The wise author and poet Maya Angelou once said: “be present in all things.” And while the advice may sound like poetry, there’s real science behind it.
Attentive presence, or what’s more widely known as mindfulness, is scientifically proven to not only alleviate stress but also to improve quality of life. Mindfulness lessens negative emotions, lowers blood pressure, stabilises heart rate, and decreases the body’s reactivity to stress.
Mindfulness can help you to let work stress go. It can help you when you’re feeling overwhelmed with work, when you’re worrying about something work-related, or when you’re having trouble relaxing and switching off from work.
It does this by helping you to unhook from the thought patterns associated with stress and worry. This, in turn, helps your body to let go of tension and relax.
The term mindfulness refers to an intentional awareness of what is happening in the present moment, and appreciating this in a non-judgmental way.
Eating your lunch with full attention to the flavours and aromas is an example of mindfulness. So is consciously setting aside thoughts about work while listening to your children talk about their day. Taking time to notice the unique detail of the buildings you pass on the way to work is yet another way of being mindful.
Simply taking 10 minutes out of your day (or longer if possible) to practice mindfulness can help you to let work stress go and reduce your feelings of stress over time.
Here’s how to do it…
1. Find a quiet room or private space. Simply sit quietly and focus on your breathing.
2. Let your thoughts come and go. As each thought comes, imagine it passing and floating away. Soon, another thought will come and you can let that one float past too. Keep doing this for a few minutes.
The purpose of this exercise is to focus on the rhythm of your breathing. Let thoughts come and go until they slow down and gradually settle. Simply focus on your breathing.
3. Practice this for 10 minutes, or longer if you can. If you can do this a couple of times a day, you’ll soon see a positive difference – in both reduced feelings of stress and a greater sense of calm.
This exercise may feel strange the first time you do it. That’s normal. Simply acknowledge your feelings and keep going.
Mindfulness exercises are simple but they’re not easy. Like everything worth doing in life, it takes practice. Yet the effort is worth it – the results can be incredible in terms of reduced stress and greater calm, focus, and overall wellbeing.
When could you spend 10 minutes practicing mindfulness today?