Mindfulness is the practice of being completely aware and free from judgment.

When you are mindful, you are at peace because you are simply observing all that is happening within you, to you and around you, withholding judgment and reaction.

Think of a really stressful situation in your life.

Maybe it's a frustrating boss at work, health issues or just attempting to balance all the things in your life.

Think about what causes you the most stress.

Is it the situation itself or is it your reaction and judgment of the situation?

It may be difficult for you to answer that question right now, but with some honest examination, you'd probably find that your stress comes from an internal source.

It isn't necessarily what you can't control that bothers you, but how you process and cope with what you can't control that causes the most stress.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

In a state of mindfulness, you find that no matter what happens, by simply observing it, free from judging it, you find peace.

That peace comes from knowing that your energy is best served on things that are within your control, which you discover are only your thoughts and actions.

Cultures since ancient times have know this to be true, but the scientific use of mindfulness was only revealed in the 1970s by Jon Kabat-Zinn who pioneered a technique called "Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction," (MBSR) which he wrote about in his famous book, "Full Catastrophe Living".

The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction technique combines mindfulness meditation, yoga and body awareness.

It was discovered that practicing this technique for 20 minutes every day decreased stress by an average of 11%.

That may not seem significant, but alongside the additional benefits of improved immune function, pain reduction, mood stabilization, anxiety reduction, increased optimism, increased self-control and decreased binge eating, you can see that investing 20 minutes a day in mindfulness can have positively life altering effects.

Exercises to Relieve Stress

MSBR is a program that requires you to invest 8 weeks of your time in a group class.

Though this is extremely beneficial, time and money constraints may not allow you to participate in that program.

However, by practicing any or all of the exercises below, you can begin to live a more mindful life.

By becoming more mindful, you will experience stress relief because you will not be living in the moment of what was or the moment of what could be; you will be living in the moment of what is.

To begin, choose an exercise that seems easy to you.

If you go for the most difficult thing right out of the gate, you might be setting yourself up for what you would call "failure."

Though there is no way to fail at these exercises, your mind can certainly fool you into believing that's possible.

By choosing a simple exercise, you can help to calm the part of your brain that is always waiting for the next "disaster."

A Simple Repeated Mantra

As you focus in on thoughts, your brain likes to take the opportunity to present you with all of the other things going on in your life that "seem" important.

This is all in your mind. There is nothing important, except for this moment right now. To see how true that is, practice this meditation for 5-10 minutes each day.

The more you practice, the easier it will become and the more benefits you'll start to see in your daily life.

  • Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Don't let yourself get into a position where you might fall asleep. Take a moment to relax and release any tension in your body.

  • Repeat a mantra in your mind that you would like to affirm. It can be anything, but keep the words positive. For example, instead of "I am not stressed," say, "I am at peace."

  • Your mind will attempt to distract you with thoughts. That's ok. Acknowledge the distraction and move on, bringing your attention back to the mantra. Do not judge yourself for the distraction. It will happen. It is natural. Let it be.

  • Continue repeating the mantra for 5-10 minutes. Feel proud of yourself when you're done!

Become Aware, but not Controlled by Your Emotions

We often forget, or perhaps never even knew, that our emotions do not control us.

We can choose how we react and proceed despite how we may feel.

We cannot control how we feel, but we can shift how we respond to those feelings.

Stress happens because we are allowing fear, anger, disappointment and a host of other negative emotions to navigate our actions.

By becoming aware of these emotions and allowing them to simply be, we can begin to gain control of how we react and respond to stressful situations.

This exercise is best performed when you are experiencing the downfall of an emotion.

In other words, practice this exercise when you have recently experienced a strong emotion, but are not directly in the "eye of the storm."

  • Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Don't let yourself get into a position where you might fall asleep. Take a moment to relax and release any tension in your body.

  • Focus on your emotions. Allow your emotions to rise within you. Just sit and wait for them to appear.

  • Name them as they appear. "Fear." "Hurt." "Rejection." Allow them to exist without judging them. Just name them and let them rise within you. Feel them in your body, but don't stop them. Let them run their course.

  • Once you have accepted your emotions and let them move within you, without reaction or judgment, you can dismiss them and allow them to fade away.

Practice Self-Control with Urges

This is a fun exercise to try because it floods your brain with neurotransmitters.

When you become more mindful, you can experience this surge of chemicals in your brain and simply allow it to occur without reacting.

This can help your immediate stress responses and it's fun.

  • Get your favorite treat. It can be a piece of chocolate or a taco. It doesn't matter as long as it's something you really want.
  • Now, place the treat in front of you and without touching it, notice what is happening inside of your body. Feel the saliva building up in your mouth. Feel the warmth on your face and hands. Perhaps the center of your chest is buzzing. Maybe your heart is racing and you feel dizzy.

  • Take the time to really focus on what your body is doing. Your brain is firing off neurotransmitters that are motivating you to take action. Take note of those responses. How is your body preparing itself for this treat?

  • Keep focusing on those reactions. They will come to you in a wave. They will grow in strength, peak at a point that you feel you can no longer handle and then they will begin to subside.  

  • Finally, put the treat away. We don't encourage wasting food, but if you need to feel the power of throwing it away, do so. Do whatever it takes to make a bold statement to yourself that you are not going to respond to the sensations of cravings. Tell your mind and your body that it does not control you.

  • Feel what it is like to reject the craving. What happens to you physically, emotionally and mentally? Let it be. Observe it, acknowledge it and then move on from it.
Mindvalley Academy

Mindvalley Academy

Education for People Who Refuse to Fit into the Ordinary World

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Tags: Mind