Merriam-Webster defines mindfulness as
- the quality or state of being mindfulness
- the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis; also: such a state of awareness.
Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness has many benefits to our bodies, minds, and souls.
Mindfulness can reduce stress, improve focus, help with anxiety and depression, enhance relationships, and even help with weight loss. So how can you tap into these benefits? How can you become practice mindfulness? Well you can learn mindfulness exercises. You can also take mindfulness courses.
While learning and practicing mindfulness exercises on your own will definitely get you the benefits of being mindful, taking a mindfulness course can be even better. The reason for this is that with the courses, you will usually have a guide to coach you through the mindfulness exercises, making sure you are practicing them correctly and gaining benefit from them. Also with the courses you have some one to hold you accountable, someone to keep you on track. When choosing a mindfulness course to take, pay attention to the attention that you will get. Will you have access to an instructor so that you may ask questions? Will you have some one in your corner encouraging you to keep up with your practice? Will you have a community or group with whom you can share your journey. It is important that once you are finished with your mindfulness training courses, you have a support system in place.
For those of you who want to try mindfulness exercises with out taking a mindfulness course, here are some mindfulness techniques to get you started:
(These are mindfulness techniques that I do and I have given them names that resonate with me)
Stop and Smell the Roses: (Warning; don’t do this exercise when driving or operating heavy equipment)
Stop what you are doing and pay complete attention to your surroundings.
What do you see?
Notice the lighting, colors, the objects around you.
What do you hear?
Is there music playing? Are there animals near? What is the volume of the sounds?
What do you smell?
Are the smells pleasant or not? Do the smells prompt memories?
What do you taste?
Do you have food or gum in your mouth? If so what does it taste like?
What do you feel physically?
Are you hot or cold? Can you feel wind blowing on you? What do your clothes feel like on you body? Are there any textures that you can feel? The chair you are sitting in, the tree or wall you are standing against, the grass under your feet, etc.
What do you feel emotionally?
Are you happy? Are you sad? Are you anxious? Are you angry? Are you relaxed?
When doing this exercise, it is important that you don’t react to what you sense. Just notice and accept the feelings.
How Does It Feel:
Pick an activity that you normally do without thinking, such as washing your hands, brushing your teeth, or even walking around. This time when you do it pay attention to that activity and nothing else, and notice every feeling that comes with it. You can choose any activity, but I will describe washing your hands: Notice the feel of the faucet as you turn it on. What is the first temperature that you feel? How does it feel as the water temperature changes? How does the soap feel when it first touches your hands. Notice the sensations as your spread the soap around your hands and fingers. How does it feel when your hands are rubbing together? Feel the water as it runs through your fingers.
The Sound of Music:
Choose a song you like to listen to. Play the song and see if you can hear any sounds in it that you didn’t hear before. Focus only on the song. What emotions does the song elicit? Does it bring up any memories? If you like, you can turn up the bass and see how the song makes you feel physically.
Now you see it:
Pick an object and try to remain focused on that object for as long as you can. Notice every detail about the object. If you notice your thoughts start to wander, gently bring your attention back to the object.
Take a Deep Breath:
In this exercise, you simply focus on your breathing. To keep yourself focused you can say to yourself “in” with every inhalation and “out” with every exhalation. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring your attention back to your breathing.
Can You Hear Me Now:
This exercise is about listening. Close your eyes and just listen. Pay attention to every sound that you hear. How many different noises do you hear that you don’t usually pay attention to? You can do this anywhere. At home, in your yard, out in nature, at the bus stop, on the subway, in a restaurant. Anywhere is fine as long as it is safe.
Take a Walk:
Go for a walk and pay attention to every detail of your walk. Pay attention to your steps, the sensations that they create. Pay attention to the movements of your arms and the breaths that you take. Look around and really notice everything that you see. Notice what to hear.
The point of all of the exercises above is to really focus on the moment. Focus on your thoughts feelings and emotions in those moments, but don’t judge them. The more you incorporate mindfulness exercises into your life, the more mindful you will become. And as you become more mindful, you will real more and more of benefits that mindfulness exercises have to offer. Don’t forget to check out mindfulness courses as they have the added benefit of having a community of like minded people to join you on your journey as well as a mindfulness coach to help you along the way. There are several mindfulness classes that can be found on the internet, free and paid. Now it’s time to go out and start your journey to a more mindful life.