There are many ways to define mindfulness and many practices that fall under the label. Taking examples from research and therapeutic techniques may be beneficial if you want to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life.
What Is Mindfulness?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), mindfulness is the "awareness of one's internal states and surroundings." The aim of mindfulness is often to use awareness to stay rooted in the present moment. Most people can cultivate a sense of mindfulness, and some guides teach mindfulness to kids, as well. With consistent practice and understanding, mindfulness comes with various benefits.
The more you utilize mindfulness techniques, the more natural it might feel to focus more on the present instead of ruminating about the past or feeling worried about the future. This present-based focus can allow you to pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and bodily sensations as they arise.
Once one has learned to become rooted in the present and aware of their inner experience, it can be beneficial to establish a non-judgmental, non-reactive attitude by accepting thoughts and feelings as they are. Even if your inner experience is initially uncomfortable, this practice of non-reactive, non-judgmental awareness can become more manageable through mindfulness.
As you practice mindfulness, you may gain a clearer perspective, allowing you to examine unhealthy habits like ruminating and gain an improved sense of well-being and a higher quality of life. With minimal practice, mindfulness has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms.
How To Practice Mindfulness
Many methods for cultivating mindfulness contain similar principles and goals, including establishing present-moment sensory awareness or grounding within your body. Mindfulness practices may also often include breathing exercises or other techniques to help an individual reach the mindset they're hoping to achieve.
While there are no set rules for how long to practice, you might consider meditating mindfully, around 20 minutes daily. However, studies have found that even ten minutes of meditation a day can have substantial mental health impacts. Below are a few steps to consider when starting your mindfulness practice.
Find A Comfortable Position
Seated meditation is one effective way to establish a mindful state. When sitting, try to establish a comfortable, stable, upright posture that you can easily maintain for an extended time. Settle into this posture, then allow the eyes to close naturally. If you prefer, you can focus your gaze downwards on a point nearby in front of you.
Meditation can be done lying down as well. However, be aware that it may be easier to fall asleep during meditation if you're lying down. The point of mindfulness meditation may not be to sleep, although there are meditation techniques meant for that purpose. For many people, staying alert and aware is easiest while sitting.
Take Deep Breaths From The Abdomen
Breathing deeply in through the nose and slowly through the mouth may allow you to focus better on reaching a relaxed state to establish a connection with your body. Try to breathe from the belly before traveling to the diaphragm and filling the lungs. Take three to five deep breaths, then return to your natural breathing pattern.
Scan Your Body And Release Tension
Paired muscle relaxation is often a part of mindfulness. To complete this exercise, begin with relaxing your muscles in your toes and end at the top of your head. If you don't want to work on one body part at a time, you can try to relax all your muscles simultaneously. Once you find the tension in your body, focus on releasing the stress through the breath until your entire body is relaxed.
In addition, try to tune into your senses. Notice any sounds or smells around you, and become aware of how your clothes feel on your skin, the room's temperature, and any tastes in your mouth. As you pay attention to your senses, remember to release tension that might arise.
Allow Thoughts To Pass
Many assume the point of meditation is to clear the mind, but mindfulness meditation is designed to allow insight into your thoughts and emotions that you might not have otherwise. As thoughts and feelings enter your mind, notice them without judgment. Don't dwell on them, and don't allow them to deter your meditation. If it helps, you might imagine your thoughts like leaves floating down a river. As they pass you in your mind, acknowledge them, then let the current take them away.
Practicing Mindfulness In Daily Life
Mindfulness exercises can benefit how you approach daily living, from some of life's most minor tasks to complex interactions with others. There are many opportunities for implementing mindfulness in everyday situations, including the following.
Mindfulness On The Go
Daily traveling, including going for a walk or commuting from work, may be an opportunity to practice mindfulness because the mind often drifts during mundane or routine activities like walking. Instead of becoming lost in your thoughts, practicing mindfulness may help you notice your immediate surroundings, including bodily sensations such as sounds, scents, and touch.
Try not to establish opinions about what you see. Focus on your surroundings and acknowledge that they exist near you. As you partake in this activity more frequently, you may become better able to focus on the present during circumstances where your mind often drifts. One way to practice mindfulness on the go is mindfulness jogging, which can be completed in the following steps or a similar routine:
- Go on a 30-minute run. Ensure you wear comfortable shoes and clothing for the temperature and location.
- As you run, notice five green objects within the first five minutes.
- Within the first ten minutes, try to spot at least three workers (it could be a mailman, delivery person, or police officer).
- Within the first twenty minutes, try to notice three scenes (e.g.: kids playing, a mom talking to her child, or a couple on a date).
- Within the entire run, note five aspects of your environment that you find beautiful.
Mindfulness During Chores
Performing routine tasks like housework or yardwork can provide another opportunity to practice mindfulness. It's common for many to enter "autopilot" during these kinds of activities. However, the next time you complete a chore, try to pay more attention to the details and sensations of the task. For instance, you might note the sound and temperature of the water as it touches your hands while you do the dishes.
Mindfulness While Exercising
Running, walking, biking, swimming, and other types of exercise allow an opportunity for practicing mindfulness. As with sitting meditation, tuning into the body's physical sensations and the sensory details of the environment during exercise provides a foundation for noticing your thoughts and emotions. One way to practice mindfulness during exercise is to notice the sensations in your muscles and skin as you lift weights, run, swim, or complete another physical task. Being in tune with your body while exercising may help you avoid injury or pain.
What Is Mindfulness-Based Therapy?
Therapists often use mindfulness-based research and training to develop therapeutic techniques for helping clients. For instance, the traditional application of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been expanded to include mindfulness (MBCT) for treating mental health conditions like depression, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
MBCT is often led by a therapist weekly in an individual or group setting. The therapist can coach clients in learning meditation techniques and how to apply them to cognition as related to the individual's mental health challenges. Many therapists assign "homework" between sessions to encourage clients to practice mindfulness in daily life.
When looking for an MCBT expert, inquire about their experience using the method, how they may help you with your specific concerns, and an estimated timeline for treatment. While you speak to them, pay attention to your comfort level and the therapist's ability to establish rapport.
Many people looking to explore mindfulness-integrated therapy options have succeeded with online therapy. A recent study based in the UK found that online methods of mindfulness training and therapy worked as effectively as practicing with a therapist in person.
Through platforms like BetterHelp, clients can connect to allows you to licensed providers with unique expertise, including mindfulness-based methods. In addition, they can reach out at a convenient time, take part in unlimited messaging with their therapist, and choose between phone, video, or chat sessions.
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