Stress is something that we experience on a near-daily basis. A little stress is good. In fact, it is even desirable to have some stress to optimize your performance. However, living in the modern world comes with stressors that are too overwhelming. When we deal with this on a long-term basis, it can lead to chronic stress. Chronic stress leads to poor brain health and neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. So what can be done to minimize stress? Research has reported that mindfulness activities help one manage their stress. In addition, they aid with cognition and especially, memory as well as digestive issues. Finally, they can help lift up one’s mood. Knowing these benefits of mindfulness, let’s take a look at some activities that we can do to cultivate this practice and reap the rich rewards.
Breathing is truly the heart and soul of mindfulness. This is because it helps deliver oxygenated blood to one’s organs and optimizes their health and efficiency. If you are not familiar with deep breathing, try the circle exercise. On a piece of paper, draw a circle and write the numbers 12 and 6 (corresponding to a clock) on the top and bottom of the circle. Using your fingers, trace the circle clockwise from the top and inhale slowly. Feel your ribs expand as you go. When you reach the 6 you’d marked, begin slowly exhaling and move your finger back to the top. This exercise is intended to be a visual reminder of deep breathing.
A significant proportion of mindfulness is dedicated to being aware of one’s surroundings and being present. This can only begin when one is aware of one’s own body. This body scan exercise is intended to help you be aware of the tense areas of your body and relax them. It’s best to lie down on your back with your palms upwards and feet spread slightly apart. Close your eyes and pay attention to your feet. Are they tense? If so, release the tension. Next focus on your calves and slowly move upwards to each body part and ask yourself the same question. At first, it may be difficult to even know what being tense feels like. With practice, you’ll easily be able to identify and work on letting the stress in your body dissipate.
The Food Game
This unusual exercise is intended to make mindfulness more “tangible” and give people a flavor of what being present feels like. You can use any edible food like a strawberry or a raisin or even something you’ve never tried before. The idea is to use your senses and explore the food. Imagine you’re an explorer who has just discovered this for the first time. How would you describe this to others? What does it look, feel, taste, and smell like? This exercise helps one keep focused on an object. It is hoped that one seeks to be in tune with the environment the same way they are with the fruit.