Stress is a constant companion for most of us these days and one of the main disruptions to our sense of well-being. I have observed many people attempt to find well being by changing jobs, geography or relationships. Sometimes a change in our outer world can be helpful, but the key to stress reduction and creating good health in body, mind and spirit is making a shift in our inner world. That shift always begins with Awareness.
I came across an informative little article in an old Sprouts magazine (January/February 2011) that talks about three simple things that we can do to decrease stress and improve health, which, of course, is essential to our well-being. Note that each of these steps is a simple act of personal awareness:
Breathe: With awareness take slow deep breaths that extend the abdomen out; upon exhaling, pull the abdomen in so that all the air is expelled. When stressed, many of us take shallow breaths so less oxygen is reaching our cells, which undermines our health.
Be aware of your body: We hold stress in various places. Note such things as clenching teeth, butterflies in the stomach, scrunched, tight shoulders. With intention, relax into that part of the body; send your breath to that part of the body; in your mind, envision the stress and tension melting away.
“Approach everything you do with devoted intention”: Put your mind to your work, task or household chore as if it were the best and only thing you do. Bring non-judgment and love to your experiences and recognize that each is an opportunity to learn and grow, no matter how difficult or mundane.
These three simple steps ask us to slow down and heighten awareness of ourselves, as well as our surroundings. At first doing so may feel cumbersome, maybe even unproductive, but with practice this kind of awareness can become habitual and one of the main keys to cultivating personal well-being.