How to Apply Mindfulness to Improve Your Life

Mindfulness is a way of framing our thoughts and actions in a way that allows us to live in the moment rather than worrying about past or future events. It teaches us to pay attention to our bodies and surroundings, shifting our focus from wandering thoughts to whatever tasks are at hand. Regular practice can help users approach each day with better balance, clarity and peace of mind.

We often talk about mindfulness as a means of self-improvement, but finding ways to apply it to our daily lives can still be difficult to set into motion. Especially when the practice is new to us, we might rely on our old defaults simply out of habit, and forward movement can be difficult regardless of our intentions.

We may need to consider different approaches depending on what we want to accomplish. For example, some athletes use mindfulness to hone their focus and improve their ability to compete. Most of us aren’t Olympic-level athletes, but we can use similar models to improve different areas of our lives.

Mindful Eating

I grew up with an unhealthy relationship with food, learning bad habits from my parents, neither of whom had any concept of nutrition or healthy food practices. At my worst, I inhaled my meals, and I was so far out of touch with my body that I barely tasted what I ate. It was only after I changed my eating patterns, along with the way I approached eat bite, when I was able to see how terribly disordered my food habits had been.

Mindful eating has us pay attention to the senses, approaching our meals with gratitude and openness, putting the focus on every aspect of the food we’re eating. Here’s how to get started:

  • Take small servings, paying attention to the appearance of the food on your plate and any aromas coming from it.
  • Take small bites, chewing each one slowly and thoroughly. Pay attention to textures against your tongue, teeth and palate.
  • Try to pick out the different ingredients as you chew. What does each one taste like?
  • When you swallow, notice the subtle sensations that occur in your throat and esophagus.
  • Regularly check in with your stomach, sensing for feelings of fullness.
  • Remind yourself as you eat that you’re fueling your body with vital nutrients and building blocks.

While a healthy diet ideally works best, mindful eating can improve food relationships regardless of the types of foods involved. What we eat is important, but how we eat it is just as valuable to our health and well-being.

Mindfulness for Anxiety

Anyone who suffers from anxiety can tell you how quickly an everyday situation can lead to a perfect storm for a crippling breakdown. We get anxious when our thoughts spiral out of control, which happens when we allow our emotions to be led by hypotheticals and negative statements such as “what if” and “I can’t.”

When a trigger hits, we can reduce the likelihood of a panic attack by redirecting our thoughts and actively slowing our breaths. One technique to achieve mindfulness amidst stressful moments is engaging the senses, one by one. Search for stimuli in the immediate area: What can you see, hear, smell, taste and feel to the touch?

Body sensing is another great redirection technique. With your eyes closed, focus your attention on different parts of the body, moving from one area to the next. Put as much awareness as possible in each area as you go, redirecting your thoughts back to the body as they stray. Need some help getting started? Try this guided tour:

Mindfulness techniques can help us take a step back when we’re ready to fall apart, offering a moment of reprieve. With a better handle on our anxiety, we can take the opportunity to redirect our thoughts in more productive ways. Take the time to get grounded, take some slow, deep breaths and then tell yourself, “I can do this!”

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