Updated: Jul 22
Mindfulness has been getting a lot of mainstream attention, but what exactly is it? Mindfulness is about taking time out of your day (and this can be one minute to thirty minutes) to just stop what you are doing and be present in your current surroundings. It can be meditation, that is also a form of mindfulness, but it does not have to be. Think of mindfulness as taking a brief pause in your day. Why is this helpful? Well, there tons of research that support the efficacy of mindfulness to decrease anxiety, depression, and one's overall level of stress. Not sure it works or want to know more about it? Well, then try it for yourself. It is helpful to use guided exercises (think of a narrator in a story) that walks you through each step. There are things like "progressive muscle relaxation" which means the narrator walks you through tightening and then relaxing certain muscles in your body. There is "belly breathing" which teaches you to pay attention and focus only on your breathing to take meaningful and intentional breaths. Most people don't realize that they are doing breathing the wrong way. Truly helpful stress relieving belly breathing teaches you how to breath in and out through your stomach, instead of your chest (which is what most people do and find it not very effective). The last one I want to mention is called "guided imagery", which is a narrator that sets the scene usually accompanied by soothing music and takes you to a peaceful, quiet place (for me I think sandy white beaches in Hawaii).
Due to our great technology, there are many ways that you can start to practice mindfulness exercises. You can search You Tube for words such as "belly breathing", "progressive muscle relaxation", or "guided imagery". There are also apps on your phone, my favorite is the Calm app. (The downside is that it is a paid subscription, around $45 a year if you happen to get their sale for 40% off. Another way to think of it is that it is way less than a therapy session for a whole year of stress relief at your fingertips when you need it). I'm also including a link from the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance DBSA) below. These are for kids, but can easily apply to adults as well.
These mindfulness tips are a great way to compliment but not substitute regular therapy sessions with a psychologist. I hope you found this explanation helpful, and I encourage you to give it a try. You'd be surprised how doing something so small can actually make a difference in reducing stress.