Spring is a time of growth. With longer daylight hours helping to melt those seasonal winter blues, now is an ideal time to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness can have a powerful impact on both our mental and physical health, encouraging positivity and productivity all season long. To learn more about what mindfulness is, how it can affect your seasonal mood, and how to add it to your daily spring routine, keep reading.
What is mindfulness?In the simplest of definitions, mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the current moment. It’s learning to remain aware of how you’re feeling mentally, emotionally, physically—and being better able to act on those feelings when necessary. Without proper mindfulness, we can lose mental clarity. Suddenly, those tricky or stressful situations in life might become overwhelming. Fortunately, mindfulness is a characteristic you already possess. It just takes practice to reap the benefits.
What are the benefits of practicing mindfulness?It’s no secret that negative events or negativity in the world around you can throw normal daily life off track. (This year, more than most, has presented that kind of disruption.) By practicing mindfulness, you can learn to mentally absorb events so that you don’t react as intensely (internally or externally). Mindfulness can improve your emotional processing, so you can stay positive and calm in periods of stress. In recent decades, researchers have discovered that routinely practicing mindfulness can reduce stress, improve chronic pain levels, increase mental clarity, and generally enhance performance and productivity. According to a 2013 study, participants with underlying anxiety disorders showed overall reduced anxiety symptoms. They also reacted to and coped better with stress with the help of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program.
Why is springtime the perfect time for mindfulness?On average, 5% of the U.S. population suffers from seasonal depression each year. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) seasonal depression occurs in the winter and fall months due to lower sunlight and colder temperatures. These factors negatively affect levels of serotonin, a mood-enhancing neurotransmitter. As spring brings more sunlight and higher temperatures, take advantage of these seasonal changes to boost your mindfulness. While mindfulness alone cannot eliminate SAD, it can help keep a positive mindset to fuel a more productive, happy spring that prepares you for fall and winter.
How to start practicing mindfulness
- Mindfulness ultimately boils down to reflecting and noticing your current emotions, physical sensations, and environment. For a more direct approach—and one that can be very powerful—it’s useful to make a simple meditation practice part of your daily routine. But practicing mindfulness can also mean just being more present as you go through your normal day. For instance:
- Ditch technology for regular walks in nature. Even simple exercise has been shown to boost self-esteem and cognitive function, while proximity to plants has been shown to improve overall satisfaction.
- Participate in healthy visualization. Visualization is a type of meditation that encourages you to focus on calming scenes or positive past events to lower your heart rate and relieve moments of high stress.
- Call out your emotions (good and bad). Mindfulness demands you acknowledge all emotions, so you can healthily navigate them. When you’re feeling a strong emotion, such as anger, name it verbally or on paper. Then, set an hourly timer to check in with yourself and how you’re feeling.