Mindfulness is a topic that can be summed up in a single word and yet is discussed in lecture after lecture, book after book, and requires a lifetime of practice.
That one word is awareness.
I've read several hundred (verging on over a thousand) pages on mindfulness and awareness and What I find most striking is that the vast majority of time spent discussing mindfulness is on what mindfulness does.
That is, the benefits of mindfulness; how it decreases anxiety and depression, how it alters brain chemistry, changes brain waves, impacts heart rate, stress, heart disease, brain disease, and on and on.
In case you didn't know already, daily mindfulness practices positively impact every one of those things, especially anxiety, and depression.
There you have it, hundreds and hundreds of pages summed up in two sentences.
This really just goes to how skeptical people are, and how defensive they are to implement something that is nearly unbelievable in its simplicity, despite its immediate impact on anxiety and other mental health issues.
People need less convincing when debating which car to buy, or house for that matter; but when it comes to convincing people to do something that takes as little as 5 minutes per day, they need overwhelming amounts of evidence.
This is sort of funny too because the more evidence that comes out supporting how many positive changes occur through daily mindfulness the less believable it sounds.
The old adage "too good to be true" comes to mind.
So, I'm not going to bother going into detail about the benefits, instead, I'll focus on giving you 3 tools for mindfulness that you can start practicing today and experience the benefits firsthand.
The first of our 3 tools for mindfulness is a 5-minute focus meditation and can be implemented in two different ways.
Each of these two ways has similar benefits but 1 may be easier than the other depending on the individual.
Way 1: This one is called interoception, meaning perception of the inside, and pertains to focusing on your internal state extending to the boundaries of your skin.
All you have to do is sit down, or lay down, in a comfortable position and set a timer for five minutes and close your eyes.
Over the course of those five minutes, focus only on your heartbeat.
It may be difficult to notice your heartbeat at first, but it becomes easier over time.
When you notice that your mind is wandering to other thoughts simply bring your full focus back to your heartbeat.
This refocusing creates tension and will feel agitating, that's how you know it's working.
Be kind to yourself through this process and simply continue bringing your focus back to your heartbeat.
Way 2: The second way is called exteroception, meaning perception of the outside.
Just like the first way, sit or lay down in a comfortable position, and set the timer, but this time keep your eyes open and pick a certain object or spot to focus your attention.
Just like before, as soon as you notice your mind wandering bring all your focus back to that single spot or object.
Accept the agitation for what it is and calmly remind yourself that the agitation caused by the constant refocusing is proof that you're getting the benefits of the practice.
Let's take a look at our second of 3 tools for mindfulness.
Our second of the 3 tools for mindfulness is the 5-4-3-2-1 method for our 5 senses.
This can be done multiple times throughout the day, every single forever.
Walk yourself through each of your senses like this:
Personally, I think it is a good idea to leave the things you can see to the end.
By closing your eyes and focusing on the other senses first you focus more intention on those senses and give yourself a break from all the visual stimulation.
Also, by the time you open your eyes, you'll be much more relaxed already giving you a greater appreciation for things you can see.
Our senses are often overlooked and we take them for granted, forgetting that we live in a sensory world.
People spend the vast majority of their attention on thoughts about things that aren't present.
Of the 3 tools for mindfulness, this one brings focus and attention to all of our senses allowing for the greatest degree of present awareness and therefore maximum relief from anxiety.
And finally, the third of our 3 tools for mindfulness is actually a writing exercise in the form of a very specific type of poetry; Haiku.
I have given lectures on Haiku and was invited to join the Haiku Society of America, and I truly believe that Haiku is one of the greatest mindfulness practices in the world.
What I will say from the outset is this, do not get bogged down by counting syllables.
The traditional Haiku is a short, 3-line poem consisting of 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 in the last line.
That doesn't matter, what does matter is brevity and objectivity.
Write about something you see, hear, smell, taste, or touch and give some reference to the weather or time of year.
That's it, a direct experience of something combined with a remark about the time of year.
This patch of evergreen
No longer green,
Fly to the roof,
The whole purpose of Haiku is to put you into a direct experience of reality without judgment or the need to flower things up with pretty writing.
It's a single mindful moment of direct experience.
There you have it, 3 tool for mindfulness that you can use throughout the day, every day, for the rest of your life.
Mindfulness is a proven method of reducing anxiety, depression, heart disease, and many, many other health-related endeavors.
Most of these tools can be done in 5 minutes and can make a world of difference.
Start using these 3 tools for mindfulness right now and start to notice the difference in your levels of stress and anxiety.
Not only do these tools help in the moment, but the more you practice them, the more benefits you derive in the long run too.
So, next time you pick up your phone to mindlessly scroll for 30 minutes, take 5 of those minutes and be mindful instead.
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