We’ve all experienced being mindless, but what does it mean to be mindful? Mindfulness simply means you’re paying attention to the present moment. The Now. Chronic anxiety is always about what might happen. Anxiety is about the possible future, not the actual present.
Mindfulness exercises bring you back to the here and now. They click you out of your mind and into the present moment. This is the flow of your immediate physical experience.
Use one of these easy mindfulness exercises twice a day for 30 seconds. Up the frequency and/or duration as your tolerance for the present moment increases.
- How do you feel? Notice how you feel, then name the emotion out loud. “I’m feeling _____.”
- Sound check. Notice the noise level of your present environment. Is it low or high? Why is it quiet or loud where you are? “It’s very loud because I’m in a nightclub.”
- What’s it look like? Describe the shape and color of whatever’s in front of you. Say the name of what you’re looking at: “That’s a chair.” Then give a description: “That chair is tall and dark red.” Actually do this out loud.
- Focus on them. Notice someone else’s breathing then notice your own. This is great if you need anxiety attack relief when you’re around other people. Just notice how they’re breathing, then notice your own breathing. This works great for phone anxiety too.
- Crack a smile. Put a half-smile on your face, even if you don’t feel like it. Turn up the corners of your mouth anyway. Notice how smiling makes you feel. Do you feel afraid or angry? Does smiling make you happy? Is it easy to smile or does it take conscious effort? Do you feel stupid? Smile like this for 30 seconds and notice your emotions.
Consistency is key here. It’s better to do 30 seconds once a day than five minutes once a week. Short but regular mindfulness exercises will increase your overall sense of calm and make it less likely you’ll have an anxiety attack. Relief is what you’ll feel as you’re gradually freed from the prison of your mind’s anxious future.
A mindfulness practice does not have to take a lot of time. It’s really just checking in with yourself regularly. The exercises above can be used to do that anytime and in any situation. It’s amazing what sixty seconds a day of present moment living can do to help your anxiety.