4 Steps to Start a Mindfulness Practice
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about mindfulness, and if you read my most recent post, you know that it’s a hot topic everywhere these days, especially with the turn of the new year (and maybe our resolutions) still fresh in our memory.
Now I’d like to further explore the benefits of mindfulness, and a few simple ways to practice mindfulness you can start today.
Just to recap why mindfulness is such a popular topic: The effect of a regular mindfulness practice brings a host of benefits that you might not be aware of.
Mindfulness isn’t a cure-all, but it does have a huge impact on your body’s nervous system. Ten minutes of any type of meditation, a body scan (by focusing on the sensations in your body), or even a few minutes to focus on your breathing, activates your parasympathetic system. Practitioners of mindfulness say it helps improve their blood pressure and heart rate.
People who struggle with anxiety and depression also benefit from mindfulness. “Focusing on your breath can help steer your brain away from negative thoughts, improve oxygen intake, and lower cortisol levels … individuals with major depressive disorder who engaged in this form of meditation for 2 months saw a significant decrease in symptoms,” writes Chantelle Pattemore for Psych Central.
Mindfulness can also support your spiritual life. Being in the present moment, or keeping a gentle awareness of your experience in the present, is a way of connecting to something bigger than ourselves—whether that’s a higher power, the Universe, or guardian angels.
Steps to Practice Mindfulness
Anyone can practice mindfulness, and it’s important to note that mindfulness exercises might look different for different people. Sitting in silence and meditating isn’t the only way to incorporate mindfulness in your routine. There are so many ways to learn how to practice mindfulness. In fact, you can try a simple practice of mindful breathing in a few simple steps.
- Get Comfortable. Start by finding a position that you can be relatively still in for a few minutes. You can sit or lie down, whichever is more accessible to you. If sitting, I recommend having your feet flat on the floor. I suggest you close your eyes or gaze softly downward.
- Bring Your Attention To Your Breath. After you’ve made adjustments to your position and feel comfortable, just bring your focus to your breath. You don’t have to change anything about it, just listen to yourself, paying attention to how deeply you might be breathing, to the sound of your exhale, or if you’re a little congested.
- Notice Your Body. Feel what it’s like in your body, while you sit or lie down. You can survey each part, taking note of how your body feels and any muscles that are tense or tired. Do this without expectation or judgment.
- Deepen Your Breath. Now, take a deep breath. Inhale for a count of 2-4 seconds, and exhale for 4-6 seconds. You can continue this for as long as you like.
I have found a few minutes of this simple mindfulness very helpful. Especially when I experience stress or my thoughts and feelings are on overload. When I give my attention on the present moment and be fully present in my body, any anxiety symptoms I have lessen immediately.
There are a multitude of activities that you can include in your mindfulness practice. While you’re breathing, you can add gentle movement like stretching or swaying, which can make your mindfulness an embodied, holistic experience. Or try incorporating mindfulness into your daily walk or yoga workout—these are all great ways to make the experience more beneficial.
And if you find your mind wandering, remember that it’s normal. Just bring your attention back to your breath and BE in the present.
Creating More Mindful Environments
Sometimes it’s incredibly challenging to find the time (or space) for mindfulness, even if it’s just a few moments of breathing. And creating a more mindful environment does NOT mean you need your own yoga studio.
This will be different for everyone, but find a space where you’re able to focus for a period of time. This could be your bedroom, in your car, or perhaps even the bathroom (the bathroom is my go-to at work). You might need to get creative, especially if you have an especially busy schedule or household. I’ve been known to meditate in a busy airport! Embrace the space!
Adding just 5 minutes of mindfulness to our daily lives can bring on its amazing benefits. And you can always build up how much time you spend in your daily practice.
This isn’t about perfection or having a perfectly clear head after you’re finished! Making mindfulness regular practice that you can build on and refine over time. And it will always be there to support you, even if you’re “only” able to take a few intentional, deep breaths at a time.
Support for Your Mindful Journey
What I love about mindfulness is how accessible and available it is to all of us: In fact, being mindful can be as simple as noticing our breath.
Even in its simplicity, mindfulness might just hold the key to human happiness. “Learning to pay attention to our current experiences and accept them without judgment might indeed help us to be happier. Studies to date suggest that mindfulness affects many aspects of our psychological well-being—improving our mood, increasing positive emotions, and decreasing our anxiety, emotional reactivity, and job burnout,” writes Jill Suttie.
If you’re ready to start your own mindfulness practice, let me know! I’d love to support your journey.