I’m sure you’ve heard of ‘mindfulness’ before. From mental health experts to professional athletes, it’s being touted as the next big revolution in psychology.

The truth is that mindfulness has been around for centuries in the Eastern world, it’s just that the Western world is slow to catch on.

But don’t worry, it’s not very complex. The main crux of it involves focusing your attention on the present moment with a non-judgmental and compassionate attitude.

It can be a remarkable technique to help you cope with difficult situations in life.

To practice mindfulness, here are 7 habits. They may seem difficult at first, but if you keep at it, they’ll benefit you for a lifetime.

1. Practice Gratitude

Being grateful for the blessings we receive can be one of the most important habits you can develop, hands down. It reminds us to enjoy what we have, rather than desiring what we don’t.

To practice gratitude, immediately write down 3 things you are grateful for when you wake up. Be as specific as possible—specificity is key to fostering gratitude. All it takes is 15 minutes. The goal of the exercise is to remember a good event, experience, person, or thing in your life -then enjoy the good emotions that come with it.

2. Feel your feet and palms

This is a technique that will anchor yourself to the present moment. Draw your attention to your feet and palms. Notice the pressure of your feet against the floor or bed, the temperature, comfort or discomfort, itches, or anything else.

Once you’ve simply become aware of your feet and palms, then clench your hands into tight fists and release. Clench. Release. Clench. Release. This allows you to focus on your body, which will put you in the present moment. Expect your mind to wander, and when it does, return your attention to your feet without judging yourself or giving yourself a hard time.

3. Notice the environment

With mindfulness, you don’t have to manipulate your feelings and emotions to stay in the present moment; just simply notice what’s around you. Allow your mind to let go and just notice all the wonderful objects, sites, and sounds around you.

As you’re reading this article, perhaps your hand is touching the mouse, feel this sensation. Notice the objects around you, such as any objects on your table. Expand your awareness to the environment you are in, for instance notice the size of your surroundings, whether it’s a small room or if you can see the enormity of the sky outside.

Watch: Increase Your Conscious Awareness

Notice the colors of your environment. Become aware of any sounds happening around you. Without thinking or mentally commenting on what you notice, just take a moment to become aware of these things.

4. Breathe Deeply

Most meditation techniques revolve around breathing and for good reason: It’s a great way to relax and center yourself.

To begin practising, inhale for 3 seconds and exhale for 3 seconds. As you get more practice, you can increase the amount of seconds, which will make you feel even more centered and relaxed.

5. Listen, don’t just hear

Next time you’re in a conversation, try to notice when you judge the person you’re speaking with. Then once you notice, you can attempt to avoid the judgments and focus on the content of what they’re saying.

Judgments cause us to be bias and not really listen to what others have to say.

6. Watch what you eat

Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both inside and outside the body. We pay attention to the colors, smells, textures, flavors, temperatures, and even the sounds (crunch!) of our food. We pay attention to the experience of the body.

Literally feel your body and your senses as you eat. Not only will you enjoy your food more, you’ll begin to realize what food your body thrives on, and what food to avoid.

7. The Mindful Shower

The shower is the perfect time to practice mindfulness. Simply watch the beautiful water hit your skin and embrace the wonder and glory of it all!

Next you have a shower, become aware of how good the warm water feels as it washes over your skin. Be mindful of the smell of the shower gel, and the sensation your hands passing over your skin.

Do you practice mindfulness in your daily life? Let us know about your experiences or any recommendations you may have in the comments below.

This article was originally published at Ideapod.

How to train your mind to stop overthinking and analyzing everything.

The analysis of things and circumstances before we move into action is, of course, a good habit. However, the crucial question here is… when do we stop overthinking and start acting?

Those who tend to focus constantly on all possible negative outcomes, and in order to avoid them, they continue to look for answers or alternatives. But the reality is that there will always be unknown variables, uncertainty, and risk in every situation.

Focusing on things you can’t fully control can cause you anxiety and give space to negative emotions. It also prevents you constantly from living in the present. When researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara showed images of kaleidoscopic colors to participants, and then checked their memory capacity, they found that those who guessed went better than the participants who spent enough time trying to remember the colors and patterns.

Overthinking about something does not automatically mean that it will lead to certain answers. Therefore, below are some ways to train your mind to stop overthinking everything.

1. Feel comfortable with the factor “uncertainty”

In any given situation, there are certain things you know and some other that you can’t predict. When you overanalyzing, your brain concentrates on the uncertain parts of the situation and tries to decode them. It is always looking for answers, but the truth is that some questions can’t be answered. The obsessive focus on uncertainty will eventually lead to stress and confusion.

