by KATIE MAXEY, RD, IBCLC
Imagine focusing on your awareness and being present from moment to moment without rushing through each day. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? With our fast-paced life, we forget to pause and be aware of each moment. “Being mindful” are buzzwords that we use, however, we may not actually practice mindfulness or even understand how to be more mindful. Our minds tend to constantly think, analyze and problem solve. But if we are more present and are mindful in the moment, which does not come naturally to many of us, it causes us to pause and be still. It encourages us to be aware of what is happening and what we are feeling in the moment. There are many benefits to practicing mindfulness. Some of the benefits include reducing stress and anxiety, helping with pain management, reducing symptoms of depression, slowing down the brain from aging, improving cognitive ability and increasing a sense of well-being.
So how do you become more mindful? It’s a bit more challenging than you think. To start being more mindful, it’s helpful to focus on your breath. Your breath is the constant that you can keep coming back to when you need to recenter and slow down. Become more aware of your breath and how it feels to breathe. After you have practiced focusing on your breathing, you can add other mindfulness practices into your day such as mindful eating and mindful activity.
Breath work means focusing on your breathing and noticing the sensations that are occurring. Feel the rise and fall of your chest when you are breathing. Is the air coming in and out of your nose or are you breathing through your mouth? Notice how each breath feels. Notice the temperature of the air coming inside of your body. How fast or slow are you breathing? Give it a try right now! Close your eyes, pause, and take a few breaths while you focus on the sensations of each breath.
Look at that! You were just mindful and you were practicing mindfulness by focusing on your breathing.
Once you’ve practiced breath work and you are ready to take mindfulness to other areas of your day, consider being mindful while you are eating. Mindful eating means you are going to focus on your body, the food in front of you and how your body reacts as you begin to eat each bite of food. To start, try pausing before making your plate or taking a few bites of food. Center yourself by focusing on a few breaths. What food is catching your eye the most? Why is that food standing out? Notice how your body feels before you begin eating. What is your level of hunger? As you begin eating, notice each and every bite. It may help you to place your fork or spoon down between bites so that you do not rush to the next bite. As you are eating each food, notice the flavor. Notice how it feels and how your hunger level begins to change with each bite. And when you’ve noticed your hunger level has improved and you are beginning to feel satisfied, pause and stop eating. Are you done with your meal? Mindful eating can help with digestion, not eating too fast, noticing if we truly like or do not like food and preventing overeating.
Doing activity mindfully means you are focused on what you are doing in the moment. You are focused on your body, how your body is feeling, thinking about the move your body is doing and how it is strengthening you. To practice mindful activity, try mindfully walking. You do not have to add a walk to your daily routine but use a walk you already do and practice stepping mindfully. For example, practice mindfulness as you walk into work. Whether your walk is short or long, you can focus on each step. Aim to keep your mind on each step and your breath as you walk into work versus rushing in and thinking about all the tasks that need to be done today. It helps center us, prepare us for the day and it can also reduce stress. Who doesn’t want the extra help of reducing stress before a workday? No matter the physical activity you are doing, whether it’s walking, lifting weights, or even golfing, you can practice mindfulness and focus on each movement and how your body is feeling in that moment. You will end each activity feeling satisfied, knowing your body is working to get stronger.