How can I feel better? What can I do to not feel or be this way anymore? Those are the most common questions I hear from people wanting to find ways to create balance in their lives, to decrease anxiety or depression, to improve relationships, to perform better at work/ school, or to reduce stress. In my mind, there is one common denominator in each of these scenarios and one important answer to all these questions…. FOCUS ON YOURSELF.
Be self reflective and discover who you are, what makes you tick and ways to make yourself feel happy and more at ease. If you can be in tune with who you are and be mindful of you reactions to others or situations, you will improve your insight into your own mental and emotional health. This is where practicing mindfulness comes into play.
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and environment that surround us on a moment to moment basis. The practice of mindfulness involves noticing our thoughts and feelings and accepting them without judgment, shame or guilt. It is understanding there is no right or wrong way to think or feel, while being in touch with ourselves and each present thought and bodily sensations, instead of focusing on the past.
There are numerous benefits to practicing mindfulness, some of which include:
✔Improved concentration and mental clarity
✔Increased ability to regulate emotions
✔Decreased impulsivity and ability to make more mindfulness decisions
✔Increased empathy, compassion and acceptance for yourself and others
How To Practice Mindfulness
There are countless ways to incorporate and practice mindfulness throughout your day. For starters, when you notice your mind is wandering, stop and begin focusing on the feelings and sensations in your body. While eating food, focus on the taste and smell of each bite of food. While walking to your car, breath in the fresh air slowly, and feel your feet on the ground as you take each step. While at the office, take a moment and notice your breathing as you sit in your chair. Implementing these simple practices on a daily basis can lead to a more balanced and fulfilled life.
Positive Coping Strategies
Other ways to improve balance and decrease stress in your life include implementing positive coping strategies as often as possible. Never allow your stress and emotions to build up. Take time to practice, self care, self reflection and maintain a good balance between your normal responsibilities and the things you enjoy. Do things that positively impact yourself and others. Being useful to others and being valued for what you do can help build self-esteem.
Below are some positive coping strategies you can focus on:
1) Practice self-discipline. Self-discipline leads to a sense of happiness and accomplishment, which can help you overcome feelings of helplessness and other negative thoughts.
2) Learn or discover new things. Take a new class, join a book club, visit a museum or simply travel somewhere new and exciting.
3) Think positively. Whatever you think persists. So, the more you focus on positive situations in your life the more you will continue to observe more positive situations and outcomes versus negatives ones.
4) Get more sleep. Sleep helps to revitalize and recharge the body, mind and spirit. Getting 6-8 hours of sleep each night is optimal.
5) Increase behavioral activities such as physical exercise and recreational outlets.
Exercise or any type of physical movement serves to increase circulation, endorphins in the body and decrease cortisol, which is the hormone produced by stress.
6) Initiate positive social contact. Feeling connected to others is one of the principal human needs. The more we feel connected to others the happier we will feel.
For more resources or information on mindfulness you can visit:
*Defining Mindfulness and Jon Kabat-Zinn: http://www.mindful.org/
*Free Guided Meditations: http://marc.ucla.edu/
*Free Mindfulness Exercises: http://www.pocketmindfulness.com/
About the author:
Dr. Sanchez-Cordova currently works in private practice with Beach Psychology in Manhattan Beach, CA. She provides individual, couple and family psychotherapy assisting clients on their journey towards finding solutions, and achieving personal growth, balance and fulfillment. She is also beginning a mindfulness skills group for adolescents. She received her Clinical Psy.D. from the California School of Professional Psychology-Alliant International University in 2015, and previously obtained her M.A. in Psychology from Pepperdine University in 2011.