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Psychologist Marsha Lucas explains that mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” This is a great way to define being mindful; not only is it about living in the moment, but living in the moment without judgment. Sometimes, being mindful is difficult for us because our thoughts are riddled with negativity and self-criticism.

Here are some health benefits of practicing mindfulness:

1. Decrease anxiety and stress. Being mindful has been clinically shown to help with stressful events and relieve feelings of anxiety. When you find yourself with those feelings of self-doubt or worry, some mindful breathing can put you in the moment and help decrease those negative thoughts and feelings.

2. Improve immune system. Stress takes a toll on the immune system, so when you can use mindfulness to decrease stress, it can improve your health. In some studies, meditation has been shown to increase the level of T-cells in patients with breast cancer. This shows that mindfulness could potentially fight against cancer and other diseases that use immune system cells.

3. Reduce heart disease risk. In one study, those with pre-hypertension were sent to take either a meditation class or a muscle relaxation course. Those who were able to practice mindfulness had a reduction in their blood pressure more so than those who took a muscle relaxation course.

4. Decrease physical and psychological pain. Chronic pain can cause stress, anxiety and psychological pain that has been shown to decrease with meditation and mindfulness practice. By doing so, mindfulness practice can help those with drug or alcohol addiction to reduce cravings that come with physical and psychological pain.

5. Increase focus and productivity. If you can get yourself to live in and focus on the present moment, it will increase your productivity on whatever task is at hand. You can stay focused, get organized and accomplish more of what you set out to do!

Sometimes, being mindful is difficult for us because our thoughts are riddled with negativity and self-criticism. Here are some simple ways to start living more mindfully in your everyday life.

1. Practice when you first wake up. Focus where you are right when you wake up and don’t think about what you have to do the rest of the day, or all the things you haven’t done. Just enjoy the moment and go easy on yourself. Take the day one step at a time.

2. Start a gratitude journal. Before you go to bed, write down 5 things you’re grateful for that happened (or didn’t happen) that day. No matter how big or small, it can be something as simple as hearing your favorite song on the radio. Practicing gratitude teaches you to reflect on all the things you have and what’s going well for you.

3. Practice meditation and yoga. Work on breathing techniques in meditation and yoga. An important strategy in mindfulness is active breathing. When you feel stress or anxiety, practice and focus on deep breathing to bring yourself into the moment and into your body rather than stuck in your head.

4. Be mindful in your daily activities. Bring mindfulness into your daily routine. Learn to enjoy whatever task is at hand instead of worrying about the future, or all the things you haven’t yet accomplished.

5. Turn off phones for an hour or two each day. Studies have shown being connected on social media elicits anxieties in some people. Having a time off, away from electronics, can help you feel present in the moment and less anxious!

Are you struggling with mindfulness? Strung up with anxiety, or dealing with depression? You’re not alone…and Creative Counseling Center is here for you! Our counselors help people just like you with a variety of mental health struggles, from finding gratitude to mourning the loss of a loved one, relationship woes to overcoming past abuse or neglect or simply managing communication in relationships and everything in between. Request a free phone consultation today and get started on your journey to happiness and fulfillment.

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