Stress and anxiety are the enemies of happiness—disrupting your life, harming your health, destroying your relationships. But not all of us can make the big life changes we sometimes need to remove stress from our lives. Maybe you don’t have to.
Recent research has shown mindfulness can reduce anxiety and stress, making permanent changes in our brains. MRI scans revealed that after 8 weeks of practicing mindfulness, the amygdala—the part of our brain that triggers fight or flight when faced with stress and fear—shrinks. Instead of responding to stress in a primal way, we can respond thoughtfully.
Don’t have time to add mindful meditation to your life? Being mindful can be easier than you think.
Whether you’re washing dishes or doing the laundry, stay in that moment. Focus on the task at hand rather than planning for the next item on your list. Feel the dish in your hands. Listen to the water as it fills your washing machine.
When you’re walking to your car or heading into a meeting, think about it. Feel your feet each time they come in contact with the ground. Notice how your knees bend with each step and the way your arms swing at your sides.
We’re not talking about counting calories. Think about your food while you eat it. How does it taste? How does it feel? How does it smell? Then take it a step further. How did your food come to be? Acknowledge that, and be grateful for it.
Take a moment out of your day to listen to the world around you. Take in each sound you hear and acknowledge it—your neighbor mowing the yard, your co-worker taking a call, an airplane flying overhead.
Think about the things that are a part of your daily life that you take for granted—opening a door, turning on the lights, pouring a glass of water. It can be anything. The next time you do it, pay attention. Feel the weight of the doorknob beneath your hand. Notice the way the lights change the state of the room. Feel the glass become cooler in your hand. Think about what had to happen to make these moments possible, and appreciate them.