Mindfulness and mediation are great tools to manage stress and anxiety. They can help to lower your baseline level of stress, which makes it much easier to deal with stressful situation and makes non-stressful situations more enjoyable. I’ve been practicing these skills for a year or two now. And I do mean “practice” and I do mean “skills.” These techniques are simple, but not easy. And it takes practice to build the skill required.
Mindfulness is often practiced as a meditation. You sit somewhere comfortable, close your eyes, and try to be really aware of either your surroundings (sounds, smells, the way your chair feels) or what’s going on inside your body. It’s not something we often do naturally, and it’s hard.
At its core, though, mindfulness is about being present in the current moment. It’s a little easier to get started practicing this when doing an activity that really stimulates one of your senses. For example, eating a strawberry. It tends to be a lot simpler to focus on the flavors, smells and textures of that experience than a quiet meditation. I like to think of this as a shortcut.
Even though I’ve been practicing for a while now, some days my mind is just moving too fast and it can be genuinely difficult to slow it down enough for quality mediation. During those times I find I can still practice mindfulness if it’s centered on an activity like the strawberry described above.
My new favorite mindfulness activities are cardistry and sleight of hand with playing cards. Cardistry is a little like juggling with cards and takes practice and dexterity. Sleight of hand requires the same. Playing cards are also cheap to buy and don’t take up much space.
It’s important to draw a distinction between mindfulness and fidgeting. A pack of cards can be a good fidget toy to fiddle with while watching a movie, but that’s not the idea. To make them an effective mindfulness tool you need to focus on what you’re doing. Focus on the feeling of the cards in your hands. Focus on what your fingers are doing. It’s that focus, that awareness of the current moment, that leads to the benefits of mindfulness.
If you want to try this, I’d recommend buying a pack of Bicycle playing cards for $3. They are genuinely some of the best cards you can buy and are readily available.
For cardistry I’d recommend starting with the charlier cut and following other tutorials on YouTube that interest you.
If you’re more interested in sleight of hand, I’d recommend picking up the book The Royal Road to Card Magic. It can be found pretty cheap and is a great place to start. It’ll walk you through some basic sleights of hand that are great mindfulness activities.