If you think about the things that affect your physical and mental health, the two that first come to mind are probably your workouts and your nutrition. Other factors that are as equally important are recovery, sleep, and stress management.
Developing skills to support and get the most out of your workouts, nutrition, recovery, sleep, and emotional control will not only help you improve your performance but also sustain long-term health. And one of these skills is mindfulness.
“the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” (source)
Here are a few simple ways to practice mindfulness:
1. Stay in the present.
Mindfulness is all about the present moment. When you catch your mind wandering, were you thinking about something in the past? While it’s good to reflect on the past, dwelling on past events won’t change anything. Focus on what you can do now, and let go of previous events. At the same time, worrying about things that could happen in the future take you away from the present. No matter how much you try, you can’t control the future. Do what you can in the present and trust that no matter what happens in the future, you can handle it.
2. Set an intention.
A lot of yoga classes begin with the instructor encouraging you to “set an intention for your practice.” There’s a reason for that; it creates mindfulness. When you approach a workout, meal, or meeting with a clear intention in mind, it’s easier to direct your focus on that objective. And when your mind begins to wander, because it will, you have something concrete to re-direct your attention back to.
Anytime you’re feeling anxious or stressed, you might also be holding your breath without realizing it. Taking a few deep breaths brings in more oxygen, lets your muscles relax, and gives you a focal point. The next time a to-do list hijacks your mind, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Focus on your inhales and your exhales, and then tackle your list, just one thing at a time.
You can reap the benefits of mindfulness by applying this tool to your workouts, meals, family time, commutes, date nights, and workday. Being more present has the power to have a positive impact on not only your health but also the quality of your life.