How to Practice Mindfulness
The art of "mindfulness" has been utilized in meditation and yoga for hundreds of years. And while the words meditation and yoga might intimidate some of you, all mindfulness boils down to is being aware of yourself, your body and your thoughts.
We are taught early on to pay strict attention to our bodies. For example, if you're running and your knee starts to hurt, most of us immediately stop running in order to keep the pain or injury from becoming worse. The same philosophy applies to the practice of mindfulness: Becoming more attuned to your own thoughts and how they can positively or negatively affect your daily life.
Mindfulness is becoming more and more commonplace in psychotherapy as a technique for improving self awareness, self esteem, and mental fortitude, which is why we wanted to impart simple techniques for practicing mindfulness at home. So here are three simple techniques to try yourself. You only need a quick five minutes to start your journey to a more balanced existence:
Breathing is an involuntary movement our bodies are trained to perform an average of 12-20 times per minute (no duh, right?) However, the trick to mindfulness is being able to step back from the involuntary moments in your life and make them more intentional. So take a minute just to concentrate on your breathing. Always in through the nose and out through your mouth and hold momentarily at the top of your inward breath then release through your mouth. Your outward breath should resemble the act of trying to fog up the window i.e. be loud and full bodied. (Note: please do this in an appropriate setting, like in a car by yourself not in the middle of your Monday Morning Meeting, talk about awkward!) When you breath mindfully for even a short minute, check in with yourself and see how much better you feel.
2) Positive Thoughts
Like breathing, the thoughts that pop into your head can also seem very easy and involuntary. So when you look in the mirror your brain might say "I look terrible today" or when you're headed to lunch you might think "Ugh, that guy Greg is such an jerk." And while both of those thoughts might very well be true, to achieve mindfulness we must practice eliminating negative thoughts. An easy way to do this is when a negative thought pops into your head, stop the thought process, acknowledge the thought as negative and think instead of something positive. Even just repeating the word "loving, loving, loving" either out loud or inwardly can help block the negativity. And the more you practice this conscious way of thinking the easier and more involuntary it will become.
3) Control Your Reactions
You're leaving work, you had a long, hard day, you get in your car to drive home when BAM! someone cuts you off on the freeway on ramp. You immediately get pissed and think about starting a road war with this dummy who had the nerve to cut you off. I get it, trust me. I've been there, we've all been there and it sucks when that stuff happens. But what if instead of the usual rage-induced reaction you took a step back to breathe (since your heart rate has no doubt spiked from the incident) and let the anger just pass you by like another vehicle on the road. There aren't many things we humans have control over, our own mind and body are a few things we can control. So why not practice being more mindful of how we react to daily incidents. Someone, somewhere is going to do something to annoy you sometime at least once a day, so why let a small moment in time effect the other 1,440 moments of your day?
Hopefully these steps help you on your path to mindfulness, and if nothing else, may they bring you some awareness to your own mind and how it controls the outcome of your day. Comment below if you have any questions about the practice of mindfulness (only nice questions please!)