Mindfulness is a powerful tool that can help us to live more consciously and reduce stress. It involves listening carefully to another person, stopping anything else we are doing, and simply breathing naturally and listening without an agenda. Mindfulness has been shown to lower physiological markers of stress and improve the brain's ability to control stress by increasing connectivity in the area of the brain responsible for attention and executive control (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex).When it comes to developing courage, it doesn't matter if someone does the brave thing right or if they do it at all. As long as they are safe (physically and relationally), learning to be brave is about learning that they can handle the discomfort of anxiety, because courageous things are always accompanied by anxiety.
To do this, they will need experiences that show them that they can handle the discomfort. It doesn't matter how long this takes or how small or complicated the steps to get there are. Courage takes time, but we know it's in all our young people. As important adults, our job is to recognize experiences that will help them to know this as well. Those experiences will feel like anxiety and look like scary but safe experiences they might want to avoid because they don't feel brave, strong, or powerful enough.
Doing these experiences may seem messy, but as long as they're safe, it's OK. This is what the building of the Brave sometimes looks like. It's not doing the full experience or else that makes them brave; it's the “don't avoid”, and that can happen little by little. A small step day after day that complement each other is what builds courage. It doesn't matter how complicated the moments are or how small they are; what matters are the moments, and that we see those little messy moments that don't always end up the way we want them to be because of what they are.
They are not the failure to be brave. Mindful eating is a way to turn something you do every day into a mindfulness practice. To do this, you need to S — Stop doing what you're doing, leave things for a minute. Breathe normally and naturally and follow the breath that goes in and out of your nose. You can even tell yourself to “come in” as you inhale and “exhale” when you breathe out, if that helps you focus. Since ending our addiction to technology is a much bigger task (and a topic for another blog), we need to develop practices in our daily lives to return to what really matters.
While there's nothing better than a good mindfulness meditation, it can sometimes be difficult to dedicate 20 to 30 minutes of meditation to our busy lives. Instead, we can create micropractices throughout the day to focus our attention. The body works without your participation: you breathe automatically, your heart beats continuously, and your bodily functions continue to function regardless of what you do. But the body constantly sends us messages through sensations in the body. Take a moment and check with your body; what do you notice? Where do you keep your blood pressure? Do you have aches or pains? Do you feel heavy or light? Focusing your attention on your body can help realign your attention to the present, but it also connects you to the information you need to better care for your body. Clients were also guided by a number of other mindfulness interventions such as conscious breathing, body tomography, and other simple mindfulness practices.
If the idea of participating in group mindfulness exercises causes you anxiety or is stressful for you or your clients, then immersing yourself in the practice of mindfulness may be the best way to proceed. Interestingly, some research suggests that mindfulness meditation may even be beneficial for problems such as anxiety, chronic pain, and depression. The incredible benefits of practicing meditation and mindfulness are available to everyone who has the time to practice these skills. The next time you start to feel anxious, calm your mind with these ideas that will add small bursts of mindfulness to your day: If your mind moves away, simply recognize that your mind has wandered, recognize where it went, and gently refocus on your breathing. But what about creativity? Doesn't mindfulness kill creativity? If you're focusing on the present moment all the time, you're not letting the mind wander which is a form of creative flow essentially. Many different mindfulness exercises are mentioned here that were specifically developed with the goal of reducing social anxiety disorder; however, the first three exercises are commonly used in group sessions to promote mindfulness. My option for meditation is mindfulness which is an open meditation in which you place your attention lightly on your breathing. Check out these great mindfulness blogs for guidance and support on how to increase awareness and peace of mind.
My friend Elisha Goldstein who writes the blog “Mindfulness and Psychotherapy” at Psych Central offers readers like me who struggle with a formal meditation practice several quick tips for mindful living that can be implemented throughout the day. You can make meals more mindful with some basic mindful eating practices such as listening to the pan crackle and chewing slowly to savor each bite. I hope these simple exercises will help you access the world of mindfulness without having to read books or sit and meditate for a long time.