By Gretchen Roberts
Updated: June 25, 2008

From Health magazine
Its common sense, really. Being aware of the moment has a slew of physical and emotional health benefits, from lowering your stress levels and negative emotions to boosting your immune system. Why, then, is it so hard for the average woman to slow down and tune in to the here and now?

“Our modern world actually trains us to pay less attention and to become caught up in habits of worry and hurry,” says Jeff Brantley, MD, director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the
Duke Center for Integrative Medicine in Durham, N.C., and author of Calming Your Anxious Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You From Anxiety, Fear, and Panic. The antidote? Purposely paying attention to one thing at a time. “Being mindful is really just waking up with awareness and being truly present in your own life,” Dr. Brantley says, whether its becoming more aware of the sound and feeling of the computer keyboard on the pads of your fingers or enjoying the bittersweet, creamy taste of that iced latte youre sipping.

To snatch a few moments of focus in your busy days, try one of these five-minute mindfulness-meditation techniques from Cyndi Lee, founder of OM Yoga Center in New York City and author of OM Yoga: A Guide to Daily Practice.

Just sit still for a while
Sit on a firm pillow or cushion, place your palms on your thighs, open your eyes about halfway, and gaze at the floor about 4 feet in front of you; let your eyes relax, without your vision getting fuzzy. Place your attention on breathing, inhaling and exhaling naturally. Whenever you notice yourself thinking about something else (it will happen a lot), return your attention to your breath.

Take a peaceful stroll
Walk slowly down the street for one block, taking your pace down several notches from the purposeful stride you use when you want to get somewhere. Keep your steps steady and even, and keep your gaze at eye level. Try to stay present with every footfall—heel, ball, toe. When you get caught up in a thought, return your mind to the sensation (the roll and the rhythm) of walking.

Focus on your breathing
Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position and observe your breath. Deepen your breathing very slowly, breath by breath. Breathe in and out through your nose, with lips softly touching, teeth separated, and jaw loose. As you inhale, feel your body expand; as you exhale, feel your body soften back in toward your center. Let your mind ride on your breath.

Other things to try

  • The ancient Greeks used worry stones to reduce stress—and you can too. Pick up smooth stones from your local garden center (or your yard), and rub them to help calm frayed nerves.
  • Keep dwelling on work during your morning walk? Tuck fragrant herbs into a medicine bag ($48), and breathe in their aromas to remind yourself to relax.

Next: Workouts That Nourish Body and Mind
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