Mindfulness has become a widely used approach that is particularly effective in helping people overcome stress and anxiety,* according to McMaster University. The practice has its roots in Buddhism and involves non-judgemental, moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, sensations and surroundings.*

Practicing mindfulness regularly strengthens your ability to be in the present and not get distracted or distressed by negative thoughts of the past or worries about the future. Mindfulness exercises help direct your attention away from random negative thoughts and feelings that can increase anxiety and be very draining, and engage more with the world around you,* advises Mayo Clinic.

Practicing mindfulness works because it helps you live in the moment. These exercises are good for your mental and physical health at any time, but especially valuable in managing the higher levels of stress and anxiety that many older adults are experiencing during the pandemic,* suggests Toronto’s Centre for Addition and Mental Health (CAMH).

Here are some mindfulness practices and techniques to help ease stress and anxiety:

1. Do mindful breathing. When you experience negative thoughts, try to sit down, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. *Sitting, and breathing slowly and deeply for just a few minutes, can calm, soothe and clear your mind.*

2. Meditate in motion with tai chi. Tai chi is a graceful form of exercise often used for stress reduction,* while also increasing flexibility and balance. It eases anxiety and promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements. Tai chi is a low-impact activity, which can be done outdoors or indoors, and is especially suitable for older adults.

3. Practice yoga to ease stress response. Studies suggest yoga lowers anxiety by modulating the body’s stress response system,* says Harvard Medical School. Yoga helps damp down the body’s heightened stress response by lowering heart rate and blood pressure, and by slowing breathing.*

4. Be present through all your senses. A simple mindfulness exercise is to notice what you are experiencing right now through any, or all your senses: sound, sight, touch, taste, and smell,* suggests Anxiety Canada. Take a few slow breaths and ask yourself in succession: what are three things I hear, see, feel, smell and taste?

5. Scan your body. Lie down in a comfortable place, close your eyes, breathe in and out, and bring a gentle awareness to the sensations in each part of your body, noticing any aches, pains, tension, or discomfort. When you are ready, slowly open your eyes and bring your attention back to your surroundings.* Body scan meditation is an effective way to release physical tension and discomfort related to an anxious emotional state.

Chartwell Retirement Residences offers residents mindful activities such as yoga, tai chi and meditation that can help ease stress and anxiety, while promoting positive mental and emotional wellbeing.

*The following sources are references for this in order of appearance:
1. McMaster University. “Struggling to lose weight? Mindfulness may be the solution.” (2020), online: https://www.mcmasteroptimalaging.org/blog/detail/blog/2017/09/05/struggling-to-lose-weight-mindfulness-may-be-the-solution
2. Mayo Clinic. “Mayo Mindfulness: How mindfulness helps you live in the moment.” (2018), online: https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-mindfulness-how-mindfulness-helps-you-live-in-the-moment/
3. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. “Coping with stress and anxiety.” (2020), online: https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-health-and-covid-19/coping-with-stress-and-anxiety
4. Mayo Clinic. “Stress management: Tai chi helps reduce stress and anxiety.” (2018), online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/tai-chi/art-20045184?p=1
5. Harvard Medical School. “Yoga for anxiety and depression.” (2018), online: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression
6. Anxiety Canada. “Using your senses.” (2020), online: https://www.anxietycanada.com/articles/using-your-senses/
7. Anxiety Canada. “Body scan.” ( 2019), online: https://anxietycanada.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Body_Scan.pdf