We will all be plagued by uncertainty at one time or another. Whether our uncertainty is related to health, finances, our career or our relationship, there are things we can do to self-soothe. Mindfulness and meditation are usually referred to as going hand-in-hand, but mindfulness can come in all shapes and sizes, and not all of them involve sitting cross-legged with your eyes closed for a sustained period of time.
Mindfulness is a way of experiencing the world, you can practice mindfulness for reducing stress and anxiety without changing much at all. It is simply the practice of being aware, and of living in the moment. Practicing mindfulness can reduce any tension brought about by uncertainty, can boost your mood and can elicit a greater sense of overall wellbeing.
If you’re looking for a mindful way to quell anxiety and quiet your mind, the mindfulness techniques outlined here could help you on your path. If there is one thing in this life that’s certain, it’s uncertainty, so use some of these tips and tricks to help with that uncertainty, and use them as tools to arm yourself as best as you can against the inevitable.
Here are some of the best mindfulness exercises for anxiety, uncertainty and stress:
1. Get into nature
Nature is probably the most powerful anti-anxiety treatment there is. Its healing properties have been touted since the beginning of time; exposure to nature has not only been shown to improve mental health, it has also been shown to help speed up hospital recovery times post-surgery. It really can work wonders for your wellbeing.
We came from nature and we will return to nature (a certainty if ever there was one). There is a growing body of literature to support the idea of the interconnectedness of the human world, the animal world, and the plant world as one and the same. By connecting to the natural world, we connect to ourselves.
There is nothing more calming, or less compatible with anxiety or uncertainty, than being surrounded by the wonders of the living world. By getting outside and harnessing the symbiotic relationship between us and the natural world, we can expect to feel relaxed, energised, present and alert all at once.
Even if you live in a bustling metropolis, a walk in your local park can have the same curative properties as a hike through the woods or a stroll along the beach. Try it for yourself.
2. Visualise your highest self
Visualisation is a powerful technique recommended by practitioners to combat stress and anxiety, and for helping you to focus on the bigger picture of where you see yourself next week, next month, twelve months from now, or in five years time. The reason visualisation is so effective is that it can literally rewire your brain. Doing a visualisation - that is, picturing yourself as the best version of you, doing the things that make you feel most connected, feeling a particular way - can reprogram your brain away from being stuck in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’.
Next time you find yourself feeling fearful, anxious, scared or alone, close your eyes and visualise a moment in your perfect life. Imagine where you’d be, who you’d be with, how you’d be feeling and how you’d be spending the precious hours of your day. Really allow yourself to dream. As you sit and embrace the picture you’re creating, you should experience a wave of calm and a reduced feeling of anxiety. You should feel a releasing of tension throughout the body, a slowing down of thoughts, and perhaps an excited smile creeping into the corners of your mouth.
Visualisations can help you to successfully ease the disquiet of your anxious brain right then and there, and they can also act as a powerful tool to help you decide what you want from life and to begin to make steps towards your goals. The more aligned your life is with your deepest wants, the less anxiety you will experience day-to-day. Consider a visualisation practice the first step in the right direction.
3. Write down everything that makes you happy
If you only do one thing on this list, make it this simple daily practice of writing down ten things that make your heart sing. From the smell of fresh-cut grass or the sound of raindrops hitting the window while you’re inside and cosied up with a cup of cocoa, to the look on your daughter’s face when she learns a new word or the joy you find in doing something for others - anything goes here. Just make sure you write from the heart.
This practice works because it forces you to focus on the good and to set the bad stuff to one side, if only for the few minutes it takes to write your list. It forces you into a place where you become more mindful of the small things that bring light and love to you everyday.
Once writing out your happy list each morning has become a habit, you’ll notice yourself actively looking for things to include as you go about your day. Keeping your lists somewhere safe means that when you do find yourself feeling anxious or low, you can return to the lists you’ve already written and remind yourself that an improved mood is just a ten minute meditation or a long soak in the bath away. By reminding ourselves what made us feel better before, we are giving ourselves the tools to alleviate our anxiety this time around.
4. Practice solo-tasking
Multi-tasking can wreak absolute havoc with your zen. Try doing one thing at a time instead.
Research has shown that multitasking reduces your brainpower, making it easier for your thoughts to become muddled, followed by your mind beginning to race to keep up with itself and, finally, culminating in experiencing a sense of overwhelming panic and anxiety.
By focusing only on the task in hand, you’ll notice a higher level of engagement with the world around you and with your place in it. Ridding yourself of distractions in the form of technology, chores or other people, you’ll feel more grounded and centred and will be more productive, too. Your pace of thinking will slow, but the thoughts you do have will be sharper, clearer and more effective, and you’ll find yourself getting more done.
If you want to feel a sense of calm and control over your life and over your to-do list, then turn your out of office on while you work on that presentation, let the kids know that there will be no TV while you’re eating, go for a walk without your phone.
Practice solo-tasking when it comes to holding conversations too - it’ll enhance your interpersonal connections like nothing else.
5. Create a ritual that’s just for you (and commit to doing it every day)
If you’re looking to treat uncertainty with mindfulness then you need to commit to a ritual that is just for you, and you need to do it every damn day. Make it a priority.
A ritual is a bit like an anchor. By committing to a daily ritual you are giving yourself the gift of certainty - you can be certain upon waking up to a new day that you have your ritual to moor you as the choppy waters dance and dart around you.
What your ritual looks like is totally up to you - the more personalised, the better. It could be something from one of your Happy Lists, it could be a specific skincare routine , it could be a little prayer that you say to yourself first thing in the morning; the only rule is that your ritual should make you feel safe in an uncertain world, and that it should be something you actively want to return to each day.
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