Research into mindfulness has established the numerous positive effects these practices have on mental and physical well-being and there is ample evidence to show wide application in a variety of contexts. In addition there are multiple, diverse ways in which to practice mindfulness–from spending time with nature to listening to or performing music.
While many people choose to make an avocation of some of their mindfulness activities, if you are busy, you don’t necessarily have to invest a lot time in formal mindfulness practices. A few simple, common exercises include taking stock of your senses wherever you find yourself in the moment, writing down your thoughts freehand (using pen and paper) for 10 minutes, and meditation.
In the Western world, people can cultivate these skills through sensory awareness mindfulness training, which helps people achieve a better work/life equilibrium by balancing cognitive and emotional brain activities. Routine connection with one’s senses and focusing non-judgmentally on the “here and now” experience of life is key to developing and using these skills effectively.
Try a simple exercise in sensory awareness: focus your attention on a single source of sensory input for 30 seconds. Shut your eyes and concentrate on experiencing only the scents in your immediate environment. Then allow yourself to reintegrate the remaining senses one by one as you return to your surroundings.
People from as diverse backgrounds as authors Robert Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) and Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way) posit that the act of devoting attention to a single task such as writing, playing a musical instrument, or fixing a motorcycle permits us to lose ourselves momentarily in both a physical and cognitive act. Writing has the additional benefit of rendering what lies in our mind onto paper, helping us expunge whatever emotions and thoughts may be clogging or preoccupying our brains.
Meditation, practiced for hundreds of years by many different religious and cultural traditions, can help people calm or manage distracting thoughts by training them to inhabit their body and mind in the present moment.
As with sensory awareness, there are many types of meditation practice that have been cultivated across the world. No one method has been found to be more effective than another, but there is evidence that integrating meditation into one’s routine can help people manage stress, anxiety, and depression. While there is evidence meditation can be a valuable tool for many people, it is not a practice that works for everyone.
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Writing for Mindfulness
- Alidina, Samash. “A Mindful Writing Practice for Those Who Like to Keep Doing.” Mindful. Posted May 27, 2016. https://www.mindful.org/a-writing-practice-for-those-who-like-to-keep-doing/
- Bash, Barbara. “The Simple Joy of Writing by Hand.” Mindful. Posted June 3, 2016. https://www.mindful.org/the-simple-joy-of-writing-by-hand/
- Cameron, Julia. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. New York: Jeremy Tarcher, 1992.
- Walton, Mary. “How to Use Writing as a Mindfulness Tool.” Thrive Global. Posted July 22, 2017. https://thriveglobal.com/stories/how-to-use-writing-as-a-mindfulness-tool/
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