When we think too much, we usually ask questions like, “I wonder if my boss thinks I’m a hardworking worker,” or “Why did he say that to me?” Such questions can be answered if they are made directly to the person they are concerned with. And if this can’t be done, just tell yourself that it is not bad not to know all the answers.

2. See the big picture

The experiment mentioned a little above showed that a more broad overview was more helpful in recalling complex images. You can apply the same technique, by training your brain to internalize all the details directly, rather than focusing too much on individual pieces. The process resembles the viewing of a table from a long distance, rather than very close, where we can only focus on a piece of the work.

One way to learn to stop overthinking is to get a picture book and open it to a random page. Then look at a picture for 5 seconds, and then close the book. Once you close it, try to remember everything you saw. This exercise prevents the brain from overestimating or analyzing. You will be surprised by how many things you can finally remember. Practice this trick regularly and you will see that your brain starts to think faster.

3. Be aware of your negative thoughts

If you are reading this article, you are more likely to be aware of your thought patterns and know that overanalysis doesn’t take you anywhere.

Research has shown that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) can help us feel more empathy for ourselves and reduce the negative feelings associated with overthinking. People who followed this treatment reported that the stress associated with their thoughts reduced. You can practice mindfulness, so that you are more aware of the present, instead of sinking into negative and stressful thoughts about the past or the future.

4. Start with something you can control

If you think too much of a particular situation, the best move you can make is finding something that you can really control and start working on it. For example, if you are worried about planning a wedding, instead of thinking about everything that could go wrong, record all the things you can do to make the ceremony successful. When you record them, you will see that you will feel more confident because your brain doesn’t need to overanalyze them over and over.

You can always refer to your list to check some points instead of relying purely on your memory. Similarly, investigate everything that concerns and worry you and record what you can work for. Then, add the practical steps you need to follow and erase them as you move forward. In this way, you will begin to focus more on action than on overthinking.

H/T: Power of Positivity

Looking for ways to reduce stress? Why not engaging in a hobby?

Stress is an unavoidable part of daily life for adults. Whether stress arises from work, finances, or relationships, it can be detrimental to your emotional and physical health. There are many ways to reduce stress, but studies show engaging in hobbies has a consistent and lasting effect on stress levels.

The Importance of Entertainment

The Mayo Clinic recognizes stress as a factor in many physical and mental ailments. While some concerns, such as a headache, are temporary, stress can also play a part in long-term concerns like heart disease. Finding ways to reduce stress can also reduce health issues.

2007 study from Indiana University stated: “leisure can help people to successfully manage their stress, thereby preventing illness.” Continued research has increased the understanding of the roles that hobbies can play in health. Study results published in The Society of Behavioral Medicine showed that participants reported feeling less stress and experienced a lower heart rate while engaging in a variety of leisure activities. Those health benefits continued for about an hour after each activity concluded. The study also showed that the stress-reduction benefits of recreation can be achieved whether you have fun with others or on your own – whatever form your downtime activity takes, you can enjoy less stress.

Engaging Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on the present time and your current actions, without allowing your mind to wander to the past or the future. Mindfulness has been linked to a multitude of positive mental, physical, and social health effects, with even the American Psychological Association touting its benefits. Stressful thoughts, such as worrying about a problem at work, can be cleared away by mindful focus.

Engaging mindfulness practices can be done at any time, as they don’t require any equipment or money. Although it takes practice to have a successful mindfulness experience, getting started is easy. Visual Meditation has a great video to help you to increase mindfulness.

Find the Right Hobby

A successful hobby is one you enjoy. Each person’s tastes and talents will affect the hobbies they can enjoy. Forcing yourself to participate in an activity you don’t enjoy can have the opposite of the desired stress-releasing effects.

Here are some ideas to help you discover the hobby that is right for you:

1. Stamp Collecting

Stamp collecting is a hobby that anyone can enjoy. There is almost no physical activity, making it great for all ages and ability levels. The cost to begin collecting is very low, there is very little special equipment required, and the weather has no effect on this hobby. The American Philatelic Society has all of the information required to start your own collection.

2. Knitting

Over the last decades, knitting has seen a resurgence in popularity. Many people are taking up needles and creating blankets, clothes, kitchen materials, and more. With so much demand for the craft, stores that carry knitting supplies, like Jo-Ann Fabrics, offer classes for beginners and more skilled crafters. Not only do these classes make learning easier, they’re a great way to make new friends. If you don’t feel like taking a class, YouTube has numerous tutorials to get you started.

3. Running

Exercise has been repeatedly shown to reduce stress, and it has the added benefit of helping you stay in shape. It may seem daunting to begin running, but apps like Couch to 5K can help you get started in a healthy and effective way.

