Anyone who lives in a place like New York City understands it can be difficult to relax in such a constantly stimulating environment. This isn’t good for your mental health in the long run. Research has shown that city-dwellers may be more prone to anxiety and mood disorders than others because their brains are constantly in “fight or flight” mode.
Practicing mindfulness can help you guard against this. Mindfulness, a form of meditation that involves focusing on the present moment, is very effective as a means of promoting relaxation.
The following exercises illustrate some of the ways you can take advantage of it in a busy city. You don’t need to leave civilization to practice mindfulness. Even if you’re an ambitious New Yorker, you can easily stay mindful in these key ways.
Practice Mindful Walking
Again, mindfulness is about focusing on the present moment. Your goal is to experience the moment without judgment. You aren’t trying to change anything. You aren’t trying to reach a different state of being. You’re simply experiencing the moment as it is.
People often achieve this by sitting with their eyes closed and focusing on the sensation of their breath moving in and out of their body. This is a basic form of mindfulness meditation, and it’s certainly one you can likely practice in your own home.
That said, when you’re a busy New Yorker, this isn’t always an option. People who live in this city are frequently on-the-go. Luckily, you can still practice mindfulness, even when you’re rushing through Midtown.
All you have to do is focus on the sensation of walking. While you should pay enough attention to your surroundings to safely navigate the streets, you can use the feeling of placing one foot in front of the other as an “anchor” to stay in the present moment.
This might also be something you want to practice when you actually have free time. Instead of spending your weekend afternoon watching TV or browsing the Internet, head to a local park (spending time in green spaces is also good for your mental health!) and slowly practice mindful walking.
Practice Mindful Eating
Eating mindfully is important. Too many New Yorkers struggle with health issues because they don’t pay attention to their eating habits. When you’re at your desk trying to complete a project for work, it’s easy to mindlessly gorge on fast food.
This is a good reason to experiment with mindful eating as well. Doing so yields the same benefits as any mindfulness exercise, while also helping you develop a better relationship with food.
It’s a fairly simple technique. When you take a bite of food, truly focus on every aspect of the experience. Taste your food’s flavors. Notice its texture. Feel the sensation of chewing. Because you have to eat every day anyway, using meals as opportunities to practice mindfulness can be a valuable tactic.
Listen to the City
Some people make the mistake of assuming they need to be in a quiet environment to practice mindfulness meditation. This isn’t necessarily the case. Although it can be easier to focus on the present moment in silence, the main goal of mindfulness is to simply be aware of what you are experiencing by focusing on an anchor.
That anchor can be the noise you hear outside your apartment. If you’re settling down for a meditation session, but fear you won’t be able to tune out the constant sound of drivers and pedestrians outside, use their sounds as your anchor. Sit with your eyes closed and focus on the sounds of the city without judging them. Simply listen with intention. When you can’t change your surroundings, you can at least use them to your advantage.
It’s important to understand that mindfulness won’t change your life immediately. Although the benefits are real, it may take some time for you to notice them. You need to practice mindfulness exercises regularly and frequently to see results. Additionally, if you’re struggling with genuine mental health conditions, it might also be necessary to get help from a therapist. Start by scheduling a consultation with Therapy24x7.
That doesn’t mean mindfulness isn’t worth your time. All New Yorkers can benefit from it. As these exercises demonstrate, all New Yorkers can also practice it.