I am not a fan of Star Wars, but it's filled with life lessons I think we can all live by. And I can fully appreciate the concept of using the mind to achieve strength, courage, centeredness, and tranquility.
"Your focus determines your reality."
"A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. All his life has he looked away...to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was."
That organ you have sloshing around in your skull can be a powerful ally or your worst enemy, depending on how you focus it. You can either use your mind to ruminate on negativity, worst-case scenarios, what-ifs, and one fear after another, or you can use it to calm you, guide you, and strengthen you. When your mind is not at rest, it's either because you are regretting something in the past, or ruminating about the future. Remember, your moment of power is now, because all you have is the present. The past is done, the future is not yet written. When you keep your mind focused on the present, every worry, fear, and concern will melt away.
Mindfulness is one of the most effective techniques to help you regain focus when you are feeling stressed and anxious, but it requires practice. Fortunately, I have come across a few "Jedi mind tricks" to help you achieve that. Here are some quick and easy mindfulness exercises:
The Alphabet Game
For every letter of the alphabet, come up with a word that you find calming, or that makes you happy. This easy yet powerful exercise is an excellent way to pivot your mind away from anxiety and negativity. I can pretty much guarantee that you'll be so focused on finding words for letters Q, X, and Z, that you will forget about your worries, at least for a little while.
The 5 Senses Game
When you're anxious, your mind is more likely to become scattered, as it jumps from one worrying thought to another. Instead of falling into this trap, learn to tap into your 5 senses.
- What do you smell?
- What do you see? Zero-in on all the little details. How many colors do you see? How many people are around you? Count the number of people wearing glasses, the number of times you see the color red, the number of cell phones, or ceiling tiles.
- Tune into your auditory sense. Name every sound you hear. Or count the number of times a certain word is said.
- If you're sitting, describe how the chair feels. If you're standing, describe how the floor feels beneath your feet. Or tune into a particular part of your body. How does your hand and each finger feel?
An important aspect of mindfulness is tuning into your breathing. Anxiety and stress cause our breaths to become quick and shallow. Focus on your breathing, and make sure to take deep, slow breaths. Watch your chest rise and fall.
The Protective Bubble
This exercise is particularly useful if you're about to step into a situation where emotions are likely to be negative. Before walking through the door (or right before leaving your home), close your and visualize a bubble forming around you - it might even help to trace it out with your fingers. Make sure it encircles your entire body from head to toe. Tell yourself, "This is my protective bubble. Nothing gets in without my permission. Any negativity that hits me will bounce off my bubble." Say this over and over to yourself wherever you go, and visualize your bubble getting stronger and thicker, or covered in a glowing, protective film.
Many of us have developed the unfortunate habit of eating food mindlessly. We eat while working, watching TV, or talking. Learn to eat your food like you have all the time in the world - or like you're a food critic. Take small bites. Chew slowly. Savor every flavor and spice. Make it seem like every meal you eat is the best meal you've ever had. The added benefit of this exercise is that the slower you eat, the easier it will be to recognize the feeling of satiety.
Make sure to practice mindfulness during every activity you engage in, no matter how menial. Consciously focus on what you're doing in the present moment, whether you're eating, folding laundry, sitting in a waiting room, or walking outside. Focus on what's going on right now, because now is the only moment you have.
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