Do you find your mind wandering off all over the place and have difficulty with actually being present? If this is the case then mindfulness is amazingly effective at training your mind to stay in the present and not wander off. This beginners guide to mindfulness will give you a brief overview of mindfulness and how it can benefit you in your life.
What Is Mindfulness
Mindfulness basically means to be in the present with our thoughts and feelings. It is being aware of everything we are feeling in the moment and allowing these feelings, as well as our thoughts, to come and go without judging them as negative or positive. They just are what they are and we accept them as they are. With mindfulness, we are not focusing on the future and what it holds, nor are we focusing on the past and past events, feelings and thoughts. We exist purely in the present with whatever thoughts come to us.
Often with mindfulness and mindful meditation we focus on our breathing as that is something that is happening right now so it helps us to be more present. It’s also a good way of slowing everything down and relaxing us, which will make it easier for us to be present and focused on what we are thinking and feeling in the present moment.
What Are The Benefits Of Mindfulness?
Practicing mindfulness regularly can have both physical and mental health benefits. Some of those include:
Improved overall well being
Being mindful means that you are able to enjoy the good things in life as they are happening and savor the moment. Being present and focused on the here and now also means you are less likely to get caught up in past issues or worrying about things in the future.
Improved mental health
Studies and history of using mindfulness has shown us that it is an effective technique to help battle a number of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).
Improved physical health
Scientists have discovered that practicing mindfulness regularly improves our physical health as well as our mental health and overall wellbeing. Mindfulness can help to relieve stress and the physical results from it, help with lowering blood pressure, reducing the instances of heart disease, reducing chronic pain and also improve sleep. Stress itself leads to a lot of physical problems, so the fact that mindfulness can alleviate stress means it offers plenty of secondary benefits.
How To Practice Mindfulness
There are many different techniques used to practice mindfulness, but they all share a common goal. That is to be relaxed but alert to the present, including feelings, thoughts and sensations, and being able to allow yourself to feel these things in the present moment without judging them as negative or positive.
This is a simple mindfulness exercise. Find a quiet spot to sit or lay down and focus on slow and steady breathing. All you need to do is focus on your breaths coming in and going out. You will notice your mind wander off to various different thoughts, so as you do just bring your mind back to focusing on your breathing. It is quite natural for your thoughts to wander off, so don’t see this as success or failure no matter how many times it happens. The important thing is to notice that it has happened and bring your thoughts back to the present and concentrate on your breathing. You should notice afterwards that you feel more relaxed.
You can lay down or sit down for this one. Start with your breathing as mentioned above, but this time you will let your mind focus on your toes. What do you feel? What are the sensations? This could be an internal feeling or something like the breeze touching your toes. After spending a moment focusing on your toes, start to move your mind to focusing higher up, on your feet. Notice what you feel on your feet and move your mind up to noticing what you feel on your lower legs. Do this from your toes all the way up to your head.
I personally use this one many times when I am lying in bed at night. It helps me to relax and makes falling asleep much easier. I also find I ruminate on my negative thoughts far less, which also makes it easier to get to sleep.
Throughout the day take notice of the various emotions you feel. When you do notice them, give them a name. Anger, frustration, happiness etc. Accept that these emotions are there and allow yourself to feel them and then allow yourself to let them pass. Another strategy for naming your emotions can be to say the words “I notice I feel (emotion)”. This helps to give more distance to the emotion as opposed to just saying “I feel (emotion)”. This extra layer of distance can help you to not get too caught up in the emotion.
This is a great one for giving up smoking or other substances. As you feel the craving, name it (I notice I feel a craving) notice what feelings and sensations you have in your body while you are feeling the craving. Then, comfortable in the knowledge that the craving will pass on its own, sit with it without it consuming you and then let it pass.
This mindfulness exercise makes use of your 5 senses, which are sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. You start by simply turning your mind to each of the 5 senses in turn and noticing with each one of them. What do you see? What can you smell? What can you hear? And so on. When you do this, try not to judge things as negative or positive. So don’t think to yourself “I smell something rotten” or “I taste something nice”. Try to describe the smell or the taste without the judgement.
How You Can Get Started With Mindfulness
You can get started on your own just by practicing the breathing technique mentioned above. This is the simplest one and the easiest place to start.
Another option is to buy a course on meditation. Click here for a good and cheap one. Buying a course will mean you will have a guide to help you along the way as you learn to meditate mindfully, which definitely makes it easier.