Mindfulness: Clear Your Head, Focus Your Mind
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In our busy world, it’s difficult to pencil in (type in is more likely) “relax for 10 minutes” or “take a nap” into our schedules. Finding time is one of our biggest challenges. Yet it’s no secret that relaxation and meditation can improve mental clarity, an attribute coveted by almost everyone. In fact, many CEO’s and successful individuals (Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston) practice mindfulness and praise the benefits.
What is mindfulness? It is a way of thinking, acting, and being that helps you to feel more aware of yourself and your surroundings. It can also help you appreciate and acknowledge the present. Appreciating specific moments in your life can improve your focus and leave you feeling energized and motivated. This concept is more difficult than you think. It takes practice, and discipline, but the benefits are endless.
In fact, a recent study published in April 2013 in a Behavioral Health Journal showed that 8 weeks of mindfulness intervention decreased stress and reduced burnout and the improvements lasted for up to 4 months.
But being mindful doesn’t mean sitting cross-legged like a yogi for hours on end. Here are a few ways to help you be mindful and improve your mental clarity:
Go For a Run or Walk WITHOUT Music: Exercising outdoors without music allows you to appreciate your surroundings and focus on your breathing. Notice the way your muscles move together. Make an extra effort to focus on the sounds, sights, colors, and smells of your surroundings.
Leave your phone and computer at home: Taking a break from technology can help you prioritize your goals with improved focus and clarity. Often times we are over-stimulated from technology from the moment we wake up to the time we get to bed, only to do this over and over again, including weekends and holidays. Taking a short break (12-24 hours) can be liberating and make you more efficient the following day. Let people know ahead of time you won’t be available for the next few hours so you are not worried about missing important messages.
Sit outside and enjoy your coffee or tea:Take 15 minutes to enjoy your coffee or tea without interruption. This means noting the temperature, taste, and smell associated with your beverage. It also means trying not to drink it as fast as possible so you can get back to what you were doing, or drinking it while checking emails or finishing up work. This can be challenging, but try to focus on very small aspects that make up your drink, including the cup you choose and the warmth you feel in your body.
Lay down on the floor with your legs up on the sofa: As odd as this sounds, elevating your legs and staring at the ceiling for 3-5 minutes allows you to quiet your mind and get lost in your thoughts for a few moments. Be sure to do this without any technology nearby (TV, phone, computer) and no one home. The instant change in the direction of blood flow will leave your body feeling invigorated and your mind clear.
Sit near the water:Sounds of flowing water can be instantly calming and help you to refocus and clear your head. While sitting near a stream, waterfall, or ocean notice the sounds of the water. Pay close attention to the drops of water and their movement. Submerge your hands or feet in the water and notice the temperature and flow. If you don’t live near a body of water you can even focus on the running water while you are in the shower.
These exercises take practice. It is common for your mind to wander back to your daily stresses and thoughts. If you find it extremely difficult, use an alarm/stop watch for 2 minutes at first then slowly increase the time.
What are some ways you like to be more mindful?
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