Get unlimited access to
personalised wellness content

Health

5 Easy Mindfulness Habits To Improve Your Mental Health

Cultivating mindfulness is the key to building resilience. It’s a skill that trains us to cope with stress and recognise our true purpose. Like any skill, it can be perfected with consistent effort. Here are five habits to improve mental health and incorporate daily mindfulness.

By D Tejaswi
17 Sep 2022

With the many distractions that we live with today, it is easy to lose your sense of balance and calm. This unsettling feeling can linger on and creep into your day-to-day life, feeding anxiety, sleeplessness, and more. However, with a little practice and effort, you can regain control of your attention. This is possible by practising daily mindfulness.

 

Daily mindfulness helps you be fully present and aware of where you are and what you're doing. It enables you to look at things nonjudgmentally which helps counter stress, says Clinical Psychological Review, 2011. Research published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2010 shows that one reason being mindful benefits our physical and mental health is that excessive orientation toward the past or future is related to feelings of depression and anxiety.

 

A study published in Harvard Review of Psychiatry that employed two randomised comparison groups, one that used mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) therapy and one that did not found that the MBSR group showed greater long term improvements in mental health including positive mood, calmness and improved resilience. MBSR utilised mindfulness meditation and yoga to help observe one’s mind as a stream of consciousness without attaching any judgement. We spoke to Geeta Magesh, a Hyderabad-based independent clinical psychologist, for easy ways to incorporate daily mindfulness and improve mental health.

 

Related Story: How to Be More Mindful At Work

 

“Mindfulness lets you shift your view, enabling you to see that everything is not black and white,” she says. “It allows you to be present with your full spectrum of emotions and notice that you can be more compassionate with yourself and in fact approach yourself with openness and forgiveness,” says Magesh. When you self-forgive, you are kind to yourself, which reduces anxiety and related depression, finds Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 2021. On the other hand, when you are highly self-critical, you are more likely to experience significant negativity, stress, pessimism, and a decline in mental health.

 

Related Story: Becoming More Conscious and Making Better Decisions

 

Here are 5 mindfulness habits to improve mental health.

1. Take deep abdominal breaths

This type of breathing meditation involves taking slow, controlled, deep breaths through your nose. The goal is to breathe deep enough to feel your belly rise. This increases the amount of oxygen you inhale. In addition, it helps slow down your heart rate and gain sustained attention. To practice belly breathing, do this.

  • Lie on your back on a flat surface (or in bed) with your knees bent.
  • Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly, just below your rib cage.
  • Breathe in slowly through your nose, letting the air rise your lower belly. The hand on your chest should remain still, while the one on your belly should rise.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and let them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your belly should move down to its original position.

 

You can also practice this sitting in a chair, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head, and neck relaxed. Practice for five to 10 minutes, several times a day if possible.

 

“The way you breathe is linked to the systems of the body that make you feel relaxed. By taking belly breaths, you tell your body that it is okay for you to feel at ease and comfortable,” explains Magesh.

 

Related Story: The Power of Mindful Breathing: Advantages and Easy Techniques You Should Know About

 

2. Practice non-judgmental awareness

“Most of the time the brain automatically tries to judge a situation or a person. It perceives whether things are good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unfair, important or unimportant, urgent or non-urgent and so on. Non-judgmental awareness, on the other hand, allows you to take a pause and get a new perspective,” says Magesh. To practice non-judgmental awareness, ask yourselves some questions.

  • “Was this judgement something that popped into my mind, or is there another way I can see this?”
  • “Do I really need to think this way or is there a better alternative?”

 

Often when you ask yourselves such questions, you understand that things are not as stressful as they seem. “It gives you a reasonable moment to think and act,” explains Magesh. Non-judgmental awareness gives you the power of choice and allows you to gain a meaningful focus, says Mindfulness, 2012.

 

3. Try one-way-mindfulness

One-way-mindfulness is a practice that trains you to not constantly flit from one task to another. The premise is that the quality of the work suffers and there’s an increase in stress levels when you multitask. “One-way-mindfulness enables you to stay focussed on the task at hand. It allows you to stay tuned to the present moment,” says Magesh. On the other hand, when you try to do multiple things at a time, simple tasks take longer than they should, throwing off your daily schedule, and causing stress. When you focus on a single task, chances are, you will feel less stressed, and even enjoy the task you are performing. Neuroscience shows that this kind of brain training and a form of mindfulness can boost the areas of the brain that have to do with attention regulation. To hone this skill, pick a task and set aside time to only do that task. Resist the urge to respond to emails, texts and other distractions during that fixed time.

 

Related Story: 5 Reasons Why You Should Stop Multitasking Now

 

4. Listen deeply

Poor listeners frequently experience unsatisfactory communication patterns where they cannot differentiate between their own interests and those of others. “Good listening, on the other hand, gives you the time and space to fully absorb any situation. It can foster a deep, caring attitude both for yourself and for others,” says Magesh. Because deep listening is linked to opening one’s awareness to the unknown and unexpected, it also forms a good ground for self awareness—a basic requisite for mindfulness and mental health.

 

“Always hear and halt. Take a breath full of halt and then ask for clarity,” suggests Magesh. Ask open ended questions, pay full attention to the conversation, observe body language, make eye contact and be patient.

 

5. Set intentions

“Setting intentions can help you be mindful. Your brain is a pleasure-seeking machine. It construes narratives that suit its personal goals. But when you set an intention, you ask the brain to understand the context in its actual reality—helping you think clearly and mindfully,” explains Magesh. Thankfully, you do not need hours to set an intention for the day, a minute or two in the morning is all you need. Now, this intention doesn’t have to just be, “I will be more mindful starting from today.” You can creatively focus on different components of mindfulness each day to break down the goals and make it easy for you to follow the intentions.

 

Here are some intentions to get you started.

  • When I am overwhelmed, I will take a break by taking four deep breaths.
  • Today, I will see my internal thoughts with objective awareness.
  • I will practice non-judgmental awareness with my partner today.
  • I will focus only on the essentials and will not allow my mind to linger on that which is not important.
  • I will not be distracted by intrusive thoughts.

 

Related Story: Learning To Move—And Live—With Intention

 

 

 

COMMENTS

EXPLORE MORE

comment
DISCLAIMER

© Copyright Lifetime Wellness Rx International Limited. All rights reserved throughout India. Reproduction in part or in whole is prohibited. Wellness suggestions and treatments discussed in this issue are only indicators of what makes one healthy or not. It may not be an accurate assessment of what’s specifically ideal for you. Consult with your doctor before undertaking any treatment.