3 Surprising Ways to Practice Mindfulness
Posted On Mar 26, 2021
Experts recommend that we practice mindfulness as much as possible. After all, studies show that it can help improve mood, lower anxiety, reduce blood pressure, increase job function, and more. One of the most common mindfulness practices suggested is meditation. But, what happens if you don’t enjoy sitting in lotus pose for hours? Can you still practice mindfulness? Good news! The answer is yes. In fact, there are several unsuspecting ways to participate in an activity with intention and reap similar benefits. Here are a few ways:
Amanda Gorman brought poetry to pop culture after reciting a poem at Joe Biden’s inauguration. And while many more people might be getting into the art form for its creativity, it can also be a mindful practice.
“The sounds and rhythms of poetry are linked to our physiology—breathing and heartbeat,” said poet Aaron Poochigan whose latest collection, American Divine, is out now. “Concentration on those sounds and rhythms mirrors concentration on one’s bodily rhythms and has a similar calming effect.”
Poochigan encourages the memorization of poetry for its mantric effect. “I studied Sanskrit in graduate school and have found that recitation of poetry in one’s head and out loud works like a mantra,” he said.
In fact, during a challenging time in his life, Poochigan composed an English-language mantra that he would recite to himself when on the verge of a panic attack.
“Syllables smooth enough to soothe and stir,
We are the deep massage, the cosmic purr.”
So, if you’re not a poet, give these words a try. The repetition should slow and focus your breathing and dispel rising feelings of anxiety.
Keep a Gardening Notebook
Gardening has a range of benefits. Being involved in planting flowers, pulling weeds, and raking burns calories and builds strength. It can be a real workout for your arms and legs, burning between 200-400 calories per hour. But, there’s a mental health benefit as well.
Studies show that merely being outdoors reduces stress, anger and sadness, blood pressure, and muscle tension, much like meditation. And nurturing plants helps promote a growth mindset while harvesting them can provide a safe food source.
Angelo Randaci, Master Gardener and Horticulture Expert at Earth’s Ally, recommends starting with container gardening and opting for herbs if you are new to planting. It’s easier than tackling an entire outdoor garden, which could become stressful. Keep it simple and just focus on the act of nurturing.
To help enhance the mindfulness practice, Randaci also suggests keeping a gardening notebook. “It is the best way to remember your gardening experiences and plan for the next year,” he said.
Walk with Intention
Heading out for a walk might seem like the opposite of a meditative practice. But if you take those steps with the intention, it can become a mindful (and physically beneficial) activity. Although being in nature enhances the experience, even a walk to the mailbox or subway works. The key? According to NYC-based psychotherapist Dr. Kathryn Smerling, it all has to do with the breath.
“Just stop every once in a while and take a breath,” said Smerling. “When you breathe, you become mindful. Mindfulness is a practice of bringing your attention back to your mind and body. The best way to do that is just to feel your feet and breathe.”
Follow this recommendation to make your next walk or any activity more mindful. Breathe in, count to four. Hold for four seconds and then release. Do that until tension, anxiety, or stress begins to fade.