Let's quickly explore two scenarios.
Scenario 1: You are heading to work and there is a little more traffic than usual.
The weather is bad and some of the other drivers are starting to slow you down.
You begin to grip the wheel more tensely and find yourself calling the other drivers idiots.
You change lanes to get around a slow driver just to find yourself behind a slower driver which really irritates you.
Now you are mad, your shoulders are tight you start thinking about how late you are going to be and how this ridiculous drive to work has ruined your entire morning, and potentially the whole day.
Finally, you rush into work and within 20 minutes it's back to business as usual as if the morning drive had never happened.
After the work day comes to an end you go through the same thing on the drive home after a long day. Irritated and in a rush you walk into the house in a bad mood ready to be done with the day.
Scenario 2: You are heading into work and there is a little more traffic than usual.
You notice how interesting the sky looks, and how the snow lays on fences and bushes, like a soft white blanket.
The other drivers are nervous on the slick road so you give them extra space and enjoy a more relaxed drive to the office knowing that you are safe, and the other drivers are being cautious.
Your grip is steady but not tight, your shoulders are relaxed, and you have a slight smile as you plod along with the morning commute, enjoying a little extra time before the work day.
You arrive at the office a couple of minutes late, as do most of your co-workers, and within 20 minutes it's business as usual.
At the end of the day, you go through the same experience and arrive home calm and glad to be another day closer to the weekend.
Of these two scenarios, which one is more accurate to your daily experience?
Which experience would you rather have?
The person in scenario one is encountering a ton of anxiety and stress, while the person in scenario two is utilizing mindfulness to remain calm and collected, and even enjoys the trip to and from work.
For most of us, anxiety is part of our daily routine, rushing from one thing to another, seeing people and traffic as obstacles you have to navigate that just get in your way.
But what if life didn't have to be that way?
What if you could use mindfulness just like the person in scenario two?
How much less anxiety would you have in your life?
My guess is a lot, which is why today is all about using mindfulness to decrease anxiety.
Using mindfulness to decrease anxiety takes practice and patience with yourself and your environment.
If any of us hope to get to the same state of mind as the person in scenario two, we are going to have to work on it.
The good news is you can start to use mindfulness to decrease anxiety today, right now in fact.
But before we can start our mindfulness journey we need to understand what mindfulness is.
To start, let's look at the difference between "mindful" and "mind full."
When the mind is full, that means we are packed to the brim with thoughts, worries, fears, concerns, plans, and on and on and on.
Mindful, however, means that you are able to perceive things going on in your environment.
You are aware of your thoughts, your movements, and the things going on in the area around you.
In another word, being mindful means that you are aware.
For instance, as you read this, are you aware that you are reading something on a digital screen?
Are you aware of the tingling feeling at the bottom of your foot, or the way your skin feels in contact with your clothing?
We can't be aware of all things at all times, but the point is that there are more object things that you could be paying attention to than your thoughts about how annoying other people are.
When your mind is full, your thoughts control your experience.
You think about how everything is an obstacle as opposed to an object.
If you are thirsty, you see everything that is in the way of reaching the goal which creates stress and anxiety.
But, if you recognize that you're thirsty while being mindful, you still reach your goal of quenching your thirst, but instead of assigning things as obstacles, you are simply aware of your surroundings.
This awareness of things as they are invites curiosity and connection allowing you to feel calm and relaxed.
We can use mindfulness to decrease anxiety every moment of the day, simply by un-ascribing negative associations to our external reality, and simply observing things the way they are.
Now we know what mindfulness is, we can look at different ways of practicing mindfulness to decrease anxiety.
The best part about implementing mindfulness is that it's surprisingly easy to do.
But, like literally anything else you want to get better at, the key is consistency and effort.
The most common place to start practicing mindfulness to decrease anxiety is to walk through your 5 senses.
There are a lot of different methods for this, but my favorite is the 5-4-3-2-1 method.
Start by looking around your immediate area and focus on 5 things you can see.
Then transition your focus to 4 things you can touch.
3 things you can hear.
2 things you can smell.
And, finally, 1 thing you can taste.
The order is not important, it's just helpful for those of us who like structure.
For instance, if I was at a buffet I'd definitely want 5 things to focus on tasting before anything else.
The trick to mindfulness is finding ways to realize you are not being present.
And, the more you practice things like the 5-4-3-2-1 method, the quicker you become at recognizing exactly that, allowing you to become more mindful, more often.
Another simple exercise to improve mindfulness is by doing a daily 5-minute meditation.
Just sit in a relatively quiet place and either close your eyes to focus on your breathing or pick an object to look at.
Then do your best to keep all your attention focused on that one thing.
Notice when your mind wanders to other things, then gently bring your focus back, over and over.
After about 2 weeks of regular practice, you'll feel less anxious less often, and more mindful more often.
Using mindfulness to decrease anxiety is simple, it just takes practice.
Use the 5-4-3-2-1 method and daily 5-minute meditations today to start decreasing anxiety and improving your ability to be present.
Now is the time to change your daily routine and start feeling better about yourself and the world.
You can practice mindfulness on the way to and from work every single day, while you're eating dinner, doing the dishes, anytime!
It's all about being aware of what you're doing.
Let go of anxiety and stress, and become aware of things as they are, without judgment.
Use mindfulness to decrease anxiety today.
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