WRITTEN BY MADISON SCHMIDT AND DR. SWATHI
In today’s world, it is so easy to become distracted. Going to work and checking things off our “to-do” list keeps us so preoccupied that sometimes we forget to breathe. Even when relaxing, we tend to turn to TV or social media, never really giving ourselves time to digest the day. Mindfulness is a technique that allows us to take a step back from our busy lives to focus on ourselves and how we are feeling. In simple terms, mindfulness is being aware of what is happening in the present moment. Therefore, you can practice mindfulness at any time, even now.
Let's take a moment and just reflect. Where are you? Take a look and observe the space you are in. Is it quiet? Busy? Analyze yourself. How are you feeling? Are you comfortable in your seat? Are you cold? Warm? Happy? Sad? Focus on your breath. Is it deep? Shallow?
Although it seems like such a trivial thing to do, mindfulness has shown to have profound positive effects on general health and well-being. It helps slow us down in a world that is always moving. Studies show that meditating, a type of mindfulness that focuses on the breath, for just a few minutes a day can decrease perceived stress significantly. Slowing down our minds by focusing on the moment can also help with anxiety and feelings of loneliness, both of which have become familiar to many of us during the current pandemic unfortunately. When it comes to staying on task in our everyday lives, mindfulness proves to manifest benefit. Since mindfulness is a way to train your mind to focus on the present rather than having it wander aimlessly, it can improve memory and focus.
Meditation is a helpful tool that falls under the mindfulness umbrella. Although there are many forms of meditation, mindfulness meditation is what researchers are fixated on today. Mindfulness meditation is like mindfulness, as the name states, but the focus is inward rather than outward. What I mean by that is that is, it draws our focus to our inner self. This is usually done by focusing on the breath. Let’s practice. Read below and then try it for yourself:
Begin by sitting up straight either in your chair or on the ground. You may also lay down and then close your eyes. Now, focus your mind on your breath. Count them up to five with one inhale and exhale counting as one, and just notice them. Oftentimes, when we try to focus on something so autonomic like the breath, it may come out of regular rhythm, but focus until the breath returns to a relaxed state. As you breathe, try and keep your focus on your breath. Thoughts may come to your mind, but let them pass without dwelling on them and without judgement. Always return the mind to the breath. Next, try focusing on your body. Relax your muscles starting at the forehead; make your way down by relaxing your check and mouth muscles, shoulders, and all the way down to your toes. When you are ready, bring your focus back to your breath and open your eyes. How did that feel?
Guided mindfulness meditation, as we just practiced, can be a helpful tool that can take as little or as much time out of your day as you please. There is an abundance of resources available to help you get started and make this a part of your new routine to ultimately improve your life. Some places you can start are by downloading mindfulness meditation mobile applications or by searching guided meditation YouTube videos.
After this year, you deserve some self-care, so why not start with mindfulness meditation!
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This article was edited by Dr. Swathi and was written by Element Apothec Scientific Communications Intern, Madison Schmidt. She is a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Pharmacy in Edwardsville, Illinois.