Hyped Up? The Key To Slowing Down May Be Mindfulness
We live in a hustle and bustle world. We make lunches while watching the morning news, texting with a friend and eating breakfast. Just this morning, my kids caught me listening to 90’s hip hop while scrolling Facebook and drinking my morning coffee on my stationary bike (The bike is a great vantage point for monitoring my kid’s morning routine. “Don’t forget to brush your teeth,” I shout between coffee sips and “hill sprints”).
Although this may sound productive, there are consequences to this constant barrage of stimulation vying for our attention. Our environment has effectively created a heightened alert system for many people, impacting our ability to relax and making us more likely to end up reacting poorly to daily stressors.
Almost everything works better after a restart. Including you.
You may not even notice how this seemingly normal impulse to multitask and “do all the things” is impacting your emotional state until life throws you one too many balls to juggle. When you find yourself overwhelmed and overloaded, it’s time for a reboot.
A Guide To Mindfulness
Experts in the mental health field often talk about “developing a mindful practice” to help you handle daily stresses and life demands. Many people picture yogis on mountaintops when they think of the term “mindfulness”, but it’s really just learning to stay focused and relaxed by deliberately paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and sensations while withholding judgment.
Empirical studies show that incorporating mindful awareness on a regular basis can decrease biological stress markers (ie. blood pressure, heart rate), reduce symptoms of anxiety and increase feelings of connection and happiness. By reconnecting with the present moment, we are more likely to gain perspective and be able to regulate our responses. I use the app Smiling Mind to practice mindfulness (activities are short and engaging and a great way to incorporate moments of mindfulness into a busy life).
Use This Exercise To Slow You Down
A popular mindfulness activity is a variation of the “5-4-3-2-1” Exercise. The name isn’t super original, but it works! Feel free to print the above PDF and begin!
5 – Breathes: Take 5 deep breathes. Allow your stomach to completely fill, matching the lengths of your inhales with the length of your exhales. The key here is to intentionally slow your breathing. Learn More About Diaphragmic Breathing
4 – Objects: Look around for 5 things that you can see, and say them out loud. Notice the objects around you. You may even choose to focus on a particular color (Noticing 4 yellow objects, for example) or theme (“smaller than a breadbox”).
3 – Feels: Pay attention to your body and think of 3 things that you can feel, repeating them out loud. For example, you could say, I feel my feet warm in my socks, I feel the hair on the back of my neck, or I feel the pillow I am sitting on.
2 – Sounds: Listen for 2 sounds. It could be the sound of traffic outside, the sound of typing or the sound of your tummy rumbling. Again, say these things out loud. Talking to yourself may seem funny, but doing so helps to keep you focused on the present moment.
1 – Positive: Repeat one positive mantra that rings true for you. Some of my favorites are “Everything is unfolding as it should” or “Don’t try to steer the river.” Both of these are related to “control” which often goes hand-in-hand with anxiety.
Finish with a final deep breath and notice the changes in your body and mind. This can be repeated as many times as is necessary to help you re-center yourself.
Mindfulness takes practice
The most powerful proof of how mindfulness can benefit you is through direct experience and daily practice. Begin to incorporate brief moments of mindfulness each day. This way the next time you find yourself overwhelmed or overloaded, you have the tools needed to slow down, refocus, and be present in your day.