Stress is an all too familiar and prominent part of our days. Stress, worry, anxiety, however it is experienced, tends to “steal the show” strangling your thoughts and making you miserable, as well as reeking havoc on your immune system. Often times we try to “do” things to get away from the worry and stress, but all too often that is practically impossible, especially when it is related to work or academic responsibilities.
There is hope, however, even if just for a minute here-and-there; it is possible to escape stress’s grip and enjoy a moment of solitude. This can be accomplished though mindfulness. Mindfulness exercises foster a presence of mind; attuning you to the present moment and escaping stresses grip, even if just for a few minutes. Mindfulness can help decrease the amount of stress you are experiencing by providing a mental and physical break in an otherwise exhausting day.
Mindfulness has existed for centuries in eastern culture and has become a prominent aspect of many western activities. Benefits of mindfulness are becoming increasingly known, including lowering the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies, as well as actually increasing the brain’s thinking power!
There are many different types of mindfulness, but for this post, we will only focus on mindfulness meditation, which is the generally preformed by drawing your attention to your breath, both inhaling and exhaling. Keep your attention only on your breath. As your mind wanders (which is expected and not a bad thing), notice that your mind has wandered and then redirect your attention back to your breathing, keeping your mind relatively blank.
Mindfulness takes practice, but it is a great and readily available option for addressing stress or just taking a calming break. Next time you feel overly stressed, or cannot seem to break the stress cycle, try a little mindfulness. Mindfulness is one of the easiest activities to perform since all it takes is you. Want to expand your mindfulness repertoire or would like a guided exercise? Here are free audio walkthroughs from the University of California Los Angeles.
Written By: Stephen Ham, M.A.