Next to Corona, stress is in my opinion the biggest pandemic in the West. Stress has to do with feelings of resistance to situations or circumstances, or can be a result of an overly busy life where we lose our footing in the moment and are only concerned with past, future, or what we "have" to do.
Mindfulness is simply putting our focus on the "here and now" because this moment is the only moment where we will ever truly exist and is also the way out of stress, anxiety or other mental challenges. The biggest cause of these stresses and negative feelings are our thoughts. A situation without thoughts "just is", but it is our thoughts about a particular situation that make a situation "bad", "stressful" or "negative". Our thoughts are always the intermediary between the outside world and our emotional experiences, and so to make our emotional experience more positive we need to start working on our thoughts, more specifically the status and focus we give our thoughts. To live mindfully is to live consciously, and therefore to be conscious of what we put our focus on. So here I give you five easy, but very impactful mindfulness exercises that have the power to give you more inner peace throughout your day and reduce your stress levels. Do (one of) these exercises daily, and you will notice a remarkable difference in how you feel.
- Deep breaths:
Put yourself somewhere comfortable where you can't be disturbed and set a timer for 5-10 minutes. Close your eyes and breathe in and out 10 times as deeply as you can. Focus on how deep the oxygen goes into your lungs feel when you breathe in, and on how your lungs relax again when you breathe out. After breathing in and out very deeply 10 times, hold your breath for as long as you can without suddenly feeling bad. After this, exhale slowly and allow yourself 10 normal breaths. After this you repeat again from the beginning, and you do this until the alarm goes off.
- Keeping a gratitude journal:
To turn your feelings around and feel better, it's important to shift your focus from those thoughts that make you feel bad, to thoughts that make you feel better and happier. Keeping a journal where you write down your gratitudes every morning is an incredibly powerful method for this. By writing down with pen and paper what you are genuinely grateful for, you turn your feelings from a negative focus to a positive focus. Not only does it have tremendous power to make you feel better in that moment itself, it also raises your overall vibration and will cause you to attract more positive things to you that you can be grateful for, and put you in a positive flow.
- Conscious Walking (on bare feet)
At a time when we are completely sunk in thought or fretting, this exercise is one of the best you can do to get you out of your thought pattern. Go outside, preferably barefoot, and take a walk where you put your focus completely on your feet. Make it your only task to walk and with each step put your focus on the foot that touches the ground. In bare feet, this is even easier because you are more stimulated and less likely to be distracted by your thoughts because you keep your focus with your feet so as not to step into something or hurt yourself. Conscious walking is the fastest and healthiest way to immediately take your focus away from your thoughts and thus stop the negative feelings that come with your thoughts. During your walk, focus on the nature around you and you will feel even more calm and connected. Nature has an enormous power to calm us because we are made of the same energy and elements as nature itself, which makes us very quickly 'at home' in nature and come to rest.
Meditation is a word that scares many at first glance but has a lot of power in it. Meditation literally means that we connect ourselves with that part of ourselves that is free of thoughts: our conscious self. Developing a meditation practice has a tremendous effect on our overall sense of well-being and calmness because we learn to identify with who we really are on a daily basis and we automatically create an attitude of observation towards our thoughts. This is necessary because in this way we realize that we can observe our thoughts and therefore are not our thoughts. When we create this distance from our thoughts, we also automatically gain more control over our thoughts and can recognize negative, unhelpful thoughts and then shift our focus. Throughout the day, consciously pay attention to the thoughts you have and make a habit of not just accepting them as truth, but questioning them and then detaching from them when they are not helping you and making you feel bad. You are in fact 100% in control of your thoughts, and meditation can help you take control of them.
Some meditation video's to help you learn meditation:
The latter has to do with building self-love and is an incredibly important one in experiencing peace and love for yourself. A huge part of our stress has to do with how hard we are on ourselves and so in order to experience more peace we need to remove this pressure we put on ourselves. We can do this by positively coaching ourselves throughout the day or in moments when we experience high stress. Instead of criticizing yourself at times when something doesn't work out, become aware that you are not this inner critic yourself and that you can once again create an attitude of observation of these thoughts. It is not the situation itself that causes you stress, but the thoughts this critic throws at you about yourself. Then shift these negative self-criticizing thoughts by taking your journal and making a list of things you are very good at, can be proud of, or how far you have come. Replace the way you talk to yourself throughout the day from a critic to a coach, and ask yourself what this coach would say to you at a time when you have a lot of impulses or too much work. Would he also cut you off and stress you out like this? Or would he just keep encouraging you positively and focus on your strengths so that you get more motivation? Become your own inner coach and strengthen your self-confidence and self-love.
To end off, I would like to add in this quote:
“Don’t take yourself too seriously, you’re just a monkey with a plan” – Naval
Good luck with your exams, work or life's purpose! Love, Robin