To say that 2020 has been stressful is the understatement of the year. With a global pandemic, lockdowns, home schooling and the election, we’re all in need of finding ways to calm down and find balance. These five small mindfulness practices can help you achieve mindfulness, no matter how busy, or how stressed you are.
Breath is the single most important tool that you can use to calm, ground and center yourself into the present moment. While we all breathe automatically, most of us breathe far too shallow using only the very top of the lungs. To get the powerful anti-stress and anti-panic benefits of breathing, it does require us to focus on it since we don’t naturally breathe deeply.
My favorite breathing exercise to calm down quickly is the 4-7-8 method. This is one of Dr. Andrew Weil’s favorite breathing techniques to reduce stress, anxiety and promote sleep.
To do this simple breath method, close your mouth and inhale through your nose to a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 7. Exhale completely through your mouth to a count of 8. This is one breath. Doing this for four breath cycles will calm down the nervous system and bring you back into the present moment. It’s helpful to use this technique several times a day to maintain your Zen.
When we’re stressed, we’re often ruminating over something in the past or fretting about something in the future. The 3-3-3 Method can help you get back to the present moment and find some peace.
First, find your breath. Close your eyes and breathe deeply and slowly in through the nose and out through your mouth. Once you have calmed down your breathing, open your eyes and begin:
- Mentally note three things you can see around you
- Note three things that you hear
- Move three parts of your body
By forcing your brain to focus and concentrate on the environment, you bring it into the present and away from past or perceived problems.
The thymus is a gland that sits beneath the upper breastbone in the middle of your chest. It controls the body’s meridian system, which means it regulates energy flow. It’s also called the body’s happiness point. In addition to encouraging calmness, it can also bolster your immune system.
To activate the thymus, play Tarzan by thumping on the middle of your chest with your fist. As you are pounding, think of something that brings you joy. Breathe deeply in and out and with each thump say “ha, ha, ha.”
You know you’ve activated the thymus if you feel tingling or feelings of happiness. Do this several times a day to quell anxiety and stress.
If you’re feeling panicked, stressed or anxious, stop what you’re doing and start moving. Go for a walk, move through some yoga stretches, or simply change your location for a bit. One of my favorite yoga poses to help calm the mind and feel grounded is child’s pose. Taking deep breathes in child’s pose will calm down the central nervous system and bring down the fight or flight response to stress. It also opens up the shoulders and chest, which can get tight throughout the workday, especially if you’re on a computer, and lengthens the spine and stretches the back.
Return to Nature
A simple way to be calm is to get out in nature. We weren’t designed to sit inside staring at a screen all day long. A recent study at Cornell University found that as little as 10 minutes in nature can lessen physical and mental stress.
Disconnect from all electronic devices and go for a walk or sit for a time in nature. If you live in an area where there is very little nature, try to find a tree and stand by it in the grass, sand, snow or dirt for a few minutes. Adding a few deep breaths will help as well.
For as overwhelming of feelings that stress and anxiety are, these are simple and quick ways to dispel negative emotions and return balance.