There is a growing body of evidence for the role mindfulness plays in achieving mental and physical health. Attaining a state of mindfulness—defined as being fully present and focused in the moment—creates the optimal environment for mind/body balance.
People who practice mindfulness meditation consistently can enjoy many health benefits including lower blood pressure and pulse rate, a lower respiratory rate, and better mental health overall.
But in today’s overloaded, high-pressure culture, is simply reaching a state a mindfulness—even if you do it every day—enough?
We challenge you to find out what happens when you take mindfulness to the next level with this easy 5-step mindfulness-with-a-twist approach. You’ll get all the benefits of mindfulness, but also upgrade your thinking and habits in the process. Whether you’re a seasoned meditator or are trying mindfulness for the first time, here’s an easy way to find out all your mind can achieve for you.
Step 1: Breathe.
Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress because it sends a message to your brain to calm you. The detrimental effects of stress, such as increased heart rate, increased stress hormone production and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax. Read the following paragraph and then close your eyes and follow the instructions:
Take in a deep, cleansing breath. Hold that breath for the mental count of three and then let the breath out with a sigh. Just let it go. Let go of the thoughts, the cares, the concerns of the day.
There’s absolutely nothing that needs to be done right now. The only thing that really needs to happen is for you to relax and let go. Now take another deep breath. Hold it for the mental count of three, and then let the breath out with a sigh.
Did you feel your body let go of the stress and tension with each deep breath you took? Did you feel your muscles relax as you imagined yourself letting go of the stress of your day? This kind of breathing can provide you a peaceful, quiet moment anytime.
Step 2: Focus on the Moment
When you are stressed and anxious, you’re most likely doing one of two things: Regretting something you’ve already done, or worried about what comes next. These negative thoughts can cause vast amounts of stress from which your body needs recovery time.
One way to lessen this type of stress is to bring yourself back to living in the moment. If you’re walking, feel the sensation of your legs moving. If you’re eating, focus on the taste, smell, and sensation of the food. If you’re relaxing, be mindful of the heaviness of your limbs and the deep, rhythmic sound of your breathing.
Mindfulness allows us to just “be,” which is a state associated with relaxation. When we are always going and doing and reacting to past or future events, we are continually exposing ourselves to stress. You will find that you can deal with situations that arise positively and productively because you are reacting to what is, not what was or might be.
Step 3: Reframe the Situation
When we are stressed or overwhelmed, it may seem impossible to find anything positive about the situation, but one of the best ways to attain our peak mental and physical health is to remain positive, especially in the face of stress. Viewing stressors as opportunities can help you stop feeling trapped and reduce the physical effects of stress. And it’s really not as hard as you think. Let’s look at an example:
You’re running late for work and then find yourself stuck in traffic. Your usual go-to response would be getting upset, stressed, maybe even cursing or yelling at the traffic around you.
Not only does this cause a rise in your body’s stress level, it’s also not going to solve the present problem. You can’t do anything to change the situation and, therefore, getting upset is pointless and detrimental to your health.
Take a different perspective. This traffic jam is giving you a few extra minutes to yourself, which is probably a rarity. You can listen to the music on your car radio, get your thoughts organized for your day, or enjoy some quiet while you wait for the traffic to clear.
So how can we reframe any situation? Look at the steps below to turn your next bad day into a day of possibilities:
- Look at what is actually stressing you. Rather than dwelling on the feelings of frustration and helplessness, examine the situation with new eyes.
- What can you change, if anything, about the situation? Think of as many solutions as you can, without judging right away if you can or can’t do them.
- Look for the positives. If you’re in a situation you genuinely can’t change, you can reframe your thoughts and change the way you feel by finding benefits in the situation you face.
- Find the Humor. Have you ever been in a situation that really was so terrible that you thought, someday I’ll look back on this and laugh? Why not let someday be now?
Step 4: Keep Your Problems in Perspective
The next time you’re feeling stressed, consciously make an effort to think about the things for which you’re grateful. It’s important to remind ourselves of the positives in our lives—you have eyes to see with, for example, you can talk and walk, and you have family and friends to support you. You’ll find this a surprisingly easy way to reduce the stress in your life.
When your thoughts are positive, the body responds, and the brain seeks to find the most favorable outcome for any situation. When you focus on the negative, you can only see adverse outcomes, and the body responds with the fight-or-flight response, triggering a blood pressure spike, increased heart rate, shallow breathing, and the release of stress hormones.
Stress happens when we don’t feel capable. When we stress over bills, it’s because we don’t believe we have enough or can’t get enough money to pay them. When we stress over a relationship, it’s because we don’t feel capable of making the relationship work out healthily.
Thinking positively means that you don’t ignore that there are possible negative outcomes, but you focus on the result that you want and, like superstar athletes, step up to the challenge with optimism.
Step 5: Practice Mindful Meditation and Creative Visualization
By practicing mindful meditation and visualization, such as by using the audio sessions in the BrainTap audio library, you can learn to achieve the relaxation response, a state of deep rest that changes a person’s physical and emotional response to stress.
The visualization sessions in the BrainTap audio-library were created to help you reach the relaxation response and at the same time develop the characteristics of happy, healthy, prosperous people who enjoy meeting life’s challenges. By practicing mindfulness and visualization in this way, you can gain more benefits than with mindfulness practices alone, such as eliminating brain fog and negative mind chatter, ridding yourself of unwanted habits and behaviors, developing positive eating or sleep habits, and more. Give it a try for free by taking advantage of our FREE 7-Day Trial.