What is mindfulness, and how can it reduce stress?


If your go-to relaxation technique is zoning out in front of the TV or playing games on your phone, you might not actually be doing much to fight the effects of stress. Mindfulness — the practice of increasing your focus on the present moment — is a much more effective stress-reduction technique than simply “checking out.”

Mindfulness is the act of intentionally focusing on what you’re feeling and sensing in the moment, without analyzation or judgment. Mindfulness can improve your mood, lower stress and build inner strength by redirecting your attention away from negative thoughts and keeping your mind grounded and engaged in the world around you.

There are several mindfulness techniques you can use to reduce everyday stress and boost your energy and mood. If you tend to have an angry response to stress, try deep breathing, meditation, rhythmic exercise or yoga. If stress causes you to become depressed, power yoga, rhythmic exercise and massage might work best for you. If stress shuts you down, running, dancing and tai chi are good mindfulness exercises to try.

Here are some other general mindfulness practices you can use in your daily life to manage your stress levels.

Focus on breathing. Feel the breath enter and exit your body. Notice how your body responds, and let your attention to everything else fall away. When your mind wanders, don’t get frustrated — just gently redirect your attention back to your breathing.

Heighten your senses. When you’re eating, smell your food, anticipate how it will taste and eat it slowly.

Listen carefully. Pay close attention to what other people are saying with the aim of understanding them without judgement.

Discover the new in the familiar. Find an object you use every day, like your keys or your hairbrush, and single out a detail you didn’t notice before. Developing a more heightened awareness of your world can increase your fondness for it. 

If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness, or if you’re having trouble coping with the negative effects of stress, consult a healthcare provider with Goshen Physicians.