Many of us are busy, multi-tasking and rushing everywhere. We are bombarded with distractions, including social media and digital devices that can weaken our ability to pay attention.
“A noisy mind creates stress and can make you feel anxious and overwhelmed,” says Robert McClure, a certified mindfulness facilitator with Sharp HealthCare. “Ultimately, this affects your health and happiness. Learning how to quiet and focus the mind with mindfulness skills is a foundation for health and wellness.”
Mindfulness skills can be developed by practicing with what we see, hear or feel as objects of focus. And research suggests that focusing on body sensations decreases the brain’s default mode network (DMN) — areas of the brain that are more active when we are at rest, which can cause a wandering and noisy mind.
8 mindfulness practices
McClure shares eight simple practices that can be done anytime and anywhere to help quiet the mind and calm the body. Begin each practice with a couple of slow, deep breaths, and end your practice with deep breaths.
- Stop to rest. Pausing in stillness for a moment calms the mind and body.
Pause in stillness for just a moment. Notice anything you see, hear or feel in the present moment.
- Relax with your breath. Focusing on your “outbreath” — or exhalation — and letting go for even a moment helps relax and quiet the mind.
Bring your attention to the outbreath as you gently exhale. Feel yourself letting go as you breathe out. Do this three times.
- See. Resting your attention on something you see develops concentration and calmness.
Bring your attention to something you see nearby — something interesting or beautiful. Rest your attention on the object for several seconds and notice the details. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the object. Now let go of what you see.
- Hear. Focusing on sounds you hear develops attention and calms your mind.
Bring your attention to the sounds you hear. Listen carefully. If the mind wanders, bring it back to the sound. Now let go of what you hear.
- Feel. Bringing attention to body sensations trains your ability to pay attention with calmness.
Bring your attention to the bottoms of your feet. Feel the sensations. If the mind wanders, bring it back to the feeling in your feet. Now let go of what you feel.
- Scan your body. Bringing attention to areas of tension and letting go relaxes the body.
Bring your attention into your body and notice any areas that are tight or tense. Soften or release any tension or tightness in your jaw, shoulders and arms. Now let relaxation spread throughout your body.
- Feel the good. Using your imagination to nurture positive emotions such as joy, love and gratitude quiets the mind.
Imagine someone or something you love and focus on the image in your imagination. Notice in your body any positive emotion you might feel. Now let go of the focus on the image.
- Feel grateful. Using your imagination to nurture gratitude brings calmness.
Imagine something or someone for which you are grateful. Think of how they enrich your life. Notice if you feel an emotion of gratitude in your body. Now let go of the focus on the image.
“Mindful practice can help quiet the mind when life gets busy and stressful,” says McClure. “Even brief mindful moments can increase our ability to pay attention and bring calmness to the body.”