Do you hear that? That sound in the distance—what does it sound like to you? Where could the source be located? If you could go there, what might it look like? While answering these questions, you have started to practice mindfulness. The practice of mindfulness is so simple that it often gets overlooked. At the same time, it's so simple that you've probably already practiced mindfulness without even realizing it. In simple terms, practicing mindfulness means detaching yourself from your mental state and focusing on your physical state of being. It is important to acknowledge the intersectionality between mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness is best understood as a form of meditation, but it can be practiced in various ways. Later, I’ll show you my favorites.
Who can benefit from mindfulness, though? The answer to that is everyone. The objective of mindfulness is to deescalate rushing thoughts and stressful moments. As an individual who suffers from anxiety, being a mindfulness practitioner is a tool that has been useful when I have utilized it. For some context, allow me to introduce you to my world. I am currently a student-athlete at the University of California, Merced. I also founded a non-profit organization called the "Human Help Project" while working as a sports photographer at the university as well. I major in business management and economics and minor in critical race and ethnic studies. With a workload like this, anxiety attacks are inevitable. Practicing mindfulness is a skill that I learned that allowed me to stay grounded through a sandstorm. Like, how do you actually practice mindfulness? Here are two of my favorite exercises.
This is one that I practice every single morning. Sit in front of a window. This window doesn’t have to have an amazing view; just work with what you have. I use the window that looks into my backyard. Music is optional, but I prefer something soft or relaxing (Pink & White by Frank Ocean is my go-to). Start to name items that you see, then when you run out of things, go back and name the colors that you see. From here, find something that is moving; this could be a bird, a leaf, or even moving blades of grass. Your default can always be the movement of the clouds (be mindful of the sun; it will blind you). Your objective here is to focus your mind on movement and avoid distraction. Don’t analyze, don’t think, don’t complicate; just watch. Whenever you feel ready, your brain will snap back into its regularly scheduled programming, and your exercise is complete.
I regularly perform this exercise to reduce or stop my anxiety attacks. Let’s keep in mind that everyone’s body is unique; there is never a true guarantee. For this exercise, find someplace comfortable for you. I like to close my eyes because I know it helps me focus and control my thoughts. Music is also a personal preference. Start by becoming aware of your breathing, regardless of its state, and taking control. I like to take ten deep breaths—five slow seconds in and five slow seconds out. From here, relax and try to do some body analysis. What part of your body hurts? Which muscles are tight? Focus on that tingling sensation you feel in your fingertips, and when you feel it, send it through your body into your feet. Personally, when I feel the tingles in my fingers and feet, it indicates to me that I have connected my mind and body back together and regained control.
There are various ways in which you can practice mindfulness other than through these exercises. Practice being mindful of the way you talk to others. Practice being mindful of the way you clean and organize. Practice being mindful of attention to detail. Attention and awareness can get overlooked in the frenzy of today’s world, but others will notice and appreciate your efforts. It is important to realize the power of attention. Remember to take a moment and break free from your brain’s daily cycle. Lastly, exercise your mental strength. How focused can you be? How long can you stay like that? Train the mind, and the body will follow.
- Myles Haynes
Myles Haynes is a UC Merced sophomore studying business with a concentration in critical race and ethnic studies, with the intention of opening organic grocery stores in underserved neighborhoods. He founded The Human Help Project while excelling in both his studies and on the basketball court.
The Human Help Project is a student-run nonprofit organization whose goal is to improve living conditions in Merced County's underserved neighborhoods. By offering seasonal clothing, food, and hygiene products to the less fortunate, they act as a vehicle for students to give back and serve those in need.
If you’d like to donate or simply learn more about The Human Help Project please follow us on Instagram @humanhelpproject