While remaining present in the moment may seem easy, mindfulness requires a good deal of determination and dedication.
"It's actually quite difficult when you understand that the average person has between 20-50,000 thoughts go through their mind in an average day. In fact, the latest research shows that we are NOT in the present moment [46.9%] of our day — that's over 7 1/2 hours in a 16-hour waking day!" says Robin Todd M.S., Owner of mindful momentum.
But don't let that intimidate you too much. While reaching peak mindfulness can take years of practice, there are a number of simple exercises you can start doing today that will allow you to begin reaping some of the benefits of mindfulness almost immediately. Try a few of the following exercises on for size:
- The 3-minute controlled breath break: "Close the eyes. Inhale as if you are growing a bowling ball in your abdomen to the count of three. Hold the breath for one second. Now exhale deeply, collapsing your belly to your spine. Repeat this deep breathing for three minutes. You can do this in the office in the middle of the workday to refocus yourself. Brain scan studies show that controlled breathing calms down the stress centers of the brain." —Dr. Romie Mushtaq, Physician, Mindfulness Teacher, and Speaker
- Mind the little things: "The scent, sound and feeling of washing your hands, the sound of your fingers on the keyboard, the sound and feel of the door as you open and close it. Pretend you are a cinematographer trying to capture every nuance of what you experience around you. These moments add up to having a more mindful day." —Von Reiche
- Learn to listen: "If you're constantly confronted by the most talkative person in the office or find holding conversations with co-workers difficult or draining, mindful listening can help. Imagine you're at the movies and listen to the person in front of you like you would an actor on the big screen. Sit back and enjoy the conversation without a personal agenda, pressure to give advice or an opinion, or the need to relate to what is being said. Basically, you don't have to say anything and you don't have to make it about you. Take it all in like you would a good movie and let the speaker have the stage." —Dr. Lynn Rossy, Director of Integrated Wellness at Veterans United Home Loans
- Let negative thoughts go: "It's necessary to vent about your stressful day, but [only] to a certain extent. Don't let your negative thoughts spiral out of control. Rather, close your eyes and take a deep breath, or even better, three. Notice the feelings that are associated with your negative thoughts, and acknowledge these feelings. Allow yourself to release this negativity once and for all." —Amy Ritsema, owner of OnSite Wellness
- Set reminders: "You can activate your return to the present moment by setting reminders on your phone or watch to buzz at regular or random intervals. You will find that this usually jogs you back from wherever your mind has wandered, and will over time be a form of mindfulness training in itself." —Van Gils
- Watch your thoughts:. "When you become aware of a thought, place it on a cloud (or lily pad, or conveyor belt, or whatever imagery resonates with you) and watch it as it goes by. When the next thought comes, repeat. If you'd like, you can set a timer for two to three minutes and practice watching your thoughts go by." —Gale-Bando
Don't worry if you have trouble with these exercises at first — as with almost everything, practice makes perfect. "If your mind wanders, that is always okay because that is what minds do. In fact, it gives you a chance to practice a 'rep' and further strengthen your mindfulness muscle. Whenever you become aware that your mind has wandered, very gently bring your attention back to your intended focus, repeatedly, however many times is necessary," Gale-Bando recommends.
So the next time you start to feel those worries start to rise or your productivity slow down, relax. Take a breath. Notice where you are, and what you're feeling. You'll feel better in the moment — but perhaps even more importantly, you'll set yourself down the path of a happier, healthier future.
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This article originally appeared on Glassdoor.