4. Gardening

Gardening is often seen as an outdoor activity. You don’t need to own a home or even have a plot of land to have a green thumb! Plenty of plants can be grown indoors. Herbs, flowers, and small selections of fruits and vegetables can easily be grown in window boxes or indoor pots, and in the case of herbs or produce, your hobby can supply you with both relaxation and a meal.

5. Reading

Books can transport the reader to another world, away from their daily stressors. With the innumerable genres and authors to choose from, everyone can find a book they enjoy. Bookstore employees are quick to make suggestions for good books, and e-readers make nearly any book available in a manner of seconds. Reading can also be a free hobby thanks to public libraries; just be sure to return your books on time to avoid late fees.

Stress Release for Everyone

Hobbies are a simple way to reduce occasional and chronic stress. Whether you choose to participate in a solo hobby or get together with a group of friends, there are plenty of different pastimes for you to try out. Finding a hobby you enjoy and combining it with the practice of mindfulness will reduce stress, clear your mind, and have lasting effects on physical and mental health.

About the author:

Elliott Garrick is a passionate blogger and crafts addict. In her spare time, she likes to collect stamps and turn them into beautiful art. She is also a regular contributor to PostageStamps101.com.

What are the benefits of mindfulness? Let’s explore them…

Where is your mind right now? Is it focused on all the tasks you must complete by tomorrow? Is it focused on the mistakes of yesterday? If it’s not focused on the present moment, then you’re losing out. The reason the present tense is so important is that it’s the only thing in existence for the time being. The past is gone, and the future is not yet here, so the present is all we have to work with. It’s called being mindful.

Mindfulness is the ability to think about the present time, the here and now, without any ruminations of the past or future. It sounds easy enough, I’m sure, but if you’re wondering how mindful you are, it’s probably not enough.

Maybe you touch the outskirts of the present at times when things need immediate attention, but the present tense plays a smaller role in your life than you think. We spend way too much time in what was and what will be. It’s time to learn how to deal with what’s right in front of us, right now!

Learning Mindfulness

Becoming mindful and staying within the present time, may be difficult at first. Being able to clear the mind takes practice and many hours of regulating your breathing, using focal points and listening to calm-inducing sounds, like ambient music. To reach the pinnacle of your brain’s ability to slow down and “just be”, it will take repetition.

As you continue to practice this state of being, it will get easier to enter. This inner peace, which, I might add is extremely powerful, will flood into your entire entity, much easier than the times before. Each time will be smoother than the last. It’s about practice and completely clearing the mind from all clutter, whether it be future plans or past regrets. They all must go! And this letting go can be a spiritual experience as well.

Benefits of Mindfulness

The mindful experience is not just designed by nature to aid in spirituality, more so, it is a spiritual process in and of itself, utilized to produce numerous positive outcomes. When taking the time to quiet the mind, you can see all the benefits of mindfulness occur.

An Improvement in creativity

You may already have a creative mind, but when meditation comes into the picture, your creativity can grow in leaps and bounds. Meditation allows convergent and divergent thinking to work together more smoothly as one process towards a goal. Being mindful can create stability in the creative process.

A reduction in anxiety

Incorporating mindfulness into therapy can be a smart choice for mental health physicians. Patients who suffer from anxiety can see a great reduction in anxiety symptoms, simply by quieting the mind. Not that this would always be an easy task to start, but after practice, mindfulness can prove more effective than medications.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy has adopted mindfulness as a way to treat patients with bipolar disorder and personality disorders. Mindfulness makes it easier to process emotions, and chaotic emotions are just what seems to be the biggest problem with these patients.

Improves overall focus

Just as mindful meditation helps with focus in the present, it can also prove effective for focusing on future tasks. It’s sort of like training for the mind, bringing priorities to the forefront and filtering out all unneeded thought processes.

In the Journal PLOS ONE, in 2008, a study showed that zen meditation revealed areas of the brain responsible for wandering thoughts. This helped understand how to use meditation training to quell the wandering thoughts – thinking about thinking of nothing, basically.

Decreases loneliness

Mindfulness meditation not only helps improve your sense of self, and establish a true acceptance of your being, it also helps you to accept being alone. Even if you aren’t alone, you may suffer from loneliness, hidden behind a veneer of low self-esteem. When the self-esteem is improved, loneliness dissolves.

Becoming more intelligent

A higher intelligence due to meditation can be linked to removing distracting thoughts. If the mind is clear of any thoughts from the past or future, the present thoughts can take precedence, thus giving us a better ability to make more well-thought-out decisions for the time being.

A scientific way to look at this is to consider gyrification, which is folds in the brain that signify meditative thinking. Practicing mindfulness, over time, leaves more gyrification within the brain, and these formations allow faster processing.

