The world has become a fast-paced place. We are constantly bombarded with stimuli from several screens at once, usually throughout our entire working day, leaving us anxious and exhausted.
One of the ways people are coping with the stress and frenetic pace of modern living is through mindfulness practices. In this lesson, we'll take a look at what mindfulness is, how it influences our mental health, and how we can prevent mental health problems through mindfulness.
What is mindfulness, and what are some of the different types of mindfulness practices?
Mindfulness is a practice that involves paying attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental way. It is often associated with meditation, but it can also be practiced in other ways, such as through yoga, tai chi, or simply by focusing on your breathing.
There are several types of mindfulness exercises, including:
- Mindful breathing: Mindful breathing is one of the simplest exercises you can try when you are feeling anxious or depressed. This involves focusing on your breath moving as you inhale and exhale without trying to change it. You can do this for a few minutes at a time throughout the day or for longer periods during a formal meditation session.
- Body scan: During this exercise, you will focus on each part of your body, in turn, noticing any sensations or feelings that arise. You can do this lying down or sitting, and it can help you become more aware of any areas of tension or discomfort in your body.
- Mindful movement: If you absolutely hate sitting still, you can practice mindfulness through moving and practices like yoga or tai chi. It can help you become more aware of your body and its movements and can be a good way to relieve stress and anxiety symptoms.
- Mindful eating: Many of us suffer from disordered eating when we are stressed out. Mindful eating involves paying close attention to the experience of eating and noticing the taste, texture, and aroma of your food. It can help you become more aware of your hunger and fullness cues and can be a good way to practice self-care.
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How does mindfulness influence and improve mental health?
Psychologists have long believed that mindfulness and meditation can do wonders for patients suffering from physical and psychological symptoms as a result of stress. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a therapeutic approach that combines elements of cognitive therapy with mindfulness meditation practices. It was developed in the 1990s as a treatment for depression, specifically for individuals who have experienced multiple episodes of depression and are at high risk of relapse.
The goal of MBCT is to help individuals become more aware of their thoughts and feelings and to develop a more accepting and non-judgmental relationship with them. This can help to break the cycle of negative thinking that is often associated with depression and prevent future relapses.
MBCT typically involves an eight-week program that includes weekly group sessions and daily meditation practice. In these sessions, individuals learn mindfulness meditation practices such as body scans, mindful breathing, and mindful movement. They also learn cognitive techniques to help them recognize and challenge negative thought patterns.
However, you don't need to turn to psychologists to practice mindfulness. You can reduce your stress and anxiety through simple self-awareness practices. When you learn to observe your thoughts and feelings without judgment, you can become less reactive to stressful situations.
Mindfulness can also have an impact on your physical health. By paying attention to our thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations, we can become more attuned to our needs and better able to respond to them. You can make healthier choices and avoid negative behaviors that can contribute to mental health problems.
How mindfulness can help freelancers prevent mental problems
Freelancers are often under a lot of stress. You have to manage your own workload, finances, and client relationships without the support of coworkers or employers or the security of a regular paycheck.
It's no wonder that so many freelancers succumb to feelings of overwhelm, burnout, and anxiety. Mindfulness can be a useful tool for freelancers going through these ups and downs.
You don't have to dedicate hours of your day to mindfulness practice. Even a few minutes a day can reduce your stress levels and help you manage your anxiety. Start with short periods of mindful breathing or body scan, and gradually increase the time as you feel more comfortable. Try to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine, such as by doing a short meditation session in the morning or taking a mindful walk during your lunch break. When you make mindfulness a natural part of your day, you will gradually improve your mental and physical well-being.
As a freelancer, you manage your own schedules and workloads, and it can be tempting to work long hours without taking breaks. However, taking regular breaks can actually make you more productive and reduce your risk of burnout. Use your breaks to practice mindfulness, such as by doing a few minutes of mindful breathing or a short body scan. Incorporate mindfulness into your day by eating your lunch in a mindful way or taking a meditative walk.
If you feel as though it will be too hard to incorporate mindfulness on your own, why not sign up for a yoga or tai chi class, or ask another freelancer who practices mindfulness to do a guided meditation with you once or twice a week?
Top mindfulness practices to use in your everyday freelance life
There are very simple mindfulness exercises you can try right at your desk, including mindful breathing or mindful eating. Here are a few more exercises you can try to calm and center yourself at work:
- Mindful stretching: Take a few minutes to stretch your body, particularly if you have been sitting for an extended period. Stand up and reach your arms up to the ceiling, stretch your legs, and rotate your shoulders to release tension and improve your circulation.
- Mindful listening: When you are in a meeting or having a conversation with a client, practice mindful listening. Focus on the speaker's words and body language, and avoid distractions such as checking your phone or email. It's a simple practice, but it can help to improve communication and reduce misunderstandings.
- Mindful desk setup: Set up your desk in a way that promotes mindfulness. This could include placing a plant or a photo that brings you joy on your desk, using a diffuser with essential oils, or having a favorite quote or affirmation visible. This can help to create a calming and inspiring environment that promotes mindfulness.
- Adopt a gratitude practice: Take a few minutes each day to reflect on things you are grateful for, such as your health, your home, or your relationships. You can write them down in a journal every morning or jot them down on sticky notes to go back to during the day. Look for patterns that emerge over time. Are you mostly grateful that you have a healthy pipeline of work, or are you focused on your family?
- Practice loving-kindness meditation: One of the toughest things to contend with as a freelancer is difficult client relationships. You might find yourself feeling resentful or angry towards others during the course of the day, or feeling disheartened by negative commentary. Loving-kindness meditation can help. In loving-kindness meditation, you focus on generating feelings of warmth, love, and friendliness towards different individuals or groups. Typically, the practice involves repeating specific phrases or affirmations that express well wishes and positive intentions towards yourself and others. Some common phrases used in loving-kindness meditation include "May I be happy, May I be healthy, May I be safe, May I live with ease," and "May you be happy, May you be healthy, May you be safe, May you live with ease."
There are several apps and online programs that can help you with these practices, including Headspace, Breethe, and Calm if you need a little inspiration.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool for preventing mental health problems. By practicing mindfulness, we can reduce stress and anxiety, become more self-aware, and improve our relationships. For freelancers who often face unique stressors and challenges, mindfulness can be particularly beneficial. By incorporating mindfulness into their daily routine and using mindfulness practices to manage stress and anxiety, freelancers can prevent burnout and maintain good mental health.
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