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If you’re a human being breathing in 2023 and you’re suffering with worry, anxiety, or pretty much anything overwhelming, someone has undoubtedly suggested you try mindfulness. That seems like a great solution, but what precisely is involved? We can help if you’re not exactly sure how to practice mindfulness, what it should feel like, or how to tell if it’s effective. Here are some tips from a specialist on how to practice mindfulness to feel less anxious and more aware of your surroundings.

So, how does mindfulness work? 

Hemisha Patel Urgola, PsyD, a certified clinical psychologist and the creator of The Mindful Practice, adds, “The science is wild.” She explains that mindfulness is defined as “stepping outside of the clutter in your mind,” and studies have demonstrated that it can specifically cause changes in gray matter in specific brain regions, such as those related to emotion, cognition, and self-awareness. What follows from that: According to Dr. Urgola, “we can make changes in our emotion regulation, attention, creativity, you name it, with a continued mindfulness practice.”

You can also truly appreciate each moment when you cease living life carelessly and begin to think and behave more deliberately. “How many opportunities are we really missing with people we love and care about and the things we value if we live life on autopilot?” Says Dr. Urgola. “That’s just existing; that’s not living.” Mindful living is the way to go if you wish to recall such experiences and take part in them.

It takes two minutes a day to incorporate mindfulness into your life. Really? Additionally, Dr. Urgola suggests that you should try it even more if your first instinct tells you that you don’t have even two minutes to spare. Consider it an activity you get to perform that will help you crush the rest of your day, rather than a duty you have to do.

Rather of worrying about beginning any kind of structured or formal practice, Dr. Urgola frequently advises clients to practice mindfulness exercises whenever they can fit them into their schedules. “There are countless opportunities throughout the day to incorporate mindfulness; there’s nothing you need to add to your routine,” Dr. Urgola asserts.

Here are a few of our top mindfulness practices, supported by experts, that you can use anytime you need them.

1. Make brushing your teeth a main event.

10 Mindfulness Exercises to Stay Present
10 Mindfulness Exercises to Stay Present

Dr. Urgola advises making the most of routine tasks that allow you to genuinely just concentrate on what you’re doing and practice controlling your thoughts from wandering or worrying. Firstly, give your teeth a brush. Do some mindfulness exercises in instead of mentally going over your to-do list or reflecting on how much you’re dreading that meeting at 3 p.m. According to Dr. Urgola, “that way, you get it done early and set the tone for the day.” Consider the toothpaste’s flavor and aroma as well as the sensation of the bristles on your tongue and mouth while you brush. “Just take the time to truly appreciate the feeling of brushing your teeth.” You see, giving a present doesn’t always require a big show.

2. Stop and take a big deep breath.

The easiest approach to clear your mind and feel more rooted sometimes is to take a moment to sit quietly and concentrate only on your breathing. It helps tremendously to take some deep breaths when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. The creator of Calathea Wellness and licensed psychologist Lisette Sanchez, PhD, recently told Wondermind that diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing, is a fantastic, simple grounding technique to help you refocus when you’re overwhelmed at work. Another option is box breathing, which entails inhaling for four seconds, holding your breath for four seconds, exhaling for four seconds, and then holding your breath for an additional four seconds (repeating as necessary). This might be helpful if you learn best visually.

3. Savor your skincare.

When it comes to mindfulness activities, Dr. Urgola’s personal favorite is to simply sit and observe while performing your morning or evening skincare routine. It’s a fun activity that I perform as part of my self-care. Though I may easily get lost in my thoughts, I choose to concentrate on fine-tuning the experience. What kind of texture is it? What scents are there? When I apply each product to my face and fingers, how does it feel? You’re doing it correctly if you feel like you’re obsessing about the scent and feel of your lotion. The idea is to focus your thoughts just on what you’re feeling right now.


4. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise.

10 Mindfulness Exercises to Stay Present
10 Mindfulness Exercises to Stay Present

List the five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one item you can taste as part of this mindfulness exercise. Previous to this, Wondermind was informed by clinical neuropsychologist Jennifer Wolkin, PhD, that this technique “holds [your] attention outside of the negative, unhelpful, and sometimes intrusive thought processes.” The next time you find yourself in need of a mental reset, take a moment to focus on your senses.

5. Watch your thoughts float away.

The power of visualization should never be undervalued. Dr. Urgola advises setting a timer for a little duration before beginning this activity. “Even two minutes is acceptable.” After that, close your eyes and concentrate on just one thing, such as your breathing, a sound, or the feel of your feet hitting the floor. Dr. Urgola gives the order, “You want to keep your attention there as long as you can.” “Put a thought or feeling on a leaf and watch it float down a stream in your mind, away from you, if you notice it interrupting the process.” Not a fan of leaves? It also works with a cloud or balloon that floats in the air.

She continues, “Don’t be hard on yourself; it’s normal to get distracted.” “Return to the topic you have selected to focus on and repeat the procedure as often as necessary until the timer sounds.”

6. Get some fresh air.

A small amount of nature can have a big impact on your emotional well-being. According to some research, spending even 10 to 20 minutes in a natural environment can have a calming and comforting effect while lowering blood pressure, stress hormone levels, and tension and anxiety symptoms. Dr. Urgola advises taking a quick break by just going outside. After then, inhale deeply and concentrate on the sensation of the sun’s warmth on your skin, the sounds you can hear, and the sensation of the air in your nose. Take it everything in very thoroughly.

7. Loosen up. Literally.

10 Mindfulness Exercises to Stay Present
10 Mindfulness Exercises to Stay Present

Using a technique known as progressive muscle relaxation, or PMR, you cycle between tensing up and relaxing every muscle group in your body. It’s an excellent technique to ease tense muscles, particularly when you’re feeling so nervous that your entire body tenses. You can quickly bring your attention to the present moment and the details of your body’s actions and sensations by concentrating on the sensations of your muscles as they become floppy from rigid.

8. Switch up your scenery. 

Try a quick location shift if you’re feeling stressed out and stuck on autopilot. A shift of scenery can frequently help when your mind is a jumble of racing ideas, clinical psychologist Ryan Howes, PhD, recently told Wondermind. Take a brief stroll (around the block, or, to be honest, simply around your house) and try to concentrate fully on the surroundings you are currently in. Perhaps even go feed some ducks or perform some gentle stretching. One way to get out of a thought spiral and into the present moment is to look at something fresh and truly take it all in.

9. Put pen to paper.

Another simple method to practice mindfulness and bring your mind back to the present is to take some time to sit down and arrange your thoughts. According to Cynthia Shaw, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and licensed grief counselor, any form of freewriting can help you take a moment to focus on your feelings and slow down your rushing thoughts. So, figure out what works for you. It could be poetry writing, putting your racing thoughts into words, or just jotting down any ideas or feelings that come to mind at any odd moment. Here are some starter journaling prompts.

10. Look for a ~glimmer~ in your day.

While some TikTok health trends are dubious, we really adore this well-liked one: Glimmers are fleeting ideas or positive moments throughout the day. Glimpses are those brief, random moments that bring happiness or a sense of calm. Some examples include running into an old acquaintance out of the blue, watching a bird land directly in front of your window, listening to your favorite music on the radio, or spotting a really adorable dog on the street.

Clinical psychologist Nina Polyné, PsyD, previously told Wondermind that finding a gleam is an effective mindfulness technique that can help overcome any tendency you have to focus on the bad. Dr. Polyné continues, “You can get out of your head a bit by seeking out a feel-good moment—and letting yourself sit with it and enjoy it, instead of ignoring it and rushing onto the next thing.”

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