Mindfulness is about being present and aware of the here and now. Too often in life we’re busy focusing on the future or worrying about the past. Mindfulness pulls us back to the present and reminds us that we are valued and loved.
People who practice mindfulness on a regular basis are happier, healthier, and more successful in life. Try these simple mindfulness techniques today and experience the difference for yourself.
A self-compassion pause
In this exercise, you sit somewhere quiet and take a few deep breaths. You decide whether you will focus on awareness of your heart, your body, or your thoughts. You acknowledge that awareness will help you to move forward with compassion. You hit pause on your thoughts and movements, and take time to notice your feelings as you experience them. If a thought comes to you, just acknowledge it, and wave it away.
Next, place your hand over your heart, take a few deep breaths, acknowledge your suffering and painful feelings as you experience them. Say to yourself. “This is what suffering (pain/hurt) feels like. It is part of being human. I accept myself and love myself just as I am.”
You can perform the five-senses exercise quickly whenever you need a mindfulness boost. It’s about experiencing the world with all your senses.
Start by taking a few deep breaths and bringing your attention to the world around you. Notice five things you can see around you. Try to choose things you wouldn’t normally notice – a pattern on a tile, a shadow against the building, etc.
Next, notice four things you can feel – wind on your skin, hard floor beneath your feet, texture of your clothing, etc. Then, do three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. While you do this exercise, continue to breathe deeply. By the time you finish, you will be in a mindful state.
The three-minute mindfulness
This is another quick exercise you can do to bring your focus to the here and now. It’s great if you have a busy mind and struggle to focus during meditation.
If you have a timer on your mobile phone, set it to alert you at one-minute intervals for three minutes. For the first minute, ask yourself the question, “what am I doing right now?” Focus on your feelings and sensations in your body, as well as the thoughts that come up. Give words and phrases to your feelings and thoughts.
In the second minute, focus on your breathing. Take deep breaths into your diaphragm, and release.
During the third minute, expand your attention from your breath out through your whole body. Focus on how breathing feels in different parts of your body. Observe thoughts as they pop up and disappear, bringing back your focus on your body.
Find more mindfulness exercises on Positive Psychology.
Have you tried mindfulness exercise or meditation? What benefits have you noticed?
Seven out of ten people experience stress or anxiety daily, according to a study by the American Psychological Association. It’s impossible to get rid of stress completely, because it’s an important part of what makes us human. A little bit of stress will help you study hard, mend difficult relationships and strive to achieve your goals.
If you’re feeling stressed all the time, you need some tools to help you manage – and one of the best ways to manage stress is through regular exercise.
How does exercise help with stress?
Exercise does more than just improve your health and make you better able to fight off illness – it’s also a natural stress reliever. When your body feels good, so does your mind. Exercise can:
Physical activity helps your body to pump oxygen around its systems. You get more oxygen to your brain, which helps with clear thinking and concentration. Exercise also feels great because it releases endorphins – neurotransmitters that give us all our happy, feel-good vibes. More endorphins = a happier, healthier mind.
When you exercise, you’re usually conducting repetitive activities that require focus and concentration. This takes your mind off whatever you’ve been stressed about, often allowing space for a solution to present itself.
What kind of exercise can you do?
Even five minutes of aerobic exercise is enough to unleash anti-stress benefits. Here are some ways you can add regular exercise to your life:
Other ways to relieve stress
Exercise is not the only thing you can do if you’re feeling stressed or anxious. We also recommend:
Do you exercise when you’re feeling stressed? Try it and see if it helps you relax.
Have you ever noticed how when you clean your room you get a weird feeling of calm? The simple act of clearing away the clutter and making a clear path from your bed to the door can lift your mood.
Your mind works in the same way. When your brain is a mess of thoughts – especially if some of those thoughts are negative – you can feel restless and unfocused. It can be hard to motivate yourself to do anything.
If you’re cluttering up your mind worrying about the future, stewing over events in the past, complaining, beating yourself up, stressing yourself out with negative thoughts, or just running a constant to-do list that never seems to end, your mind could do with a bit of a tidy out.
Learning how to declutter your mind is a good coping technique you’ll use again and again throughout your life. Below we recommend some ways to clear out the mess and focus your thoughts.
1. Write it down
Many people find that when they write down their thoughts or ideas, it moves them from their brain on to paper. If you’re a creative person then you’ll find it particularly effective to sketch out ideas for your projects. Keeping an appointment book or calendar can help you track all those dates and events, so you don’t use your mental energy.
2. Let go
If you find yourself cluttering up your mind with thoughts and regrets about the past, it’s time to learn how to let go. Imagine your mind is an enormous chest of drawers. Inside each drawer is a mistake you made, opportunity you missed, or person you hurt.
