How to Practice Mindfulness with 7 Mindfulness Exercises
Mindfulness is a term that gets thrown around a lot at the moment and is often hailed as some kind of ‘solve all’ for every kind of problem under the sun.
Mindfulness is part self-help technique, part clinical tool, and has lately grown to spawn countless e-books, courses, and evening classes.
In this post, I cover what precisely mindfulness is, why you want or need to include it in your self-improvement arsenal, and how to practice mindfulness if you are new to the concept.
What is a Mindfulness Practice?
Boiled down to its essence, mindfulness is the observation of one’s own thoughts and emotions.
In other words, it means stepping back and then simply being aware of what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking and what you are experiencing.
This can then in turn be used to help treat a wide range of different psychological problems and to generally improve your psychological health.
The reason for this is that it brings more attention to the way that we handle various different events and to how our thoughts and emotions normally control us. This then in turn allows us to anticipate them, deal with them, and ultimately prevent them.
For instance, someone who deals with social anxiety will likely have a number of ruminations that contribute to their symptoms. These might include worries that they will make a fool of themselves, that they will be laughed at, that they will stammer.
Many of these thoughts are likely to be inaccurate but it is only by being aware of them that it’s possible to manipulate them, rise above them, or suppress them entirely.
Why Mindfulness is the Perfect Antidote to Modern Living
As much as many of us choose to overlook it, there is a lot wrong with the way most of us currently live our lives.
We evolved in an environment completely foreign to the world we live in now and adapted to gain abilities and traits that in many ways leave us unsuited for our current environment.
We sit in chairs all day long gaining weight, we eat processed foods and we face constant stresses from work, our relationships, and our finances.
What’s more, we are constantly in demand and constantly plugged in and stressed out.
Our phones are always ringing, texts are always coming in, we get a new e-mail every two minutes… And even when most of us aren’t working or being bothered, we have a near addiction to technology which means we’re still unable to decompress.
Is it any wonder that mental health problems are so rife?
A Guide to Your First Mindful Meditative Session for Beginners
Meditation is something that we’re constantly being encouraged to use and it is the perfect gateway to learning how to practice mindfulness so you can benefit from it throughout the day.
Every self-help guru, every highly successful individual, and even many athletes trumpet its many benefits, and the research seems to back up its value.
So why don’t more people practice it?
The main problem for most of us is that it’s really rather daunting, obtuse, and complicated. Meditation is ultimately about reaching enlightenment and inner peace right? Well, no, not if we just seeking the benefits of a more peaceful life.
The real question for many people then is where to start.
1. Some Tips to Begin With
The first tip is to set yourself a timer for 10 minutes. 10 minutes is a short enough amount of time that most of us will be able to fit it into our busy schedules and by setting an alarm you prevent yourself from having to keep checking the clock to see how much longer you have – this is not conducive to meditation as you might imagine.
The next tip is to sit comfortably in a chair or cross-legged. You don’t want to lie down for fear of falling asleep but you should be comfortable.
The next thing you’re going to do is to focus. This can mean focusing on your breath or repeating a mantra (a word of your choice) over and over. This will be your ‘anchor’ and you will come back to this whenever your mind starts to wander.
If you struggle with these anchors, another option is to watch a flame. Lighting a candle and watching it can be a surprisingly effective form of meditation.
3. Just Be
Now just ‘be’ for 10 minutes. Many people make the mistake here to try and force themselves to have a ‘still mind’ devoid of thoughts. This is almost impossible for a beginner and will lead to nothing but stress.
Instead, we’ll take the mindfulness approach of simply letting the mind wander. When it does, make a note of it and simply focus back on your anchor. This removes the stress and gives you a safe environment in which to practice directing your attention inwards. The same goes for itching and coughing – just let it happen and then return.
Try to repeat this three times a week for a couple of months and see what happens… You’ll be glad you did!
7 Amazing Free Mindfulness Exercises:
The 4 Uses of Practicing Mindfulness
1. Practice Mindfulness for Mental Health
When used to combat such conditions as social anxiety, mindfulness can be seen as a clinical tool.
Specifically, it is an important part of ‘CBT’ or ‘Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
This is a psychotherapeutic approach that involves the practice of essentially replacing and reprogramming underlying thoughts, beliefs, and ruminations.
At the same time though, mindfulness has also long been a part of other meditative practices. Here, the goal can often be somewhat different.
In this case, the objective is to be more aware of the present moment in terms of sensations, sounds, and emotions.
By practicing this, you can eventually become more ‘present’ in the moment and better able to react to what’s going on around you without judgment and without the constant brain chatter that so many of us experience.
Mindfulness is a broad tool that can be used in a number of different ways. In almost every scenario though, the true end goal is to be aware of the present moment and to find an inner calm that often eludes us.
2. Practice Mindfulness to Escape Modern Stress
This is probably a big part of the reason that mindfulness is so popular right now.
Mindfulness simply means directing attention in a purposeful manner.
Sometimes this will mean focusing on our thoughts (in an objective and non-judgemental way) but in other cases, it will mean simply being more present and focusing on our breathing and our environments.
Either way, the idea of mindfulness is to enjoy the calmness and stop our minds’ incessant chatter.
When you are completely engaged with the world around you, or when you decide to disengage with your thoughts, it provides you with relief from stress and fear – and instead allows you to simply relax and recover.
3. Practice Mindfulness for Concentration
What’s more, practicing mindfulness is also the perfect tool for improving concentration.
Mindfulness forces you to develop a ‘mental discipline’ that is sorely lacking for many of us today.
Too often, most of us have 20 things vying for our attention.
While we have allegedly become better at multitasking as a result, we’ve also become much worse at focusing on one thing for extended periods. This makes it harder for us to read a large passage of text for instance, or to work without feeling the need to continuously check Facebook.
Again, mindfulness is the perfect tonic.
Here, you are tasked with focusing on your immediate environment, thoughts, and feelings for an extended time. And as such, you improve your own focus and mental discipline.
4. Practice Mindfulness to Become Aware of Your Body
Just as mindfulness and meditation can help you to improve your physicality, so too can being more physical help you to be more mindful. This is because focusing on our bodies will take focus away from our monologue.
Simply try being aware of your distribution of weight, of your breathing, of your temperature – and you’ll find that instantly you become far more ‘present’ and much closer to mindfulness and choiceless awareness.
Last Thoughts on Practicing Mindfulness
Mindfulness is by no means a trendy fad or bogus concept.
Although fairly recent to the West, it has long been the foundation of all Eastern philosophies and spiritual practices. It has been recognized since the earliest times as the secret to happiness, acceptance, and fulfillment.
Today, a wealth of research has scientifically confirmed the numerous benefits of mindfulness.
Many psychologists and therapists are now incorporating mindfulness exercises and meditation into their treatment programs, with amazing results.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool that just makes total sense when you think of its benefits.
In fact, learning to live mindfully is more important today than ever before in a world that’s gone berserk.
Related Articles You Will Love
How to Practice Mindfulness with 7 Free Mindfulness Exercises