Sidney R. Hinds III, DCoE Public Affairs on January 5, 2017
Mindfulness benefits both the mind and body. It can help you maintain control and balance and achieve your goals. Mindfulness can also help improve breathing, posture and other components of mind-body wellness through simple exercises.
In addition to supporting psychological health, mindfulness can help improve overall wellness, said Mark Bates, associate director of psychological health promotion for the Deployment Health Clinical Center.
“Psychological health is not just absence of illness, but a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being,” Bates said, referencing the World Health Organization definition.
“You can easily work mindfulness exercises into day-to-day life without disrupting regular routines. In addition, linking new behaviors to existing routines (PDF) is a powerful way to create new habits,” Bates said.
“These very simple activities, when used every day, can make a big difference,” Bates said. “In fact, the power of these exercises — also called microhabits — lies in their simplicity and their benefits grow the more regularly you use them.”
To start, choose an exercise that seems like a good fit with your goals and interests, Bates said. As you grow comfortable with that exercise, you can add more. Involving friends and family, and rewarding yourself, can help with motivation.
Here are four exercises you can try today:
- Grounding. Increase stability in body and mind by coming to rest in a symmetrical and balanced position. For example, use a seated position that allows the floor and chair to fully support the weight of your body. Notice what it feels like to let your body fully relax.
- Controlled breathing. Take slow, deep breaths and focus on how your body moves while breathing. This can activate the body’s relaxation system and you can do it in almost any setting. Apps like Breathe2Relax can help you learn healthy breathing.
- Stretching. Stretching the neck and shoulders helps you increase awareness of the tension in your body and its release. The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center offers a guided video of neck stretches that are great for anyone to do anywhere, including the workplace.
- Self-monitoring. Simply tracking your experiences during the day can help you increase awareness and reach behavioral goals. Keeping a record or a visual reminder can help. The T2 Mood Tracker mobile app can also help you monitor your mood from your smartphone.
Practice mindfulness in daily activities by making it a part of your daily routine. Minimize distractions, keep good posture, focus on one thing at a time and stay aware of the senses. Each of these steps will benefit overall wellness.
Finally, be sure to focus on how each exercise will improve wellness. Don’t simply go through the motions, you’ll see more benefits when you use these tips with intention, Bates said.
To learn more about mindfulness, visit the DCoE mindfulness blog page.