An improved sexual experience

Distractions are the death of the sexual encounter, especially for women. During the sexual experience, many women endure self-judgment in the form of their own brain chatter. But with mindfulness, you train your brain to stay in the present moment, free of judgment. Studies show that college women, with a history of meditation practices, were more easily aroused by sexual images. Non-meditative women had a much harder time staying focused on the images.

And there are more benefits to being here, now, in the present time!

Being mindful is not just to new age enthusiasts or those who suffer from mental illness. Each one of us can greatly enjoy the benefits of mindfulness. On the other side of life’s clutter lies your true embodiment of self. Here you discover how to truly love yourself, become one with everything around you and reach true enlightenment. So sit down, relax and just be here… now.

References:

Increase Your Conscious Awareness, with Subliminal Messages

Increase Your Conscious Awareness - Subliminal MeditationConscious awareness or mindfulness is the ability to be consciously aware of your presence and of what you are experiencing, feeling, thinking, and doing.

Life is a sequence of moments, and we live almost our entire life mechanically, without being present at the moment. We don’t really notice what is happening outside and inside of us. We, or our consciousness, is not ‘there’.

By being present, observant and consciously aware of your mental and emotional state, you can improve the quality of your life in amazing ways.

“Increase Your Conscious Awareness” contains powerful affirmations and subliminal messages, designed to make you be more consciously aware of your surroundings and yourself, and to appreciate and enjoy all the moments and details of life. Try it here and enjoy the benefits of mindfulness!

This article was originally created and published by Visual Meditation. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution (active link to this article) and author bio.

Through self-knowledge, you recognize your divine nature and the deeper purpose to life.

You create a larger context in which to view your existence. You learn how to interpret and organize your experiences. You develop an inner connection with all creation. Self-knowledge helps you blend world and spirit.

Along the way you face the demon of attachments. Some attachments are healthy, such as those to family and friends. But you must release your need to control other people and events. You must deal with challenging situations or choose to let them go. Self-knowledge strengthens your ability to grow and expand your sense of self.

1. Develop the Capacity for Concentration and Stillness with Meditation

Quiet times alone help you awaken to the truth of your divine nature. For a short while you step away from the constant demands of the outside world. You let go of false beliefs and illusions. You let go of feelings of separation. During times of stillness you free yourself from habitual patterns that limit your spiritual growth.

Meditation relaxes the body, calms the mind and renews the spirit. You access a deeper state of awareness. You increase your creativity. You are better able to concentrate. Meditative techniques vary. You may focus on your breath. You may repeat a mantra or affirmation. You may walk quietly and mindfully. Meditation may be the most powerful tool for developing a clear, focused mind.

2. Cultivate Mindfulness as Essential for a Conscious Life

By paying attention to each present moment, you appreciate the fullness of being alive. Habitual ways of thinking and acting disconnect you from the now. Fear distracts you. Impatience robs you of life’s joy. Many of your bumps and bruises occur because of a lack of mindfulness.

Mindfulness simply means paying attention. You give your entire awareness to the present moment. You use past experience to enhance the meaning of the present. You let go of your need to rush into the future. Being mindful helps you focus on what matters the most to you.

3. Acquire Knowledge of the World Around you and Within you

To gain self-knowledge you must let go of limiting beliefs that inhibit your learning and growth. Examples of these beliefs abound. “I can’t do it. I don’t deserve it. It will never happen.” Examine these beliefs and especially your interpretation of them. Talk to friends who encourage you, not those who increase your doubts.

If you feel confused and overwhelmed, you can seek more information. Consider taking a course of study. Read new books on specific subjects. Most important, remain open-minded and able to ask questions. Awareness of both inner and outer worlds increases your self-knowledge and sense of wholeness.

As you recognize your divine nature, you grasp the deeper purpose of life that underlies all existence. You let go of unhealthy attachments that do not serve this purpose. In your life journey, you encounter obstacles and difficulties that obscure the truth of your divine nature. But just as the tiny acorn contains what is necessary for the mighty oak tree. You have all you need within to accomplish your purpose for living. You are guided by a Higher Power and inner wisdom. As you blend world and spirit, you increase your self-knowledge and expand your sense of self.

Originally appeared at Ezine Articles.

About the author:

Dr. Mary Beth Ford is the author of Wisdom from the Gardens—Life Lessons and creator of the CD Garden Wisdom—5 Ways to Grow in Life Balance and Joy. She specializes in the area of life balance, which she describes as balance between outer world and inner Self. In her work, Mary Beth shares five powerful garden lessons for living with balance and joy. She helps busy people live with Spirit in the world. Using nature images she offers us a new way of seeing ourselves and our world.