What is Mindfulness?

You may have heard the term “mindfulness” and envisioned yourself sitting crossed-legged, eyes closed, experiencing a state of zen, deep in meditation. While this isn’t exactly wrong, as meditation is a mindfulness practice with many benefits, this image can make mindfulness feel like an unrealistic activity to add to your day. For beginners, mindfulness may feel too simple or difficult to achieve.

Mirriam-Webster defines mindfulness as, “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.” Don’t let “complete awareness” intimidate you. Thankfully, you already have the tools to be mindful at any time – your breath, your body, and your thoughts. 

Below are a few tips for practicing mindfulness for beginners.

Schedule Time to Be Present 

It can be helpful to set a reminder on your phone or schedule time on your calendar to practice mindfulness. Setting 3-5 minutes aside may feel doable and allow you to realistically build mindfulness into your schedule at first. 

Step 1: Notice Your Breath 

Practice paying attention to your breath throughout the day. Is it easy for you to breathe deeply, or does your breath feel shallow? Does it feel textured or smooth? What part of your body expands and contracts as you breathe? In what moments do you find it easier to take deeper breaths? Noticing your breath without trying to change it is mindfulness. As you continue to practice mindful breathing, you may experiment with other forms of breathwork such as box breathing.

Step 2: Pay Attention to Your Body

The human body is wise. In times of stress, it is common to feel discomfort or tension in your body long before you recognize the impact of stress. Take a moment to take a breath, sit up a bit straighter, and settle into your seat. In what parts of your body do you notice tension? What parts of your body feel good? Practice releasing tension through clenching and unclenching your muscles, stretching, or other forms of movement. 

Step 3: Observe Your Thoughts

Many of us approach our thoughts like a TV that’s on in the background while you clean your house. You might catch a few minutes here and there, but you likely aren’t tuning into every word. It can be an interesting exercise in mindfulness to simply observe what thoughts tend to come up for you. Without self-criticism, notice the tone of your thoughts. Are they kind? Judgemental? Are they rapid or slow? Note any changes in your breath and body when particular thoughts arise.

Putting it All Together: Identifying Mindful Moments

Now that you’ve practiced noticing your breath, your body, and your thoughts, identify a few moments in your day that you could practice mindfulness in the future. Activities where you “zone out,” like cooking, showering, or driving home from work, tend to be great opportunities to connect to the present moment. By taking the time to connect to your mind and body, you can deepen your relationship to your life and learn about yourself in the process.

Article written by Sierra Petersen, LCSW

If you think that you could benefit from learning Mindfulness, contact us today.

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