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Mind-Body Techniques for Everyday Life
Part Two

The simple principle of “relax, focus, and breathe” is the foundation of most mind-body disciplines like yoga, Pilates, and tai chi. Other techniques that synergistically work hand-in-hand include mindfulness, non-judgmental observation, and visualization.

You don’t have to be an expert in meditation and you don’t have to be a yoga or tai chi master to benefit from these practices. Here’s how to apply them to your everyday life.

Mindfulness
Being mindful or being acutely aware of what is happening moment by moment within yourself and your immediate surroundings helps to relieve stress because you temporarily forget about what has happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow. This is what they mean when they say “live in the present moment”.

If you sit quietly with or without your eyes closed while practicing the “relax, focus, and breathe” technique, you are actually practicing the art of meditation even if you don’t call it that. Being mindful of how the breath goes in and out of the body helps to quiet down your mind.

But mindfulness isn’t just for meditation. Mindfulness can turn mundane daily routines like taking a shower or stretching in bed when you wake up into mind-body experiences.

When you take a walk through your neighborhood, be mindful of what your body is feeling and how you are breathing. Feel the breeze against your skin, listen to the rustling of the leaves, admire colorful flowers, and “smell the moment”.

“Mindful eating” can help you lose weight. Studies have found that people who eat slowly and pay attention to the taste and texture of their food are satisfied with less food.

Being mindful during exercise isn’t only for yoga or tai chi practitioners. It is also appropriate for people who do “other” types of exercise like lifting weights. Keeping your focus and awareness on your muscles and breath as you pump iron significantly improves the quality of your workout. Joseph Pilates said, “To shape the body, you have to shape the mind”. Experienced body builders couldn’t agree more.

Non-judgmental observation
One of the most difficult things about meditating is trying to keep the mind free from intruding thoughts. This can make meditating a stressful experience for some people, which in turn makes them give up from developing this healthful practice.

Instead of trying to block thoughts from entering your mind, allow them to come in and pass through but without dwelling on them. Don’t put any judgment – positive or negative -to your thoughts as they come in and go out. Acknowledge them but don’t attach any emotions. Just observe them impartially.

You can use this technique to prevent stress from building up when you start thinking about what you have forgotten to do or deadlines you have to meet. Recognize these things without scolding yourself for being forgetful or inefficient. Worrying or berating yourself doesn’t accomplish anything except create unnecessary stress and anxiety.

Visualization
If you are a visual learner and thinker, visualizing your breath coming in and going out while you meditate can help you to calm your mind and emotions. Whenever painful feelings surface, visualize them as a balloon that floats away or as a cloud that dissolves.

Athletes recognize the power of the mind-body connection and hone their skills by visualizing their game. Do the same thing when you have an important presentation or meeting coming up. Before going to sleep at night, visualize yourself flawlessly giving the presentation as you go through each point you want to impress on your audience.

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