Mindfulness. It’s sprung up in the wheat fields of the web as the answer to all our worries. But what exactly is it, why should we be mindful and what mindfulness exercises actually work?
Mindfulness is acknowledging the present for what it is and focusing on being in the moment. Seems simple in theory, but how often do you find yourself with a spare minute to stop, breathe and ruminate on life?
We’re all busy people with hectic schedules. Work, family commitments, social lives, and hobbies can leave mindfulness on the bench, giving stress and anxiety the opportunity to play ball. Fortunately, we have some simple mindfulness exercises for working through the worries.
Here are 10 mindfulness exercises to help combat stress and anxiety.
1. Remember to breathe
First up is breathing. It’s very much an essential part of life and, believe it or not, there are many ways you can do it. Deep breathing slows the heart rate, increases the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain, and calms the mind. One breathing technique that aids in soothing and slowing stress is the 4-7-8 exercise:
- Exhale completely from the mouth with a whoosh sound;
- Inhale through the nose to the count of 4;
- Hold this breath for 7 seconds;
- Exhale again with whooshing breath to the count of 8.
This technique is excellent for relaxing the body and clearing the mind, and you’re guaranteed to feel calm and recharged after this exercise.
2. Meditate on it
Similar to breathing, meditation is the true embodiment of mindfulness. Meditation is a powerful tool and requires setting aside time to focus solely on you.
It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, and it doesn’t have to be anywhere in particular (although peace and quiet can help). To meditate is to reflect inwardly, and is for the brain what digestion is for the stomach. Meditation is an excellent way to not only eliminate stress and anxiety, but to become a happier and more positive person. If you’re new to meditation, there are guided meditation apps like Headspace and 10% Happier that can start you on your journey.
3. Have daily reflections
Reflection is that moment in the shower where the water is beating down nice and warm, the steam on the glass is thick enough to write things in, and your eyes are shut while you’re rinsing lather from your hair, just musing. Whether you reflect internally, or you choose to journal, reflection – like meditation – is taking a moment to sit back and accept things for what they are. Once we are able to reflect and accept, we can move past negative thoughts.
4. Thank you for the music
Music is soul food for the ears. Adding a soundtrack to our life can do wonderful things for our mind: cheer us up, calm us down, energise our body and motivate our brain. Whatever your preferred genre may be, music is an excellent reliever of stress and anxiety.
We have favourite songs because they resonate with us on some emotional level and playing one of these familiar songs is comforting for us. Some music is designed to relax and soothe, like this track from Marconi Union. Music therapy is a real science and has proven therapeutic effects including sensory and social skills, cognitive functioning, and emotional development. Nothing switches up your mood like quite like music, so it pays to keep your headphones nearby if you start to feel overwhelmed.
5. Art for the heart
Art may not be for everyone, but anyone can be an artist. Whatever your choice of media – paints, pencils, hot glue and pipe cleaners – a creative outlet can be liberating. Show stress who’s boss by throwing paint at a canvas. Tackle anxiety head-on by sketching something that inspires you. Superglue Paddle Pop sticks together and make a box for thoughts you don’t need. Art is an expression and it is entirely personal, so break out the supplies and turn the ugly into something you can love.
6. Smell the flowers
Scented candles have become a popular gift in recent times and it’s easy to see why: they’re warm, mesmerising to watch, and come in so many luxurious scents. There’s comfort in aromas – that’s why we wear perfume and spray our houses with “Ocean Breeze”. Aromatherapy is using scent, especially essential oils, for healing.
It’s suggested that some benefits of aromatherapy include reduced anxiety, boosted energy, expedited healing, improved cognition, increased circulation, and many more. Aromatherapy is a popular aid for insomniacs and poor sleepers. Essential oils like lavender, bergamot and ylang ylang are used to combat stress, and the soft scents of sandalwood can soothe an anxious mind.
7. Nourish the body
What we put into our bodies is often overlooked when we’re experiencing stress or anxiety. Some people seek solace in food and binge while otherwise are too consumed themselves to eat anything at all. No matter how anxious you feel, you must remember that your body is what is holding all of the tension. Taking the time to prepare something healthy can be a great way to focus your energy on a productive task. Ingredients that can help reduce stress include leafy greens, blueberries, pistachios and avocados. Fermented foods and omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts and some fish are excellent for the brain. And of course, there’s always dark chocolate.
8. Break a sweat
We’re not saying you should fork out and subscribe to a professional gym – though that’s great if you have! But we are saying that there’re endless studies exploring the benefits of exercise on mental health. Exercising produces endorphins, releases tension, elevates and stabilises mood, and is a productive way of combating stress and anxiety. Go for a walk or a jog around the block, lift some weights or do some crunches – whatever gets you moving.
Yoga is a fantastic exercise and it’s gentle enough to do no matter what your fitness level. It strengthens muscles, increases flexibility and improves balance. Yoga requires concentration and discipline, both of which are excellent behaviours for combating stress and anxiety.
9. Talk it out
We surround ourselves with loved ones to support each other. Those that care for us will always be around to listen. Talking about what is bothering you may not necessarily fix the issue itself, but it definitely alleviates frustration. A burden is lighter when carried on more shoulders. You will always feel better getting things off your chest, so speak to a family member, a friend, or even a professional if your stress or anxiety is becoming unmanageable.
10. Pamper yourself
It’s the end of the week, and it’s been a busy one. Client meetings and conferences and balancing supply and demand – it’s a tough world we work in. One sure-fire way to eliminate stress and dissolve anxiety is to just relax! Pamper yourself, whether it’s jumping in the spa, getting your nails done, cracking open a refreshing beverage, or having a massage therapist delivered to your door.
Qualified Blys mobile massage therapists offer a range of treatments to aid your ailments. If you want a relaxing Swedish Massage, need something Remedial for an aching back, or a more specialised service like a Pregnancy or Sports Massage, Blys has you covered. Book online or on the App today. Available as individual, couple, or group massages.
So there you have it: 10 mindfulness exercises to combat stress and anxiety. We hope these simple suggestions will leave you feeling relaxed and at the top of your game! There is no indulgence quite like self-care.