Life in the Bay Area is fast paced, which makes learning how to slow down an equally challenging and important task. Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment, fully experiencing and noticing one thing at a time. Over time this trains our brains and bodies to slow down. Practicing mindfulness has a host of positive effects, like reducing stress and depression, cultivating gratitude, and adding a few new coping skills to the tool belt.
Like any new skill, mindfulness takes practice before it feels natural. Your thoughts will wander, and that’s perfectly okay. Without judgment, imagine those thoughts floating away like a cloud and gently return your attention to the exercise.
Here are a few small mindfulness activities to try in the midst of your day. Set a timer for 3 minutes and start practicing.
Sit comfortably in a chair. Close your eyes and start to breath in slowly through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Notice where you are most aware of your breathing - your chest rising and falling, the sensation of air through your nostrils, the temperature of the air as you exhale, your diaphragm expanding, etc. For a few minutes practice focusing only on your breathing.
Repeat the exercise above, settling into a mindful state. This time mindfully countdown from 10 to 1, counting each exhale. Let your counting anchor you to your breath. Notice that your counting may get slower as you relax.
Put a mint, candy, or ice cube in your mouth. For a few minutes mindfully observe each sensation - the texture, temperature, shape, size, taste, and smell. Notice how this changes over the exercise.
Take a slow walk around your neighborhood, soaking in the sounds, smells, sights and textures you come across.