28 Apr Seven Easy Ways to Practice Mindfulness During Mental Health Awareness Month
By Jessica Wilkerson, LCSW
Often, mental health and being mindful go hand in hand. We are programmed from the start that productivity is king, and busyness brings bragging rights. Being productive and busy are important, and they can be very healthy for our mental health. However, too often we forget to balance our tasks with the art and joy of just being. We forget to “stop and smell the roses.” We may miss the importance of a specific moment because we are caught up in worrying about the past or future. We are not in tune with our body and neglect what it may be trying to tell us it needs.
It’s so easy to get caught in the mindless loop and to pile our days up with tasks, never giving ourselves a moment to take in the day. We are all guilty of it in some form or fashion. Changing these habits to adopt a more mindful mindset does not happen overnight. The good news is that small changes are all you need to get started to improve your mental health by being more mindful.
Mindfulness is a state of mind, it can involve a variety of different activities. Ultimately, mindfulness is being in the here and now, being a non-judgmental observer of your thoughts, and paying attention to your emotions and body. The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I challenge you to incorporate small, but effective mindfulness practices in your daily life. Below is a list of examples to consider.
- Eat a meal or a snack without the distraction of a screen or a task. Spend time savoring each bite, noticing your 5 senses.
- Go for a walk without music. Use your 5 senses to fully immerse yourself in your surroundings.
- Color in an adult coloring book. Try to focus all your attention on breathing and coloring. Notice how you feel using different colors.
- Take time out of your day to journal. Allow yourself to focus on writing out your thoughts and feelings.
- Write a list of gratitude. Try to be specific and write at least 5 things you are thankful for today.
- Attend a yoga class in person or online. Follow the instructor and focus on breathing and notice how your body feels throughout the process.
- Do a breathing exercise. Sit up straight or lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach, just below your belly button. Breath in through your nose, letting your stomach expand as you fill your lungs with air. You should feel your stomach rising as you inhale. Exhale slowly through your mouth, letting your stomach fall back down as the air leaves your lungs. Repeat the process several times.
Retraining your brain takes time! Start small, practice often, and build upon these healthy new habits! Remember, it is natural for your thoughts to drift during these activities. Kindly, redirect your thoughts back to your present activity or moment, even if it happens often! It takes practice, but your mental health will thank you for your work!
Jessica Wilkerson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and one of our Mental Health Counselors who supports schools in Waxahachie and Midlothian. She has 15 years of experience working with all ages in multiple settings.