-day activities can be very meditative. A simple act like washing the dishes, taking a walk in nature, gardening or daily chores can give you an opportunity to focus on being fully present and using the breath to clear the mind chatter.
You can tell a lot about a person’s emotional state by their breath and their posture. When a person is anxious, their breaths are shallow or short. Their posture may also be closed off, not allowing the chest to be fully open. When a person is laughing, they are breathing from the belly and their shoulders move up and down. When a person is angry or shouting, they are breathing from above the diaphragm. When they are weeping, they are hunched over and breathing from the top of the lungs. Emotions can be better managed by being aware of the emotional/physical connection between the breath and the posture. Meditation and mindfulness assist the mind, body and spirit to relax.
You can do guided meditations, put on beautiful calming music or use drumming to help you reach the “meditation gap.” The gap is the space between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. It is the space where you feel light, like you could float away. You no longer are aware of your body. Nothing matters except where you are in the moment. You feel peaceful and relaxed.
It is normal for your mind to wander during meditation. Simply allow thoughts to float in and float out. Don’t focus on the thoughts or worry about them cluttering your mind.
Seven Mindfulness Tips:
Counting your breath
Reciting mantras/empowering words
Focusing on the flame of a candle
Coloring a mandala
Listening to guided meditations
Counting your breath: Focusing on the breath-inhale for a count of eight and exhaling to a longer count of 16 calms the nervous system and helps maintain present moment awareness. Do a few minutes of counted breathing to reduce stress, anxiety or overwhelm. It can be done with your eyes closed or open. It can be used while sitting in thick traffic or during a stressful event. It reduces the release of cortisol, the stress-promoting hormone.
Mantras/Empowering words: Stating mantras or empowering words out loud (chanting) or to yourself helps you to focus on the present moment and to reach the meditation gap. For example, “Inhale peace, exhale calm,” or “Inhale love, exhale light.”
Flame gazing: Focus on the flame and breathe. Just like sitting next to a cozy, mesmerizing fire, focusing on the flame of the candle can help you be more present.
Coloring mandalas: There are many mandala coloring books out there. The Buddist monks use colored sand to hand-make mandalas as part of their meditation practice. It is very calming and the final outcome is beautiful.
Guided meditation: During this kind of meditation, you listen to a person take you through a series of relaxation exercises for the mind. There are many different apps available, from stress relief to help with sleep.
Walking meditations or nature walks: Walking meditations on a labyrinth (geometric path), or out in a peaceful forest, beach or mountain is very good for the soul. Focus on the outdoor sounds, the scenery and your breath.
Gratitude Shower: Close your eyes and focus on all the things you are grateful for in this life. Allow the gratitude to radiate out from your heart and expand outward. This can take as little as two to five minutes.
If you find yourself anxious and worried about the future or depressed about the past, practice being present more often. Make mindfulness a priority and practice it daily. It could simply mean being more present when you talk or meet with others and not allowing the “to dos” to creep in. Be present. You will shift your life. FBN
By Christina Kovalik, NMD,LAc, FBN
Christina Kovalik, NMD, LAc, The Vitality Doctor, is a naturopathic physician and acupuncturist specializing in hormone optimization, optimal health and vitality. She is a new Flagstaff resident, practicing since 2004, and opened her second location in Doney Park in 2020. For more information, visit thevitalitydoctor.com or call 928-863-6086.