Eating a healthy diet is one key part to living a happy, healthy lifestyle. The other is managing stress. While there are foods that help you relax and reduce stress, research shows that mindfulness – or the “science of chill” – is a very effective way to further reduce your stress level and help keep it at bay.
There are many forms of mindfulness and the most wonderful news is that individuals don’t have to spend hours mastering it! Taking even a few minutes to pause each day can have a profound effect on your emotional and physical health. The idea is to put yourself in the present moment, where you are not focused on the past or stressing about the future.
Here are five mindfulness techniques for stress management.
A consistent meditation practice reduces stress, calms your mind, regulates blood pressure, supports your immune system, and enhances brain health. Mediate when it works for you. First thing in the morning, as an afternoon work break or before you go to bed. Experiment with the following apps: Calm, Headspace, Chill Anywhere, and Insight Timer.
Regular journaling is a great way to connect with your values, emotions, and goals. The practice can also help you find mental clarity and create more focus in your life. Journals also serve as artifacts of personal history that are enjoyable to read over time.
Prayer and Religious Services
Prayer is another form of contemplative meditation. For those of you who practice a formal religion, attending services (even remotely) can help you feel connected to the larger community.
Breathing exercises are a simple way to refocus your mind and reduce stress.
4-7-8 Breathing: In the ratio 4-7-8 (inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, exhale for 8 seconds).
It is free and you can do it at any moment when you are feeling stressed, anxious, or need a pause in your day.
Positive thinking has a tremendous impact on your overall health. When we live with the grass is always greener mentality, we overlook all the wonderful things present in our lives.
- Gratitude Journal: Every morning or before you go to bed, write down 5 things that you are grateful for in your life. Revisit your journal any time throughout the day that you need a mental or emotional boost.
- Gratitude Walk: If you are a more active person, take a gratitude walk and pay attention to all the beautiful things the natural world has to offer and get your steps in too.
- Gratitude Trigger: Place an object somewhere in your home or workspace, which will remind you to feel grateful each time you look at it. It can be a little sign with your favorite quote, picture of a loved one, or a screen saver.
Making Mindfulness Part of Your Daily Life
Turning your mindfulness techniques into a habit is easy to do. Simply pick one of these techniques and start doing it daily. When it has become a habitual part of your healthy lifestyle routine, choose another one to incorporate if you’d like or lengthen the time of your current habit, such as practicing meditation for 10 minutes or doing it two times per day.
- Meditate for 5 minutes when you get up in the morning.
- Take an afternoon breathwork break for 2 minutes.
- Journal before bed each night.
- Write down or think on five things that you are grateful for every day.
- Find a weekly quote that inspires you to display in your home or workspace.
Other Stress Management Strategies
Another way to manage stress is to find something that relaxes you, ideally both your mind and body. Here are some ideas.
- Massage, steam, sauna, bath, or other spa treatments
- Listening to music or a podcast
- Reading a book or doing a puzzle
- Painting, coloring, photography, or other art projects/classes
- Steaming a TV show or movie
- Being in nature
- Spending time with your pet
- Calling a friend
- Taking a mental health day or vacation
- Working with a mental health provider
We’re very accustomed to always being on the go, so the practice of mindfulness may take a while to integrate into your lifestyle. Be patient with yourself and remember that you’re striving for progress not perfection. Eventually you will discover that a little mindfulness will go a long way towards stress relief and well-being.