The year 2020 has set a record level of anxiety among Americans, due largely to the COVID-19 pandemic and an election season charged with unprecedented political polarity. According to a recent study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and the US Census Bureau, 41 percent of Americans report symptoms of anxiety or depression — an increase of 30 percent over last year.
With fears of disease, climate change and a global economic recession at an all-time high, there’s never been a better time to brush up on methods of self-care. Feelings of anxiety exhaust the body, and can pose serious long-term health risks in chronic cases. So what are some safe, natural options?
While there are clear and obvious stress-busting benefits to supplementing with CBD or terpenes like myrcene and beta-caryophyllene, it’s important to have strategies for coping with feelings of anxiety and stress anywhere, at any time. This is where mindfulness comes in.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness best describes a state of focus achieved by different mind and body exercises or techniques designed to dial you into the present moment. The practice of mindfulness and its elements—namely acceptance, concentration, observation and awareness—is an excellent form of self-care for when you haven’t got access to a yoga studio or silence suitable for meditation.
Are There Benefits to Mindfulness?
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by feelings of stress—whether it’s from a fast-paced lifestyle in the world of business, a hectic home life managing a household with three or more children, or even running a small entrepreneurial enterprise. The key is in not allowing passing sensations of powerlessness or anxiety to spiral into chronic conditions.
While different personality types vary in how they react to stress, the practice of mindfulness cultivates mental and physical well-being and improves emotional resilience in a variety of situations. Some of the most notable long-term benefits of mindfulness include:
- Developing self-awareness and controlling addictive or compulsive behaviors
- Enhancing ability to cope with pain, grief or loss through mindfulness-oriented cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Improving brain function by building focus and memory
- Boosting overall health by better managing response to stress, in turn lowering blood pressure and strengthening the immune system
- Improving discipline to avoid overeating, gambling and potentially destructive vices
It’s worth noting that these benefits are not speculative, and are increasingly documented in scientific literature. A 2016 comprehensive review by Austin, Steffen and DeBarros credits practicing mindfulness as a “simple, effective preventative measure” against anxiety and depression.
Related reading: "Stress Relief and Work-Life Balance through Mindfulness."
Common Mindfulness Techniques Worth Knowing
While yoga, meditation and logging out of social media are all well-known methods of combating stress, the beauty of mindfulness techniques is that they’re quick, easy and don’t require you to book a studio appointment or go into isolation. Here are some of the simplest and most popular techniques, in no particular order:
Breathing exercises involve simply focusing your awareness entirely on the act of breathing, and taking eight to ten deep, slow breaths. The exercise is best done inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. This helps in calming the onset of erratic conditions, such as hyperventilation or hot flashes.
Maintaining a Zen garden creates and releases positive energy in the acts of diligently pruning, feeding and maintaining an array of beautiful small plants (or combing and arranging sand and stone). Whether it’s a prominent feature in a large front or back yard, or just a small arrangement of bonsai and succulents on a windowsill, Zen gardening is an excellent mindfulness exercise to melt away anxiety and stress.
Body scanning focuses the mind on one part of the body at a time—moving from one foot to the other, and eventually up to each knee, each hand, the abdomen, shoulders and finally the ears and top of head. This is done taking notice of any sensations or disparities in temperature, moisture or even comfort between the different body parts, and appreciating the full functionality of each.
Positive externalization is a form of meditation focusing positive thoughts and emotions first upon oneself, and then onto loved ones and close friends. This directed positivity doubles as a memory exercise, progressing gradually to casual acquaintances, distant family and finally the earth itself.
Brewing tea has been practiced as a form of meditation in Eastern cultures for several centuries. The stimulation is in noting the warmth of the cup, subtle changes in aroma, color and steam as tea leaves are introduced into the water—before savoring the satisfaction of fully incorporating and tasting the final product of this deeply cogitative process.
Bringing It All Together
There’s certainly plenty of obvious benefit to keeping your cholesterol levels in check, complementing a daily regimen with health or dietary supplements and not shying away from exercise. Going on to incorporate the practice of mindfulness ensures stability in your physical and mental well-being, and can easily prove to be a rewarding long-term strategy to living your best life.
For coaching support or to learn more about everyday mindfulness to transform your life, contact us at Heartmanity! Transforming lives is our business!