What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them and without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
How do you cultivate mindfulness?
One way is to meditate. A basic method is to focus your attention on your own breathing, a practice simply called “mindful breathing.” After setting aside time to practice mindful breathing, you’ll find it easier to focus attention on your breath in your daily life. This is an important skill to help you deal with stress, anxiety, and negative emotions, cool yourself down when your temper flares, and sharpen your ability to concentrate. Even as little as 5 minutes a day can be helpful!
How do I get started?
- Find a relaxed, comfortable position- Sit on a chair or on the floor on a cushion. Keep your back upright, but not too tight. Hands resting wherever they’re comfortable. Tongue on the roof of your mouth.
- Notice and relax your body- Try to notice the shape of your body, its weight. Let yourself relax and become curious about your body seated here, the sensations it experiences, the touch, the connection with the floor or the chair. Relax any areas of tightness or tension. Just breathe naturally.
- Tune into your breath- Feel the natural flow of breath in and out. Begin to picture a vase sitting in your belly. As you inhale fill the vase from the bottom of your belly to the tip of your nose, on your exhale reverse the process and empty the vase from the tip of your nose to the base of your belly.
- Be kind to your wandering mind- Now as you do this, you might notice that your mind may start to wander. You may start thinking about other things. If this happens, it is not a problem. It’s very natural. Just notice that your mind has wandered. You can say “thinking” or “wandering” in your head softly. And then gently redirect your attention right back to the breathing.
- Stay here for five minutes- If you feel comfortable, try the last step of adding in box breathing. Otherwise, just sit quietly here and focus on your natural breath filling and emptying the pretend vase in your belly.
- Box breathing- Once you’ve found a comfortable breath, inhale to a count of 3, at the top of your inhale hold for a count of 3, exhale to a count of 3 and then hold at the bottom of your exhale for a count of 3. Challenge yourself to increase your count up to 6 as your breath gets stronger.