Stress can be paralyzing. It sets in motion your fight or flight response and produces deleterious physical effects on the body. Stress also sabotages your ability to reach – or pursue – your goals. In fact, a study of 69 healthy university students showed that when stressed, people are more likely to lapse into habitual behavior over working towards bigger goals. This is where developing a mindfulness practice can make a huge difference. Using mindfulness techniques is a great way to stay focused so you can achieve what you really want.
Life has a way of throwing distractions your way that derail you from maintaining focus. Mindfulness, a form of meditation, is all about being present. Mindfulness teaches you to be aware of what you're experiencing as it is happening.
Focus is its cornerstone.
5 Mindfulness Techniques to Negate Stress
Use these five mindfulness techniques to negate stress so you can stay focused and achieve what you really want out of life. You don't need to practice each one every day or multiple times a day. Choose one or two that resonate with you and add those to your daily and weekly routine.
1) Use a mantra. A great mantra is, "I am intentional and present." Be intentional with your actions. This directs you to spend time – intention – on what matters most. Being present means being open to the experience. Avoid hiding or avoiding those experiences that are not pleasant. Rather immerse yourself in it, feel the experience with your body and mind. And let go.
2) Pay attention. When you're "in the middle of it," it's hard to slow down enough to realize what "it" even is. The world is moving so fast and there are so many distractions – our minds process 6,300 thoughts a day! Use all your senses to experience your environment. When you eat, pay attention to the smell, the taste, and how your meal looks. Notice the sounds as you cook. Try to pay attention to the many things that come your way during the day.
3) Take a breath. Breath is the foundation of a mindfulness practice. Since our minds can only focus on one thing at a time, the breath allows you to shift your attention. Be intentional. Focus on the inhale and the length of your inhale. Notice if you pause or hold your breath. Exhale deliberately – slowly or quickly, through your mouth or nose. Begin to change your breath to even the inhales with the exhales. Find pause at the bottom and top of each breath.
4) Use imagery. One oft-overlooked mindfulness technique is imagery. While imagery shows up in goal setting frequently, you can use the practice of being mindful to bring imagery to the forefront. Imagine your goal. Imagine you after reaching your goal. Become comfortable with your achievement through imagery. You may be afraid of succeeding not so much because of the achievement, but because of the changes that come with success. Using imagery to see yourself achieving what you want from your life will help mitigate some of the fear associated with the changes experienced from success.
5) Stretch. Stretching has so many benefits. It improves range of motion and physical performance, decreases risk of injury, increases blood flow and flexibility, and improves your ability to do daily activities. But most don’t think of stretching as a mindfulness exercise. When your gut signals you're off-track, grab your mat and take a moment to stretch. Use your breath to move through your stretches. Begin by stretching your wrists, arms, and shoulders. Stretch your neck and back. Moving downward, stretch your hips, legs, ankles, and feet. Be deliberate. Inhale to lengthen and exhale to shorten or twist. For example, inhale as you lift your arms over your head reaching for the sky. Exhale as you twist to the right looking over your shoulder or fold forward reaching for your feet. It's surprising how much impact stretching just a few minutes a day can make.
Mindfulness and Intuition...
Mindfulness is a skill developed through practice. Intuition also plays a part. It is non-conscious emotional information or signals from your mind or body nudging you in one direction or another. Intuition is devoid of analytical reasoning. If you learn to lean into your intuition, you'll learn to recognize the moment you're heading down a mental or intellectual rabbit hole.
Essentially, you'll learn to pay better attention when your inner-knowing is saying, "hey, wait a minute." Your intuition is always there to direct you, or re-direct you, towards your deepest desires. You just have to keep the lines of communication open.
And that's when mindfulness comes to play. Drawing on the mindfulness techniques described above (as well as many others), you can shift your focus and maintain your path towards achieving what you want – immediately or as part of your life's path.
Jessica Crow helps people harness the power of meditation and mindfulness to change their own lives and the lives of others through practical courses and personalized mentorship.