April 11th, 2019
Mindfulness Techniques to Try Yourself
- Mindfulness and Stress
Mindfulness techniques to try at home
In our previous blog post we talked about how mindfulness can be used to help alleviate some of the symptoms of stress. There are many different courses you can take on mindfulness for stress and various resources online. The beauty of a lot of mindfulness techniques is that you can try them in the convenience of your own home, at work by your desk, whilst walking your dog, almost anywhere! Below I have listed two things that you can try wherever you are (and whenever you are!) that may help bring you back to the present moment with an accepting and more tranquil mind.
1. Focusing on your breath Turning your attention towards your breathing and, particularly, focusing on stabilising your breath, can be a helpful way of returning to the present moment when overwhelmed. Also, when we are stressed we tend to take more shallow breaths that are concentrated in the chest area rather than the belly. By taking back control of our breathing and deliberately deepening it we can also bring down some of the physiological symptoms of stress (read more about these here).
There are many different breathing techniques for you to try. One that I find particularly useful is deep breathing. To practice deep breathing, try the following:
Firstly, place one hand on your stomach just below the ribs - place the other on your chest. Take a breath in through your nose and feel how your belly rises with the in-breath whilst your chest remains still. Open your mouth and breathe out through pursed lips, feeling the sensation of your belly deflating. Keep doing this for at least 10 in- and out-breaths. At the end, take a moment to notice how you feel. Notice anything different?
2. Notice your surroundings Often when we are overwhelmed or stressed our focus can become narrow, and we find ourselves lost in worries about what will or won’t happen, what we should or shouldn’t have said, and so on. It is almost easy to forget where we are, because we’re so busy being somewhere else! You can use your surroundings to bring your awareness back to the present.
Five things you can see Perhaps you are sitting in an office with a window. Notice what is in the office. A desk. A plant. Chimneys outside the window. A coworker (tread carefully if you choose this as one of the things you can see - they may feel stared down!). A pen lying on your desk. Attend to each of these things or objects one at a time with your full attention. Notice the colour of the object, its shape, its texture. How does it occupy its space?
Four things you can feel Maybe focus on the feel of your trousers against your thighs, the temperature of the air against the skin of your cheek, and the sensation of your breath as it goes in through and out through your nostrils.
Three things you can hear Listen to the moving of traffic outside, the boiling of a kettle, perhaps the wheezing breaths of that colleague who you stared so intently at just a few moments ago. Focus on the quality of what you hear. Are the sounds distant? Close? Loud or quiet?
Two things you can smell Try and detect any smells in your presence. Perhaps a cup of tea brewing and the laundry detergent from your shirt.
One thing you can taste This can sometimes be tricky as perhaps you cannot taste much at all! However, focus even on the sensation of “not-tasting” for a few moments. What is it like to not experience a particular taste? What flavour does that have?
Taking a few moments to turn our attention to what is right in front of us can sometimes serve as a useful reminder that whatever you worry might happen hasn’t happened yet, and may certainly never happen! It can also help you accept that though what you are experiencing in this very moment may be unpleasant, it is also transient and will not last forever.