It’s been a stressful couple of years, particularly for those of us whose activities have been largely affected by the pandemic. Stress harms our health—physical, mental, and emotional.
Mindful meditation practices are shown to help reduce stress and its impacts on the body. Incorporating it into your daily routine can help reduce symptoms of depression, which helps reduce the risks for Alzheimer’s and other memory-related diseases. Reductions in stress can further aid in healthy digestion, easing circulation and inflammation as the body relaxes.
Mindfulness is simply accepting thoughts, good and bad, as they come, without judgment. Rather than dwelling on one thought or another, however, it emphasizes the present. How we feel right now, doing exactly what we’re doing, without thinking of the past or future, is how we practice mindfulness.
Start with Deep Breathing
Deep, or diaphragmatic, breathing is the goal of healthy meditation. Breathe into your belly, expanding it while your chest remains still. Breathe in for four counts; breathe out for eight. If that’s too long, try three and six, or fewer. Ensure your exhale lasts longer than your inhale.
Once you have a grasp of deep breathing, try the following meditation exercises.
Deep Breathing Circle
Try drawing a circle on a piece of paper. You can also use a plate. Mark the top and bottom of the circle at 12 and 6 o’clock. As you inhale, trace from 12 to 6 slowly, ending halfway around the circle as you complete your inhale. As you exhale, complete the circle, returning to 12 o’clock.
Laying on your back, or however might be most comfortable for you, focus on your toes and how they feel. Notice any tension and consciously relax it. Next, move to your feet, ankles, calves, and up. Move from your shoulders to your upper arms, elbows, forearms, hands, and fingers. Return to your neck and scan all the way up your head and face, to the top of your scalp. Relax everything as you go.
You may fall asleep; that’s okay!
Coloring is a great way to focus your mind on something other than stressors. Collab with the grandkids or pick up and adult coloring book for something more to your taste.
It doesn’t even need to be with colored markers or crayons. Use your favorite pen or pencil to make an interesting monochrome design.
Incorporating mindful meditation can be as simple as practicing for a few minutes in the morning or using it to fall asleep. It’s great for recognizing how we feel and recentering on what’s important right now. Next time you’re struggling to relax, give deep breathing a try, and see whether it helps.