Practicing mindfulness can help you gain wisdom from difficult situations and enjoy your day-to-day life more fully.
"We can think as many as 70,000 thoughts a day, according to scientific research," says Angela Buttimer, MS, NCC, RYT, LPC, a licensed psychotherapist at Cancer Wellness. "Most of these thoughts are repetitive and either oriented toward the past or the future. When we frequently miss the present moment, we begin to miss our lives."
She adds, "Cancer can be a wake-up call. People will say, 'I don't want to miss any more of my life. I want to be present for all of it – not just the good moments, but present for everything.' That takes real maturity. We can receive a lot of wisdom from difficult times, so it is important to pay attention."
4 ways to practice mindfulness each day
"I've found that people who practice meditation and mindfulness regularly are more effective, creative and productive," says Buttimer. "Rather than barreling through their day, they step away to center themselves."
She recommends these steps to improve mindfulness during your day:
- Begin each morning with a meditation practice. It will set the tone for the day and remind you to be present.
- Create sacred pauses throughout your day. Some people set a timer for 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m. Stop and breathe, do yoga stretches or talk a quick walk.
- Pair your sacred pauses with something you already do each day. This may be brewing your coffee or waiting for the shower to warm up. Use this time to take three deep breaths. When you connect it with another activity, mindfulness isn't one more thing to add to your to-do list.
- Practice mindful eating at mealtimes. Instead of reading, working, watching television or surfing the Internet on your phone, eat slowly and savor your food.
Health benefits of mindfulness
Not only will practicing mindfulness help you respond more skillfully in life, it can also have some big health benefits:
- Better immune functioning
- Decreased blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Improved sleep
- Reduced inflammation
- Stronger relationships
"We get so caught up in our ambitions and endless to-do lists, but your to-do list will never end," she says. "It's important to create time to center yourself."
Learn additional mindfulness and meditation tips.