Mindfulness: How to Turn Stress into Serenity

Are you stressed?

Is life running too fast and you just can’t keep up?

Does your life seem like an unending list of tasks and not enough time to complete them? If so, read on. Because there is something you can do to turn stress into serenity. Something simple.

All of us experience times when life seems full-on.

how confident are you

The good news is that we can bring more serenity into our life through a simple change. Most people think that we have to radically modify what we do in order to find serenity. And it’s true that certain habits, like meditation, exercise, or a balanced diet will improve your life. But the real key to finding serenity lies in changing the way we use our mind.

The key to serenity is mindfulness

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

What is Mindfulness?

When we are completely present, our experience changes in a significant way. Suddenly life seems more spacious and peaceful. Mindfulness means being present with a clear mind and an open heart.

Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote a brilliant book about mindfulness called Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. I’ve lent my copy to many people and it’s finally walked off my shelf and found another home.

Kabat-Zinn is a professor of medicine, as well as a meditation teacher. He founded the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. (You can watch a video of a talk he gave at the Center for Mindfulness here, read an article about his work here, or download a podcast interview with Jon here.)

It’s really due to Professor Kabat-Zinn’s work that mindfulness – which is a Buddhist meditation techniques – has become an integral part of mainstream medicine and psychology.

Mindfulness means bringing full, soft attention to the task at hand.

It seems simple, doesn’t it? And it is. But it’ not easy. Somehow, the mind tends to flit about from the past to the future and back again and rarely settles on the present. The reason our mind flits about is that our thoughts of the past and the future are driven by emotions.

For example, thoughts of the past are usually connected with regret, anger, grief, or pleasure – depending on which mind-stories we run. Whereas thoughts of the future are usually connected with anxiety, fear or hope. After all, it’s difficult to be afraid of the past, isn’t it?

When our emotions run high it can be difficult to experience and rest in the present moment. However, the present moment is when we are fully alive! I reckon that most people hang out more than 80% of their waking life in stories of the past or future.

Imagine that: eighty percent of our life remains unexperienced!

Because when our mind is engulfed with stories, we miss the experience of the moment.

How about this moment?

Pause for a moment right now and take three deep breaths… Notice sounds and smells. Feel the breath flowing in and out.

All of us tend to let our mind drift when faced with a ‘boring’ task. The good news is that if we pull ourselves back into the present moment, the task is transformed, and boredom soon disappears. So, whether it’s washing the dishes, or cutting carrots, or driving in the rush hour – mindfulness can transform ‘lost’ time into islands of ease and joy.

In his book The Miracle of Mindfulness, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says:

The first function of mindfulness is to recognize what is there. The second function of mindfulness is to embrace it and to get deeply in touch with it.

Mindfulness needs training.

It’s like riding a bike: you need to practice and get through the wobbly phase until the new skill be comes automatic. Mindfulness is a skill of the mind. And you need to practice it daily in order really taste the difference in your life.

A simple way to practice mindfulness.

Whenever you notice that your mind is straying away from the task at hand, stop for a moment. Then touch forefinger and thumb for one complete in-and out-breath. Then continue your task and notice how your experience changes through becoming mindful.
Try it. It works!

Let me know your thoughts about mindfulness in the comments. I’m keen to see how you go!

Enjoy these related articles:

How to Start Meditating: Ten Important Tips

Save the World – One Breath at a Time

De-stress, Unwind: The True Value of Silence

About the author

Mary Jaksch

Mary is passionate about helping people create a happy, purposeful, and fulfilling life. She is the founder of GoodlifeZEN and also the brains behind WritetoDone.com, one of the biggest blogs for writers on the Net. Mary is also a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.

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