There’s no doubt that paying attention to your physical wellbeing can also help to improve your mental state, however, it’s equally important to direct the same amount of energy into your mental health. Mindfulness exercises can be a good place to start this.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a form of meditation in which the participant focuses on their thoughts and what they are feeling during that exact moment. Mindfulness can ultimately contribute to an improved mental state and overall reductions in stress, and so should be considered a useful tool when seeking to improve your overall health.
What are the benefits of mindfulness exercises?
Focusing on exactly what you are feeling at any given moment can help you to identify what emotions you may be feeling and subsequently why you might be feeling them. Ultimately, this process helps you to be able to process and manage your emotional state and mood, reducing stress and improving your mental state in the process (i.e. you may not necessarily feel ‘happy’, but you may be able to better process negative emotions, helping you to return to a more neutral state of mind).
Mindfulness exercises you can try alone:
1. Mindful breathing
When performing mindful breathing, you will focus solely on inhaling and exhaling your breath, ignoring everything else around you. Start in a comfortable and relaxed position and simply breathe normally, paying close attention to each breath. If you notice your mind wandering, bring your attention back to your breathing.
Do this for around 5-10 minutes. This process should help you to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety at the current moment.
2. Mindful movement or walking
Similar to mindful breathing, the goal here is to focus solely on the activity being performed. This may consist of walking, running, resistance exercise or whatever else you choose to do. While exercising, focus your attention directly on the activity, the muscles, the movements, and your breaths.
While it may sound complicated, you’re essentially just not letting your mind think about things that are not exactly what you are doing at that moment. Combined with the positive effects of exercise, this form of mindfulness can help you to feel refreshed, reduce stress and other negative emotions.
3. Mindful meditation
The goal of any kind of mindfulness technique is to achieve a state of increased alertness, reducing negative feelings in the process. Mindful meditation can involve techniques such as focusing on your breathing, guided imagery and other methods. Mindful meditation is typically done while sitting still, with an upright upper body.
Notice how your body feels, where it is in contact with the ground or your seat, and focus on your breaths, inhaling and exhaling. Do this for around 10 minutes, noticing when your mind wanders, and then focus on your breathing again. This process will ultimately help you to manage your negative emotions at that time, reducing stress.
As has previously been recognised in yoga practice, stretching as a mindfulness tool can be very effective as it not only helps to relieve negative emotions but also gets the body moving and improves your flexibility – the process of which also makes your body feel good. The key is to pick a stretch (or ‘pose’) and hold it for a set amount of time (usually 30-60 seconds is enough) and focus on your breathing throughout the process, as with other mindfulness techniques.
5. Mindful listening
This method can be a useful tool for helping to understand the emotions of others around you, and thus making you able to manage your emotions in response accordingly. Mindful listening involves listening without judging the other person, without criticising them or without interrupting them. This process can ultimately help to improve communication between two parties, which can in turn reduce stress and other negative emotions.
Take Home Message
Modern society appreciates the importance of maintaining good mental health and its impact on an individual’s overall wellbeing. Using mindfulness techniques can help to manage negative emotions and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and thus they should be considered as a useful tool to improve the mental wellbeing of an individual.
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