What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is awareness without judgement. As journalists, we notice things for a living. Mindfulness is essentially just noticing things without attaching a good or bad label to them. We’re all human. Mindfulness isn’t about never feeling stressed or anxious — these are both normal reactions — it’s about how we manage those reactions. It’s about not letting stress or anxiety derail you.

Studies have shown that mindfulness practices can reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, by more than 50%. Because it decreases cortisol levels caused by anxiety and stress, mindfulness meditation can also help keep the immune system strong. It improves memory and focus, and over time, with a regular practice, it can strengthen your ability to adapt to stress and hostile situations.

Breathing Techniques and Mindfulness Exercises  

Here are some breathing techniques and mindfulness exercises that can help bring your body back down from anxiety and panic. If possible, try to practice them seated comfortably in a quiet space. However, if you’re out reporting, or working in an office, they can be done anywhere you feel comfortable practicing them.

  1. Box Breath: Inhale for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4.
  2. Elongated Breath: Inhale for at least 8 counts, visualizing your breath rising up through top of your head. Exhale for at least 8 counts, visualizing down through your feet.
  3. 5-3-3 Breath: 5 deep breaths in/out through nose, 3 in through nose/out mouth, 3 with “AHH” noise, letting those frustrations out.
  4. Body Scan Meditation: Relax each part of your body from your feet to your head. Follow this link to a 30 minute guided body scan meditation: https://www.mindful.org/beginners-body-scan-meditation/.  
  5. Counting Your Breath: Start backwards from 11. This one is particularly helpful for falling asleep.
  6. Blueberry Exercise: Sit down with a sheet of paper or an empty computer document and set a timer for 5 minutes. In that 5 minutes, write down any words that come into your head about how to describe a blueberry. What does it taste like? Feel like? Look like? Smell like? If blueberries don’t whip you into a verbal frenzy, you can describe what you see out your window or your own favorite food.
  7. Ocean Breath: Gently restrict the throat like you’re fogging up a mirror, close your lips and inhale/exhale through the nose, making an ocean sound. It will sound a little like you’re impersonating Darth Vader.
  8. Mantra: Choose whatever words or phrases you like, and repeat as you slowly inhale and exhale.
  9. Grounded Breath: You do this one standing. Inhale for at least 8 counts, imagining you’re growing tall, exhale for at least 8 counts to visualize your feet rooting into the ground.
  10. Mindful Eating/Walking Meditation: When you sit down to eat, put away all electronics and distractions. Focus solely on your food — what it tastes like, how it smells, how you feel as you’re eating it. For a walking meditation, do the same. What do you see? What do you hear? How do you feel?