by SARAH STEVENSON www.livestrong.com
According to Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley University, the act of mindfulness can be defined as “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment.”
Consistently practicing mindfulness techniques can reduce the impact of stress on the brain, improve sleep quality, attention and even increase a sense of emotional and physical well-being. And you don’t have to be a Zen master to cultivate this awareness.
“Mindfulness practice does not mean that you try to act like a perfect person,” says Taso Papadakis, Dharma teacher at Golden Wind Zen Center.
“There are many paths to access our inherent human wisdom and wake up into the essence of our own life.”
If you’re looking for emotional and physical well-being, give one of these eight simple mindfulness techniques a try.
1 HOLD THEN RELEASE TENSION
Tightly squeeze your hands into a fist, count to 20 and let go. Take all your awareness to the sensations occurring in your hands. Continue to bring your attention to these sensations for as long as you can. Repeat several times and notice how focused your mind becomes and how calm you begin to feel. This can be done anywhere and anytime -- all you need is your mind and your hands.
2 FOCUS ON A SINGLE OBJECT
Pick any object in your line of sight on which to focus your attention. Without judgment, sit and watch the object with curiosity. The easiest things to watch are animals, children, waves, trees and clouds. If you are not in nature, watching the flame of a candle can be a quick, hypnotic way to get lost in the present moment. Instead of using your mind to label, judge and categorize the object, simply bring your attention to it. Observe the object with a heightened curiosity of what it might do next.
3 TRULY LISTEN TO MUSIC
Play a song, listening closely to the sounds that arise. Journal about where it takes you emotionally, how it makes you feel, the colors that come to mind and the memories that surface. Listening to music without words (i.e., instrumental) is helpful because it shuts off that part of the brain that is trying to decipher, identify and translate meaning. This in turn helps focus your mind only on the music instead of your grocery list, bills or to-do list.
4 ENGAGE YOUR SENSE OF SMELL
Smell something strong like coffee beans, lavender or garlic and pay attention to what it does to your nose. Where do you feel it? Does it bring up a memory? An emotion? This will help your mind focus intently on the scent. Taiwanese researchers found that using aromatherapy decreased feelings of stress in the body. Choose a scent that is pleasant: You don’t want the scent of rotten eggs to throw you into a bad mood!
5 EXPLORE OLD TASTES IN A NEW WAY
Use a cube of ice, piece of chocolate or a mint. Place the food in your mouth and focus entirely on how it feels and tastes on your tongue. How does it feel when you bite into it? What about when you chew it? Or swallow it? What sensations do you notice when it’s melting inside your mouth? You can also do this with your meals. Instead of sitting in front of the TV or talking at a dinner table, sit quietly and eat slowly with detailed attention paid to each bite. This will not only focus your mind, it will also affect how much you eat and how the food tastes. Implementing this kind of mindful eating can lower stress, increase satisfaction and even help you lose weight.