Pausing a few minutes inspires mindfulness and boosts your everyday well-being.
By Kris Dreessen
Deadlines. Errands. There are a million tasks to do each day. But by taking a few minutes to sit, breathe and immerse ourselves in the present, we can boost our focus, reset our distracted minds and bring some much-welcome calm.
“There is a natural slowing down when you are not trying to do 20 things at once,” says Beth Cholette, psychologist, yoga teacher and clinical director of Geneseo’s South Village Counseling Services. “The practice of mindfulness is the opposite of multitasking. You sustain your attention on a particular object or task — or pause, and take it all in.”
Scientific American has published several articles examining neuroscience and clinical research that shows mindfulness and meditation practice actually change practitioners’ brains — how they respond to stimuli and stress, how they adapt and how they focus.
There is also evidence that meditation alleviates pain, anxiety and depression.
In strengthening your mindfulness muscle, says Cholette, what you are really doing is subconsciously training your mind to focus and slow down at other times, in other situations.
Practicing mindfulness, like meditation, says Cholette, trains us to notice our physical, energy, emotional and mental states. She incorporates mindfulness concepts in her student counseling sessions and yoga classes.
“It helps students to be more attentive to what’s going on inside of them,” says Cholette. “When we are mindful, we have space to make the best decisions for ourselves.”
Cholette leads classroom sessions at professors’ requests and leads a weekly mind-body focused yoga class on campus as well. Student Health and Counseling sponsors a weekly meditation break, led by Lars Mazzola, the Geneseo Yoga Club instructor. The yoga classes and meditation sessions are open to everyone.
That’s the beauty of beginning a mindfulness practice, says Cholette: You can do it anywhere. Sitting is typical, she says, but if that’s not your style, find something you can focus on, such as playing an instrument or savoring the simple act of eating a piece of fruit.
“It’s okay to find what suits you best,” she says. And be prepared for your thoughts to wander. “That is the practice — to notice it,” says Cholette. “Allowing yourself to sit — and just be — is a gift.”
Breathe Easier: Beth Cholette offers these mindfulness exercises
Try a quick check-in, setting aside 1 to 3 minutes to engage in a powerful pause. For each exercise, practice gentle awareness of the present moment without judging or trying to change anything about your reality. Start seated in a manner comfortable for you — on the floor, on a cushion, in a chair. Find a posture that is comfortable yet alert. Your eyes can be closed or your gaze soft and unfocused.
- Observe your breath. Notice the sensations of the breath in your body — your nose, chest or belly. Become aware of one full breath, from the very start of your inhale to the very end of your exhale.
- Check in with your body. Turn your attention toward physical sensations, thoughts, emotions and energy levels. Notice with awareness and curiosity.
- Draw your attention to your senses. Name one thing you can see, hear, touch, smell and taste. Alternatively, choose one sense and name five to 10 things you sense (e.g., five things you see that are yellow, five sounds you can hear around you).
- Combine breath with movement. As you breathe in, circle your arms out to the sides and overhead; as you breathe out, allow your arms to float back down. Repeat several times.
- Notice the good things. Identify one to three things that went well for you yesterday (or in the past week), no matter how small.
- Offer yourself compassion for trying something new. If you get off track, remember that you can always begin again; each moment is a new opportunity to practice being mindful.