How To Practice Mindfulness – A Beginner’s Guide
What I love about mindfulness is that it is so simple. I don’t like having to sit down half an hour or an hour to meditate. Often there is no time. But I have time to be mindful. Everyday, everywhere. Be it on my bike to work, on the subway, during my break at work, on the couch at home: it only takes a few minutes here and there to develop a mindful mindset. Although I have read that it is better to develop a routine for mindfulness practice, I find that, at least for me, this is not necessary.
So what is mindfulness?
Practicing mindfulness you attain a “relaxed, non-judgmental awareness of your thoughts, feelings and sensations”. This means that you are able to pay closer attention to what is happening around you. Instead of being caught up in thoughts, you reconnect with your body, your feelings and your sensations. You rediscover your senses and what they experience in that present moment. You’ll be able to better and more fully enjoy the moments you live.
The benefits of mindfulness
As I’ve already mentioned, mindfulness teaches you to live in the moment instead of getting lost in thought. These days we are often caught up in the past or the future, with smartphones as our constant reminder that there is so much to catch up with and so much to look forward to (which is great). What we forget is to relish the now. Practicing mindfulness can help to reconnect with the present moment.
In my research on this topic I found a great list that names most of the benefits. I’ll only name the most relevant here.
- By practicing mindfulness, you can decrease your stress levels
- You listen to yourself and get to know yourself better
- Increased body-awareness and self-awareness
- It lets you better control emotions and moods
- You become more compassionate and thus a better friend, partner, or parent
- It lowers depression risks
- It helps to sleep better
- You are able to fully appreciate the moment you live
How to be mindful
So how do we do this? Being mindful means to be in the moment and to focus on your experiences. So, instead of doing things on auto-pilot (I think theguardian’s expression is so appropriate) you do them fully aware of your thoughts, feelings and sensations. When was the last time you have mindfully made yourself a cup of tea? Done the dishes? Walked a flight of stairs?
All in all, it’s rather simple and everyone can do it: You observe and you don’t judge.
- Observe: You observe what’s going on inside you (your thoughts and feelings) and what’s going on around you.
- Don’t judge: You just take it in as it is, with patience and compassion. This way you you “practice acceptance, kindness and openness” towards yourself and towards the things around you.
An example: You are on the subway on your way home from work. Your mind is still at work and you can’t seem to stop thinking about unfinished to-dos and unanswered e-mails. Instead you decide to focus on all things blue on the subway.
- You see a blue sticker on a door. A blue shirt. A blue button. Some blue lettering on a book that a person is reading. You remember you’ve read this book, too. You notice that your mind is wandering and you lose focus.
- It’s a blue sticker. Don’t criticize it for being old and worn out. It has been there for a while. The blue shirt has a stain on it. So what? Don’t be angry with yourself that you let yourself think about the book and lose focus. Be gentle with yourself and move your focus back to all things yellow.
Rome wasn’t built in one day. It might be harder in the beginning to develop that relaxed, non-judgemental awareness of your interior and exterior. But you will get there. Also, there might be days where it will be harder than others. But that’s okay, too. You can make up your own mindfulness practices, as well. All that counts is that you observe and that you don’t judge. Whatever suits you best. If you are interested in little mindfulness challenges, follow me on Instagram, where I will be posting those.
As this blog post relies on research and the content of other articles, I have listed these below: