Mindfulness: the new word everyone keeps throwing around without a whole lot of context. Until now! Boy, have I got context for you. I’m sure you have a lot of questions about this new fad. One being: what exactly is it? Perhaps more importantly, what’s the big deal? And, of course, will it help me manage feelings of loneliness and isolation?
The Power of the Present
First thing’s first: a better understanding of this new wave approach to meditation. In sum, mindfulness is retuning your mind to focus on the present moment. To become aware of everything happening right now, instead of anxiety-provoking happenings of the past or future. Believe it or not, this practice is intuitive, but because we’re always hustling on one hand or ruminating on the other, we have to switch to a manual gear and take it upon ourselves to readjust our minds accordingly.
Second thing’s second: the reason mindfulness is growing in popularity. I’m sure you can take a swing at why so many are paying mind to this new technique. That’s right—there’s something to gain. Mindfulness comes with a whole lot of benefits. It helps with stress, mood, your overall wellbeing, and yes, those exhausting feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Now, instead of listening to us babble on about mindfulness all day, try it for yourself. Farah Harris, a licensed clinical professional counselor, is here to offer some tips for your first go-around. You can start with what she calls a “self-check-in” and ask yourself the following: What am I sensing at this very moment? How is my body responding. How am I feeling? And what am I thinking about right now? “When you begin to apply mindfulness techniques to your daily life, you will be able to become more objective and less reactive to what’s going on around you and within you,” she explains.
4 Helpful Practices Rooted in Mindfulness
Once you’ve gotten the basic idea of mindfulness down, given it a try, and decided it’ll benefit you, it’s time to start incorporating it into your everyday life! There’s no strict how-to guide when it comes to practices like meditation, but Meghan Renzi, a licensed clinical social worker and yoga teacher, can offer you some tips for exploring all mindfulness has to offer:
1) Practice grounding. “Grounding is a great way to come back to the present moment when anxious thoughts are in your head,” Renzi explains. She goes on to say that she teaches her clients to play the 5,4,3,2,1 game. “In the 5,4,3,2,1 game, clients observe their present environment—5 things they can see, 4 things they can hear, 3 things they can tough, 2 things they can smell, and 1 thing they can taste. Coming back into your environment can remind you that in this moment you are okay,” she says. Renzi also encourages you to use objects, such as “worry stones” during difficult times.
2) Re-center your mind with positive mantras. Positive mantras that encourage positive self-talk are also good to practice. Renzi says you must remember that everything passes, and one mantra in particular—one you’ve likely heard before—is sure to come in handy: “The good moments, the bad moments, the awkward moments, they all pass. Life is constantly changing. If you keep in mind the mantra, ‘this too shall pass,’ it can help,” she says.
3) Practice deep breathing techniques. Deep belly breathing is another beneficial practice rooted in the basics of mindfulness. “Try belly breaths—breathing deeply into your belly,” Renzi recommends. “As you inhale, inflate your belly like a balloon. As you exhale, watch your belly collapse. See if you can make your exhale a bit longer than the inhale,” she says. “This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, helping your body to calm down.” She continues on to say that square breathing is also beneficial, whereas you match the counts of your inhales and exhales.
4) Move your body. And finally, simply move your body. “Sometimes unexpected life circumstances can leave you paralyzed. Coming back into your body by walking, stretching, or practicing some yoga can send your body the message that you are not stuck in this place,” she explains. This open-ended practice allows you to truly stay in control.