Want to reap the benefits of mindfulness but not quite sure where to start? Fear not! We asked our new guest blogger and wellness guru Ashley Hunt to share a simple mindfulness practice you can do every day, from her #30daysofmindfulness challenge.
Maybe meditation seems intimidating. You’ve heard all the health benefits and know it will make you less stressed and more productive, but the idea of sitting still for 20 minutes trying not to think just doesn’t seem realistic.
The good news is, meditation doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. There are simple mindfulness practices that can be incorporated effortlessly into your daily routine to help you stay present. We live increasingly busy lives, rushing from task to task, rarely experiencing what is happening to us and around us. We too often spend time thinking about the past or worrying about the future instead of living in the moment. We require so much external stimulation that we can hardly let a second go by without scrolling through social media or texting our friends. So how can we slow down?
The first step is is to take a deep breath.
I know this may seem far too basic, but breathing is key. While you may think you know how to breath, in fact most of us do it wrong. Over time, with our stressful lifestyle, we develop a habit of shallow breathing into our chest. Instead, we should be breathing deeply into our stomach, using our diaphragm and lungs to their full capacity.
Deep belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, is instantly calming as it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, and reduces the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is what will send you into “fight or flight” mode. The balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems regulate how the body deals with stress.
How do we do it?
I recommend lying on your back, although it can be done anywhere and at any time. Place both hands on your stomach. Take a deep breath in and try to fill your belly with as much air as you can. Exhale completely. Take another breath, and this time try to only fill the belly with air and not let the chest rise at all. Exhale completely. Take five to ten more breaths like this.
This one simple exercise can transform your whole day, affecting your mood, energy and outlook. See how many times you can repeat this throughout your day – while walking to the shop, when you’re on the bus, sitting at your desk or when you get into bed – and discover the positive effect it can have on your life.
– Ashley Hunt.