Mindfulness

How to Begin and Continue Practicing Mindfulness

Loving yourself and trying to keep yourself happy is not selfishness, it is a necessity. Mindfulness is a self-care habit which is essentially more important than routine fancy manicures and pedicures as it is responsible for not only enhancing your overall well-being but also reduces stress and helps you in living a fuller life with contentment.

Mindfulness meditation comprises of different exercises. What is most crucial for one to begin and continue practicing mindfulness is to set a routine. With time, the routine becomes a habit. Here the first step is developing your own routine or following a template and tailoring it to fit your day. The following section will include various ways and techniques to incorporate mindfulness and mindfulness meditation into your life.

Basic Steps to Mindfulness:

Mindfulness helps people give a break between themselves and their reactions to event. Here is how to incorporate mindfulness in your daily life:

  • Set aside some timeYou don’t need fancy equipment or a special membership, all you need is to book some time and space for yourself
  • Witness the present in its true form: Pay attention to the present moment, without judging it or trying to change it , just be and observe
  • Let your judgments goIt will be natural response to judge, as such make a note of them and let them go. Move on to the next thing
  • Return to observing the present momentOur mind will trick us into over-thinking and that is where mindfulness comes in play. We need to be able to return to the present moment
  • Be kind to your wandering mindDo not judge yourself for whatever thoughts come up, just practice focusing your mind.

Once you understand the basic elements mentioned above, here is a sample of how to practice mindfulness in daily life. Here is a single day’s timeline, which might be useful for beginners:

  • 7 am
    WAKING UP BREATHING EXERCISE
    Breathe in for three counts, hold for three count and exhale for three counts
  • 8 am
    MINDFUL DRINKING AT BREAKFAST
    Notice the flavor, texture, temperature, color of each sip of the beverage you consume (coffee/tea/milk)
  • 10 am
    STRETCH
    Gently roll your shoulders, feel any tension gently disappear
  • 12 pm
    CONNECT WITH NATURE
    Keep a flower or a plant nearby and appreciate its beauty
  • 2 pm
    EAT LUNCH MINDFULLY
    Explore flavors, colors, shape, texture and temperature as you eat
  • 4 pm
    ACKNOWLEDGE A FEELING
    Without judging any emotion as 'good' or 'bad'
  • 7 pm
    WASHING DISHES
    Focus on the different sensations and movements of your hand while they meet water and soap
  • 8 pm
    MIND-FUL HUG
    Immerse yourself in the experience of giving someone a big hug
  • 9 pm
    JOURNAL
    Write down five things you are grateful for today
  • 10 pm
    BODY SCAN
    Scan your attention through your body, consciously relaxing any areas of tension

Meditation

“It was access to information and movement that seemed our greatest luxury, now it’s often freedom from information, the chance to sit still, that feels like the ultimate prize.”

Pico Iyer (Travel Writer, The Art of Stillness)

We have spoken about the link between mindfulness and meditation, so what exactly does meditation do? It allows us to focus on us, our breath in the moment and helps us bring our thoughts back from the wandering mind with every breath. Basic meditation includes the following steps(dedicate as much time as you would like to this exercise):

  • Sit comfortably
  • Close your eyes
  • Relax your shoulders
  • Notice what your legs are doing
  • Straighten your upper body
  • Notice what your arms are doing 
  • Soften your gaze
  • Feel your breath
  • Notice when your mind wanders from your breath
  • Bring back your attention
  • Focus your attention on your hands, then your arms, pacing your inhale and exhale
  • When you are ready, gently lift your gaze

Mindfulness Exercises

Following are two mindfulness exercises for the beginners:

1. The Raisin Exercise

This is a great introductory exercise for beginners to start practicing mindfulness. The exercise does not necessarily involve the use of a raisin (taken from free online sources):

  • Step 1: Take a few raisins and pretend that you have never seen a raisin before
  • Step 2: Now pay careful attention to the way the raisin looks. Focus on its color, shape and size
  • Step 3: Now hold it in your hand and feel it. Notice its texture and the ridges on its surface
  • Step 4: Now rub it a little against your hand and feel whether it is it rough or smooth
  • Step 5: Now take it close to your nose and smell it
  • Step 6: Lastly, now put it in your mouth and slowly chew it. Pay attention to the juices, which slowly comes out of it. Notice the taste

By focusing on the raisin in your hand and making a point to notice everything about it, you are unlikely to be expending energy, time and attention on worrying or ruminating about other parts of your lives. Rather, you are actively making an effort to remain in the present moment and freeing yourself from everything.

2. The Body Scan

Another popular exercise for practitioners of mindfulness is the Body Scan. It requires very little in the way of props or tools and it is easily accessible for most beginners:

  • Step 1: Preparing yourself: Lie on your back with your palms facing the ceiling and feet falling slightly apart. You can also do it while sitting in a comfortable chair with feet resting on the floor
  • Step 2: Grounding yourself: Lie very still for the duration of the exercise, and move with awareness, if it becomes necessary to adjust their position
  • Step 3: Bringing Awareness to Breathing:Now begin by bringing awareness to your breath. Notice the rhythm, the experience of breathing in and expelling out. Do not try to change the way you are breathing but rather just hold gentle awareness on the breath
  • Step 4: Bringing Awareness to Whole Body: Next, guide your attention to the body: notice how it feels, the texture of clothing against the skin, the contours of the surface on which the body is resting, the temperature of the body and the environment
  • Step 5: Focusing on Each Body Part:Now bring awareness to the parts of the body that are tingling, sore, or feeling particularly heavy or light. Note any areas where there is no sensation at all or hyper-sensation

A typical Body Scan runs through each part of the body, paying special attention to the way each area feels, the scan usually moves as follows:

  • Toes of both feet
  • The rest of the feet (top, bottom, ankle)
  • Lower legs
  • Knees
  • Thighs
  • Pelvic region- buttocks, tailbone, pelvic bone, genitals
  • The Abdomen
  • Chest
  • Lower back
  • Upper back- back ribs & shoulder blades
  • Hands (fingers, palms, backs, wrists)
  • Arms (lower, elbows, upper)
  • Neck
  • Face and head (jaw, mouth, nose, cheeks, ears, eyes, forehead and scalp)


Written and read by Shannon Jones Anstead, Ed.S.

Right Click(You can also download the audio)


After the Body Scan is complete and the participants feel ready to come back to the room they can slowly open their eyes and move naturally to a comfortable sitting position

Mindfulness for Anxiety

One of the most common problems faced in anxiety. Mindfulness carries potential to tackle anxiety and below is a basic mindfulness exercise to reduce anxiety:

  • Acknowledging the presence of anxiety—give a soft, slight internal nod to the thoughts, images, and sensations of worry
  • Rest in sensations of the breath. Let your attention drop gently onto wherever you feel the breath (e.g. nostrils, belly, or perhaps the toes for those more light on their feet)
  • Penetrate the sense of anxiety in BOTH the body and mind on a deep inhale into the belly. Visualize the breath coming into and through the restlessness. The breath is not forcing the anxiety away, rather, it is moving into it. Slow, deep belly breathing is important because anxiety often causes fast, chest-level breathing that sparks more physical sensations of anxiety
  • Let it surface. Acknowledge the anxiety just as it is on the exhale. Do not try to shove the anxiety out with a sigh or exasperated puffing. Again, stay with slow, deliberate breathing
  • Stay with yourself and continue following the breath
  • Take note of what remains after your exercise. What is there to acknowledge “behind” the anxiety? Take action to care for what needs tending