There is often much talk about what mindfulness is and I think we would all agree that we need more in our life but how do we actually go about practicing this ancient tradition?
Focusing on the present moment sounds wonderful but we tend to get caught up in the drama of the day, regrets of the past, the next task, and planning future events. The goal is not to stop thinking but become more aware of our thoughts and feelings, but not get lost in them. Here are some easy exercises that can actually help us to put these principles into practice and help add more serenity to our day.
Meditation using Mindfulness
Begin by paying attention to your breathing, sitting in a comfortable place, and close your eyes. Notice the air fill your lungs and then leave. Pay attention to the sensation of breathing. Simply notice your thoughts when your mind wanders and turn your attention back to breathing. There is no specific length of time for this to be effective. Do it for as long as feels comfortable or set a timer from 5 to 20 minutes and try to add it to your daily routine.
Make a point to practice mindfulness while taking a walk. Notice how your body feels and moves with each step. Expand your awareness to your surroundings, notice nature. Make note of what you see, hear, feel, and smell. This activity can also be expanded to other daily activities or special outings.
Make a conscious effort to pay attention in the present moment using each of your senses and name –
5 things you see
4 things you feel
3 things you hear
1 thing you taste
1 thing you smell
There are many physical sensations throughout the body which we often don’t notice. Pay attention to these by going through each body part. Start at the bottom with your feet, and move up through your legs, groin, abdomen, chest, back, shoulders, arms, hands, neck, and face. Spend anywhere from 15 seconds to 1 minute on each body part. You can also consider tensing and relaxing each muscle as you go through the scan for extra relaxation.
Sometimes it may be difficult to not become distracted by our thoughts and so guided meditation can give us something else to think about and is available through CD and music apps. They will direct your thoughts and take you to your happy place or help you complete an activity like a body scan. These can be helpful before bed if you struggle to fall asleep.
While mindfulness is a state of mind verses an exercise or action, these techniques help you to practice and may bring greater acceptance and awareness. The benefits of mindfulness are numerous and may help you to manage emotions, adapt to stress, improve your focus and memory, decrease overthinking, and reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression.