What Is Mindfulness? (Plus 5 Ways You Can Practice It)
You’ve probably heard your yoga instructor wax lyrical on the many wonders of being mindful. But if you don’t have a ton of experience, you might be wondering what mindfulness is all about and how it could be so beneficial. Luckily, mindfulness is one of those things that doesn’t take too much time to learn about – and with practice, you can become a mindfulness master! Check out the info below to help you get started.
What is mindfulness?
To break it down simply, mindfulness is a type of meditation where you focus on what you’re sensing and feeling in the present moment. There can be different types (including deep breathing, guided imagery, etc.), but the most important thing to remember is that you have to keep bringing yourself back to the present. If your mind wanders – which can happen a lot when you’re first learning – you just take a deep breath and go back to being aware of your environment and your own body. Practicing mindfulness can allow you to connect to the world around you in a way that feels relaxing and calming.
What is the purpose of mindfulness?
This type of meditation – the sensation of being grounded – has tons of benefits. In recent studies, mindfulness has been shown to alleviate symptoms of everything from anxiety and depression to insomnia and high blood pressure. Although more research needs to be done, there have even been signs that mindfulness can improve symptoms of asthma and fibromyalgia.
Aside from physical and mental health conditions, once you start practicing mindfulness regularly, you can experience things like:
- Improved sleep
- Greater balance of emotions
- Improved attention span
- Less burnout at work
- Better concentration and focus
- More control over your moods
Mindfulness can also be really beneficial for your yoga practice. By staying fully in the moment, you can experience more harmony within the poses and can feel more capable of reaching a grounded place. This can make your practice easier and offer a better connection to the spiritual world as well.
What are some mindfulness exercises I can do?
There are many different kinds of exercises that can be personalized for your own specific needs. Here are a few to get you started:
Body scan meditation
One way to experience mindfulness is to pay attention to all of the sensations in your body at the current moment. Lie down on your back with your legs extended and your arms at your sides, palms facing up. Then focus your attention intentionally on each part of your body, starting from your head all the way down to your toes. Take note of any sensations in your body, emotions, or thoughts that come up while you’re doing your scan. If your thoughts wander to outside topics, make an effort to go back to focusing your attention on your body. This should leave you feeling more centered and grounded when you’re done.
If you’re out and about and don’t have the opportunity to lie down, you can do a mindfulness meditation where you’re seated. Sit up with your back straight, and keep your feet flat on the floor. Your hands can rest in your lap. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus only on the breath going in and out. If you’re distracted by physical sensations or thoughts that pop up in your mind, it’s okay to notice that. But then bring your attention back to your breathing. This exercise can help you feel more relaxed and at ease.
Walking mindfulness exercises can also be a great way to get more in touch with your body. As you walk, take slow, deliberate steps so that you can feel your feet on the ground. Pay attention to all of the sights and sounds you’re experiencing so you can feel more connected to the world around you. By noticing all of these things and whatever sensations are in your body, you should feel firmly planted in the present moment.
How can I practice mindfulness every day?
If you don’t have a ton of time every day to devote to your meditation practice, there are still tons of ways to practice mindfulness.
1. Pay attention to everything around you
The most basic step towards mindfulness is just to stop in the moment and pay attention to your five senses. What are you hearing, seeing, smelling, touching, tasting? By bringing awareness to these things, you’re focusing on what’s happening in the present moment (versus thinking about the past or worrying about the future). You can practice this anytime and anywhere, but it’s especially useful when you’re feeling disconnected from your body or you’re feeling overwhelmed.
2. Concentrate on the here and now
If you bring intention to everything you do, you’ll find that you can appreciate what you’re experiencing so much better. By paying attention to the little things (how an apple tastes, the beautiful color of a flower, etc.), you’ll be better able to find joy in your day-to-day activities.
3. Treat yourself well
Practicing mindfulness means that you’re taking care of your own needs. If you’re not being mindful, you’re probably too busy to pay attention to what you require in order to thrive and flourish. So, during your mindfulness exercises, think about what you need to feel your best. Maybe you’re exhausted and could benefit from a nap, or you notice that you’re thirsty and could use a glass of water. Whatever it is, your practice will feel more complete once you’ve truly listened to your own needs.
4. Focus on your physical self
To be mindful, take note of how you’re breathing, the way you’re sitting, how tense your muscles feel, etc. This will help you get more in touch with how you’re doing. Perhaps you’re feeling stressed and a few quick yoga poses could help to ease tension and calm your mind. Listen to what your body is telling you so that you’re able to stay in the moment whenever possible.
5. Only do the task at hand
Mindfulness is all about being in the present moment, so you’ll only thrive when you’re focusing on the one thing you’re doing at that time. If you’re eating, don’t distract yourself with TV or work. Simply focus on the act of eating and enjoying the food. When you’re practicing yoga, put all of your intention on the poses and breathing, leaving family or work troubles outside. This can allow you to stay in tune with one task instead of being overwhelmed by so many other simultaneous ones.
Our final advice: practice mindfulness whenever you can! At least once a day will help you make it a habit. Very soon, you’ll find yourself being mindful throughout the day – it’ll become easy and natural to stay in the moment and appreciate every part of life as you feel it.