Did you know that you can learn how to minimize the effects of stress on the body and mind with mindfulness? In my book Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health I share with you a mindfulness exercise called Chewing the Raisin that brings joyful attention to food. Below we share with you some tips for mental relaxation and physical awareness that may be practiced during the day.
Short daily mindfulness sessions have been proven to decrease stress, help with sleep, weight loss, and lower blood pressure.To those who are new to meditation, the idea of beginning a “mindfulness” practice can be overwhelming and feel unrealistic. However, these 5 tips for mindfulness in daily life are easy 1-minute methods that can help meditation flow with the day.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the self-regulation of attention with an attitude of curiosity, openness, and acceptance.
Wake and meditate
Waking up with a quick mindfulness practice can wire the brain to be calm and sets the tone for the rest of the day. Set your intention for the day by doing a one-minute meditation and allow the unconscious side of the brain to become more conscious and engage that intention actively.
Do this exercise first thing in the morning, before eating, or checking your phone and email.
- As you wake up, lay on your back with your eyes closed.
- Take a few deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth, fully expanding the belly during inhalation, and deflating during exhalation.
- Pose the question: What is my intention today?
- What kind of an impact do I want to have today?
- What attitude will help me achieve my intention?
- What will make me fulfilled?
- Set your intention for the day in one simple sentence. For example, “I am going to walk through my day effortlessly and with grace”, or “I intend to mobilize energy to open to meeting someone who will become a new friend”, or fill in your own sentence.
- As a bonus to your self care, check in with yourself and this intention during the day, noticing each time you do, and ask “how has my intention affected my experience of the day.”
Eat with awareness
Today’s fast paced society often leads to quick food breaks at the desk or on the go. Yet eating is one of the most pleasurable, sensory and self-nourishing experiences we do and a short mindfulness practice can help us remember to remain present.
- Before eating, pause and look at your food. Take a few breaths and admire the plate of food in front of you. Think about where each ingredient came from, how it was prepared, and arrived to your plate in this state. Each step of this process takes us deeper into self awareness and relaxation.
- Eat slowly, and take a breath between each bite. There is an adage to chew each bite 100 times or until it is liquid. You will be surprised with how each of these steps will improve digestion!
The brain pause is one of the most effective yet challenging strategies to calm the mind. The challenge with this technique is that we must become aware of the moments during the day that lead to increased stress.
- Identify triggers that stress you out during the day. For example, when I am running late for dinner with my family, I feel stressed. Or, when I drive to work, I feel stressed.
- Make sticky notes where you are most likely to see them during these “trigger points.” Write “pause” on these sticky notes and place them where you will be reminded.
- Think of an intention for when you see these notes during the day. This may be something like: If drive to X, I will take a deep breath and remind myself that the traffic is not in my control.
Mindful Desk Stretch
Movement, including stretching, can always include a mindfulness practice. Long hours at the desk cause tension; our muscles tighten when we are stressed and build up lactic acid which in turn contributes to anxiety. This quick desk pause is a chance to synchronize the mind and body and reconnect to a relaxed state of mind.
- Bring yourself to the present moment. Do a quick scan of the body from top to bottom. How do my shoulders feel? What about my belly? What about my calves? How can I relax them further?
- With your eyes closed, move your arms above your head to a seated crescent moon pose (shown below). With your inner eye let your hip and shoulder blade open and release any worries that may be stored there.
- Keeping your eyes closed, repeat the same exercise with one foot over the knee in a sitting pigeon pose (below). Pay attention to how your leg and side feels as it stretches.
- Finally, sit at your desk with your eyes closed. Experience a sense of gratitude and feel it flow throughout your body, thanking your body for stretching and releasing so deeply.
Many thanks to our intern Pauline Simes for co-writing this article with me, and to our yoga model, Maclovia Arellano. Pauline, a UC Berkeley grad is an intern here with us in Puerto Vallarta conducting research on our ethnobotany project.
Writing can be used to achieve a meditative state. Spend 5 minutes at the end of the day to write your thoughts. Write a story from the day, a list of things that are on your mind. Notice how you feel during the process. Release all of your thoughts onto paper. Notice how you feel once you finish.
Mindfulness is like a muscle — the more it is used the stronger it will get. These daily practices will help you develop the skills to consciously ease stress away during the day and also enhance sleep during the night.
To listen to a guided body scan in English or Español, click here.
- Donald, James; Atkins Paul; Parker Philip. Daily stress and the benefits of mindfulness: Examining the daily and longitudinal relations between present-moment awareness and stress responses ◹
- Black, David; O’Reilly Gillian; Olmstead Richard. Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances. A Randomized Clinical Trial ◹
- Mindful eating may help with weight loss ◹
- Shi, Lu; Zhang, Donglan; Wang, Liang; Zhuang, Junyang; Cook, Rebecca; Chen, Liwei. Meditation and blood pressure. A meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials ◹
- Rukat, Judy. 7 Yoga Poses You Can Do at Your Work Desk to Relieve Stress ◹
- Mindfulness: A Proposed Operational Definition ◹
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