Practicing mindfulness involves focusing your attention on the present moment. Mindfulness has roots in Buddhism, and scientific studies have found mindfulness-based interventions are useful in the treatment of a number of psychological disorders. Using the techniques below can help you to combat negative feelings like stress, anxiety, and depression.
Intentions give you something to focus on. They are something that you have control over. Setting an intention is not the same thing as setting a goal. A goal is something you wish to accomplish while an intention is more like an aim or a way of pointing yourself in the right direction.
You can fall short of achieving a goal, whether by your own actions or due to external forces. By contrast, you can stray from an intention, but you can never fail. Intentions are internal. If you find yourself straying, the solution is simple: reorient yourself, and return to the path you set out on.
Try to begin your day by setting an intention. These can be big or small, short-term or long-term, but it has to be something you can give yourself. You have no control over other people’s actions but you can control your own. “I will be treated with kindness by everyone around me” is not a good intention. “I will be kinder to myself” is.
Once an intention is set, remember to check in with yourself periodically throughout the day. Be mindful of your situation, and ask yourself whether your thoughts and actions are aligned with your intentions. Make intention-setting a daily practice, and you will have an easier time dealing with whatever life throws at you.
Mindfulness meditation is about training your attention on the present moment. It’s being intensely aware of what you’re thinking and feeling, all without passing judgment. Unlike other forms of meditation that may involve clearing your mind or focusing on something external, mindfulness meditation asks you to focus deeply on your breath, your body and your mind.
Instead of reacting to your thoughts, your emotions or your sensations, simply note them before letting them go and moving on. Turning meditation into a daily habit can enhance your ability to regulate your emotions and reduce your levels of stress.
Begin by finding a quiet place to sit and close your eyes. Take slow, deep breaths. Don’t let your mind wander. Instead, start paying attention to your sensations. Focus on your breathing, its rhythm, and how it feels. Inevitably, your thoughts will turn to something else. Acknowledge your thoughts before returning your attention to your breath. Keep doing this for as long as you feel comfortable before opening your eyes and getting back to your day.
With practice, meditation can become a great stress reliever. It can help you to become more present in other aspects of your life. Combining meditation with psychedelics can have greater benefits than either do on their own.
Breathing is a big part of meditation, but there are a lot of other mindfulness techniques that involve breathing too. Pranayama is the controlled breathing exercises found in many types of yoga. Not only does it improve lung function, but it can lower stress and anxiety levels and increase mindfulness. Other breathing exercises include alternate nostril breathing, breath retention, and “breath of fire”.
Holotropic breathwork was developed in the late 1960s as a legal alternative to psychedelic drugs. This form of breathwork involves breathing at an accelerated pace. It is usually conducted in a group setting. Practitioners are paired-off, and take turns breathing in-and-out rapidly over an extended period of time. Studies show that holotropic breathwork increases participants’ self-awareness and self-esteem, and reduces their anxiety around death.
Vivation is a different kind of breathwork based around circular breathing. Practitioners claim it can reduce stress and improve well-being.
Art Therapy: Coloring and Drawing
Adult coloring books were something of a fad in 2015, with self-described mindfulness coloring books being some of the best sellers. Though they have fallen out of style in recent years, science actually does back up the benefits of directed coloring—especially the coloring of mandalas.
A mandala is a circular geometric pattern associated with Eastern religions. At the end of a holotropic breathwork session, practitioners engage in the drawing and coloring of mandalas as a way of integrating their experiences. Drawing mandalas is associated with improved mood. Coloring mandalas by itself has been found to lower the heart rate and reduce anxiety significantly more than free drawing did. Coloring mandalas requires more focused attention than less complex images.
Journaling daily gives you the chance to take stock of the day’s events, and to probe your reactions to them. Writing down what happened, with as much detail as possible, allows you to be honest with yourself about your own actions. Don’t self-censor. Just note where you made a mistake, resolve to do better tomorrow, and let it go. You’re the only one reading your journal, and the point isn’t to judge yourself. Instead, it increases your awareness and gives you an outsider’s perspective of your own life.
Keeping a gratitude journal can also increase mindfulness, as well as reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Writing down what you are grateful for may have an even greater effect on your emotional well-being than a daily journal.
You can start by writing down 5 things that make you feel grateful 1-3 times a week. Be as specific as possible, and go into detail. Nushama gives out gratitude journals to patients to help support ketamine treatment. In fact, the Nushama community incorporates a lot of the mindfulness practices listed above into the healing process, especially to aid in the integration of psychedelic experiences.
Mindfulness techniques are not just great treatments for anxiety and depression. These techniques often offer ways to better understand your own mind, even in times when one’s priorities shift from healing towards exploring one’s own consciousness.
Mindfulness is awareness without judgment. It’s art, not a science. It is a way to befriend yourself and to observe your own experience of life. In the words of Pema Chödrön: “You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.”