The importance of practicing awareness.
“Mindfulness” is simply being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the present moment, without judging them as good or bad. Practicing awareness can improve your focus and attention, so you can keep your goals top of mind and notice how your choices are affecting yourself and those around you. It also can boost your self-esteem, which in turn makes it more likely you’ll continue choosing healthy behaviours.
One way to increase mindfulness is to take a few minutes a day to focus on your breathing. Try this five-step breathing sequence* to bring you into the moment. The more often you do it, the more naturally it will fold into your life as you go about your day.
1. Sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Inhale deeply and slowly through your nose, hold two seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth.
2. Tune into your body. Notice how your body feels in the chair. Relax any areas of tightness or tension. Continue breathing slowly and deeply.
3. Focus on your breath. Feel its natural flow and pace: in… and out…. Pay attention to where you feel your breath in your body—your chest, your belly, your throat. Let each breath happen. Be aware of your chest rising and falling, the feeling of air passing through your nostrils.
4. Notice if your mind wanders. It’s normal to be distracted by stray thoughts and bodily sensations. Gently return your focus to your breath.
5. Continue breathing mindfully for two minutes. Then gently return your attention to your whole body, letting yourself relax even more deeply. Open your eyes and take a moment to appreciate yourself for doing this exercise.
See how other members on Connect choose to be mindful. #mindfulness
*This mindful breathing technique has been adapted from UC California Berkeley’s Greater Good in Action.
When you have more time, try some of these ideas. If you have…
10 minutes: Find a quiet place—perhaps in your car or in the bathroom—where no one can bother you. Some members find it helpful to hold a memento of a relaxing time, such as a seashell, a pebble or a leaf. Just close your eyes, relax your jaw, breathe and recall the feelings of being in that serene time and place.
20 minutes: Leave your to-do list and phone behind and take a 20-minute walk. Focus on the here and now: the sidewalk, the sound of sprinklers, the warmth of the sun, the caressing breeze.
30 minutes: Try a few relaxing yoga poses, which promotes relaxation as well as awareness. Not into yoga? Take a bath, dance to a favourite song, or try some simple, ease-out-the-kinks stretches.