Pick up each drawer one by one, and dump the contents into an enormous rubbish bin. This is a powerful mental imagery tool that can help you subconsciously let go of what’s bothering you.
3. Do one thing at a time
Human beings have this crazy belief they can multitask and perform many different jobs at the same time. Scientifically, it’s just not true.
When you’re multitasking, your brain is actually switching from one thing to another as fast as it can. Every time it switches, it needs time and energy to recall previous details and prepare for new ones. This multitasking tires out your mind and leaves you feeling stressed and cluttered. It’s far more efficient to perform one task until it’s completed before moving on.
4. Go on a low information diet
All day you’re bombarded by info – from looking at YouTube videos before school, to reading a blog on the bus, to all your classes, then watching TV at night, talking to your friends, reading magazines and surfing the net. This constant stream of info makes your brain hurt as it frantically tries to remember everything it thinks is important.
Actually, very little of what we watch and read and discuss is vitally important. However, as well as tiring out our brains, it can make us feel guilty, sad, or angry – all emotions that take up space in our brain.
Limit the amount of information you consume, by cutting out websites, TV shows, magazines, and blogs that don’t contribute to your well-being. Do you really need to watch four hours of TV every night? Set a limit on the amount of time you spend on the internet each day. Give your brain a rest or engage it creatively with hobbies, reading, playing board games, sport, or other activities.
5. Put your life on autopilot
One reason your brain can feel cluttered is because you spend time and energy agonising over choices that don’t matter. Stressing out about what to wear each day or what to have for breakfast can take up valuable real estate in your brain that’s needed for more important tasks.
Try to create routines around mundane tasks to take away your need to make decisions. Have the same thing for breakfast every morning (or alternate 2-3 of your favourites). Choose a certain time and day of the week to do your chores. Shower at the same time each day. The more you move these small tasks out of your brain, the more energy you can dedicate to important stuff like hobbies, studying, your boyfriend or girlfriend, family, and friends.
Clearing out the mental clutter will give you clarity and purpose.
What can you do today to declutter your mind?
Over 450 Auckland high school students showed up for workshops held by their fellow pupils to learn how to minimise exam stress.
The lunchtime workshops, held at Rangitoto College and Albany Senior High School, were put on for Year 11-13 students by Hearing Everyday Youth (HEY), also known as the Upper Harbour Youth Caucus. Activities included games, prizes and a ‘meditation station’ where students could take a timeout from their busy study schedule.
Upper Harbour Youth Caucus chairperson Bismah Mahmood says that with NCEA exams approaching this is one of the most stressful times of the year for high school students.
“It was the last week of school, so everything was really hectic and you could tell that students were getting a little bit stressed out. We just wanted to give them a place and time to relax.”
In a 2016 survey commissioned by Youthline, stress was deemed to be the most pressing issue facing young people. Mahmood, who is a Year 12 student at Rangitoto College, says that it’s a concern she’s had to learn to deal with herself.
“When I stress out, I can't think properly. I find that I won't do well in whatever I'm doing. Even simple things I won't be doing properly. When I take my time and properly de-stress, I find that I get a much better outcome and I spend less time actually doing the work at hand.”
The Youth Caucus also used the workshops as an opportunity to get input from students about other issues they’re facing at the moment. Key concerns that were raised included mental health and parental pressure to do well at school.
Youthline youth worker Stevie Hamiora, who helped to facilitate the workshops, says that it was a great opportunity to reach many new young people who needed help.
“This caucus is filled with unique wonderful young people who are very in touch with the community and purpose to empower other young people in their community. We look forward to many more successful events to come.”
Join us throughout November on the Youthline blog, where we’ll be exploring some healthy ways to deal with stress and anxiety, and taking a look at what students can do to keep calm during exams.
How is term 4 here already?
Here we go, last term of the year and then freedom! Just a few hurdles to jump first, like all your final assignments, exams, grades, passing...yikes! It can all feel like a lot, but you got this. We've got some tips on coping with the feelings of anxiety that can creep up and feel overwhelming.
1. Reset your physical response
Calming your body lets it know there is no actual danger and so it doesn't need to move into a stress response.
2. Reset your thoughts
As the body and the mind work closely together, if your mind is racing, it will calm down when your body gets calm and vice versa.
3. Talk to someone about how you are feeling
Often getting some support and understanding, or even just a hug or some company can really help. Think about who is in your life who you can hang out with and cares about you.
4. Seek professional support
If your anxiety is feeling unmanageable, you feel like you need new strategies to deal with it or it's getting in the way of living your life how you would like, then talking to a professional can be really useful.