Mindfulness has become a huge buzz word in recent years, but what is it exactly, and how can you achieve it? In fact, it’s much less complicated than you may think. Being mindful simply means to be aware; aware of the present moment, aware of your surroundings, and aware of yourself. Achieving this can be obtained with some practice and consistency.
When you start to practice mindfulness on a regular basis, you will likely notice many benefits in different aspects of your life. Almost everyone can find improvements in their physical and/or psychological well-being, including relief from stress and anxiety, symptoms of depression, an increased ability to focus and regulate your emotions, improvements in memory and cognition, and improved relationships, among other things.
Here are some helpful tips to get started.
1. Free yourself of distractions While it’s impossible to completely rid yourself of all distractions, you will want to minimize them as best you can. Whether that means closing your office door, stepping outside for an afternoon walk, or finding somewhere quiet in your home, away from others.
2. Find a comfortable position/activity It’s not necessary to curl up into some uncomfortable position in order to practice mindfulness. The ideal positions include lying down or sitting up with a straight back and feet flat on the floor. However, you don’t have to sit still either. You can also practice mindfulness while going for a walk, shopping, cooking, doing anything you enjoy! The most important thing is to be comfortable and focus your attention on the present moment.
3. Focus on your breath Breathing is one of the simplest and most effective ways to foster more presence in your life. By taking a few moments to slow your breath, even just by focusing on the act of breathing itself, you can relieve stress, calm anxiety, and focus your awareness to the present moment. Start by bringing attention to your breath. Notice the sensations throughout your body while you breathe. Focus on the air and the way it feels when it enters or exits through your nose or mouth. Notice the way your chest or abdomen rise and fall. Keep paying close attention to your breathing for a minimum of five minutes to begin with. Gradually increase the duration by five minutes as you continue your practice.
4. Thoughts will happen, and that’s ok You won’t be able to stop all of your thoughts during times of mindfulness and meditation, and that’s perfectly normal. You can’t shut your brain off, but whenever you find yourself thinking about what you have to do, or worrying about work, or thinking about what to eat for lunch, remember that you can just bring your attention back to your breath. The more you do this, the better you will become at it, and the better you will become at controlling your thoughts from wandering throughout the day.
5. Notice your thoughts without any judgement When thoughts do arise, remember not to judge them. Even thoughts that make you feel negative emotions are in your psyche to protect you for a reason. They can teach you something about yourself or about what you don’t want. As you practice mindfulness and thoughts occur, it’s important that you notice them without judgement and release any judgment and unwanted feelings you have when those thoughts occur. This can be done repeatedly until you no longer have the unwanted emotion when you have that particular thought.
6. Practice being thankful
It’s impossible to be angry or upset when you are thinking about how grateful you are for something in your life, and trust me, you have so much to be thankful for! Even if it’s just the fact that you woke up this morning or that you have air in your lungs, you have something to be grateful for. A great way to remember what you have is by keeping a gratitude journal. Take a couple of minutes each morning to write down some of the things you are grateful for. Over time, you will notice that you have so much more to appreciate than you ever knew.
7. Create a mindfulness routine To receive the maximum benefits from mindfulness, the most important thing to remember is to be consistent. While you can always switch up your surroundings and the ways in which you practice mindfulness to avoid repetition, you will want to create a mindfulness routine to receive the most out of your practice. A daily routine is ideal, however, a daily routine may not always be feasible. If you can’t commit to practicing daily, start out with three times per week and increase the number of days as you become more comfortable in your routine. Regardless of how long or how many days a week you practice, it’s key to be consistent.