Did you know that the brain can be rewired to perform differently? This is a term known as ‘neuroplasticity’.1 By practicing mindfulness techniques on a daily basis, you can actually hardwire your brain to instinctively relax.
Mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves moment by moment, and it can help us deal more productively with any issues we might find hard to let go of.2 Being mindful can also help us notice signs of stress or anxiety earlier, helping us deal with them better.
We live in a busy, and at times chaotic, world and keeping our brains energised helps improve our mental health. However, learning to relax your brain will also help relax your body, leaving you feeling calm and collected in readiness for those busy times.
Here are some pointers to help you on your way to being more mindful.
Start when it’s easy
Often, people start to think about mindfulness for the first time as a way to deal with stress. However, trying to be mindful for the first time during a difficult situation is going to be very difficult and overwhelming, and could heighten your stress levels.
Start to practice mindfulness when you’re in a calming and pleasant environment, and you’ll be ready to deal with life’s challenges in your own way when you’re faced with them.
Set your stopwatch or sit in front of a clock and just breathe for one minute; this can be done anywhere. Your aim is to focus on your breathing for one whole minute. Notice how the breath feels as it enters your nostrils; how it feels cool as you inhale, and how it’s a little warmer as you exhale.
Inevitably, your mind will wander to other places and stop its focus being on your breathing. When you notice this happening, simply return your attention to your breathing again. The more you practice, the longer the invasive thoughts will take to come back.
Once you’ve mastered the one-minute exercise try to build this up to 10 minutes a day.
Do you often find yourself tuning out when someone is talking? Perhaps instead of listening to what they’re saying, you’re listening to your inner-voice remind you about all the jobs you need to finish when you get home? This is because you’re not being mindful. Try and practice mindful conversations face-to-face, ensuring to make eye contact – this will help you to bond with the person you are talking to, allowing you to absorb more of what they are saying
This exercise is designed to create a heightened awareness and appreciation of simple daily tasks. So, instead of going through your daily motions on autopilot, take moments to stop and be aware of what you are doing. Focus on simple everyday tasks, such as eating, ensuring you try to savour every mouthful slowly. This should help you focus your brain away from negative stress and thoughts.
The most important thing is to practice these tips daily, finding opportunity in your routine to make brief periods of mental rest and relaxation a priority. As you start to practice these moments, you’ll find that it will soon become easier and more natural for you.
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