Editor’s Note: Hobbies for Anxiety Relief is a miniseries exploring self-help tools that may help to improve mental health and assist with stress, anxiety and depression. This series aims to provide readers with different hobbies and skills to try and incorporate in their daily lives.
Mindfulness is the overall practice of being present. It is a form of meditation that with time, can improve all aspects of your life. Going beyond helping with anxiety and depression symptoms, many say mindfulness is the key to living a happy life. A red traffic light, waiting for the microwave to beep, or even TV commercials that once seemed annoying can become a pleasant moment of rest during the day.
How many times have you snacked on a bag of chips while watching a movie and before you know it, the entire bag is empty? Have you ever arrived at your destination and realized you barely remember the drive you just took? How often do you reach for your phone right when a commercial comes on? Our lives are filled with distractions, whether it be social media, school, work, friends or family. We get caught up in all of these external factors and forget to enjoy the moment we are presently in. This need for immediate satisfaction and constantly consuming all of this information can contribute to anxiety. Our lives have become so fast-paced that we have forgotten to be here, in the present. We have forgotten how to wait. We have forgotten how to enjoy the slower moments in life.
I started practicing mindfulness as a way to slow my brain down and bring me back to the present moment. Anxiety and depression take us out of the present and wrap us up in future or past thoughts. Mindfulness meditation allows us to regroup; to take us out of autopilot and make us aware of the environment we are in.
Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways throughout the day and with time, can become an overall lifestyle. One way to start practicing mindfulness is through meditation. Youtube has many mindfulness meditations that you can follow along with if you are unsure where to start. There are also apps such as Headspace and Calm that have thousands of guided meditations.
Another way to start practicing mindfulness is by simply becoming aware of your habits and distractions. Start to notice how many times a day you pick up your phone. Instead of picking up your phone, sit at the moment you are in. What are you doing? Are you waiting in line? Are you watching a TV commercial? Are you going on a walk? Whatever it is, take notice. Notice the sounds around you, notice the smells, sights and temperature. Are you tired? Are you cold? Are you slouching or clenching your jaw? Continue this “noticing” throughout your day.
The key to mindfulness is practice. The more you do it, the better at it you become. Your thoughts slow down, your anxiety and depression may subside, and you become a better listener, a better friend and overall, enjoy your life more. Next time you find yourself at a red light, instead of feeling aggravated and impatient, take in the moment. You may just find yourself at peace, instead of drumming your fingers along the steering wheel.
Email Madison Bethune at [email protected]