Mindfulness is a term that has become a buzzword in health and wellness spaces and conversations. As a commodity, mindfulness is used to sell products and services that are promised to deliver an experience of serenity and zen. As convincing as marketers can be, mindfulness is not something you can buy - these products and services might help you get to a state of calm, but are certainly not necessary! Mindfulness is solely about your quality of awareness. It is your ability to observe the sensations in your body and the feelings and thoughts that come up when you do so. As you bring your attention to the present moment, maintain an intention that as you notice roaming thoughts enter your mind, you will continue to bring your attention back to the present moment.
1. Engage your senses with aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is a powerful tool to active with your olfactory system, guide your breathing naturally, and can have immediate effects on your mood. For example, citrus scents and peppermint are known to be uplifting and refreshing, while lavender is known to be relaxing and soothing. If you have essential oils, you can use an oil scent of your choice and put a drop or two onto a cotton pad. Take five deep breaths in, and allow your exhales to sigh out of your mouth.
If you don't have essential oils, you can use citrus to produce the same effect. You can either slice a fresh lemon or orange and enjoy the scent or place lemon or orange in your freezer. Once frozen, you can pull it out and scratch the frozen surface to release the aroma. The additional benefits of frozen citrus are that the sensation of the temperature engages your senses, even more, to root you in the present moment.
2. Release neck and headache tension with a mini self-massage
Bend your elbows and bring both thumbs to find the occiput at the bottom of your skull, allowing your palms and fingers to rest against your head. If you suffer from neck pain or tension, it likely comes from this area where your neck and head meet. Apply light pressure with your thumbs and move them in towards and away from each other to give yourself a gentle massage. As you do this, bring your awareness to your breath and visualize sending your breath to the back of your head and neck. Allow yourself to picture the tension and stress melting away with each cycle of inhaling and exhale.
3. Get connected to your breath
Place one hand on your heart and one hand on your stomach, just beneath your belly button. Spend a couple of minutes breathing here, without changing anything, just feeling the warmth and presence of your hands on your torso. Feel the way your ribcage and belly expand and draw in naturally. As you continue to bring your attention to your breathing pattern, bring your focus to the repetition of your breathing - the way your inhales are always followed by an exhale, and the way this continues without forcing. Focusing on this repetition activates the relaxation response in the body, reduces anxiety and stress, and lowers heart rate.