getting started with mindfulness

Getting Started With Mindfulness: Start The Right Way

Imagine having the power to enjoy this exact moment.

Not rushing to the next thing, and not thinking about what happened earlier.

And imagine not feeling stressed, because, right now, everything is okay.

You’re probably here because you’ve heard about how everyone is being more mindful and the endless list of benefits, and your Apple Watch keeps telling you to mindfully take a breath.

Getting started with mindfulness can be overwhelming because there are so many opinions on the best way to start.

So in this article, I’d like to show you the easy and science-backed practices to start your mindfulness practice to get you started the right way. With so many benefits, starting mindfulness is one of the best decisions you can make.

What Is Mindfulness?

The paradox of mindfulness is that it can take a lifetime to master it, but the principle is simple. At its heart, mindfulness is about present-moment awareness. 

It’s about tuning into the here and now, paying attention to what’s happening in the present rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

One of the key parts of mindfulness is non-judgmental observation. 

This means observing your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without labeling them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

getting started with mindfulness - a woman sitting on a couch looking relaxed

In the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer in the field of mindfulness, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” 

It’s about accepting things as they are without trying to change them. For example, if you’re feeling anxious, instead of trying to suppress or fight the anxiety, you simply acknowledge it. You might say to yourself, “I’m feeling anxious right now, and that’s okay. It’s just a feeling, and it will pass.”

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn also outlined nine attitudes of mindfulness:

  1. Non-judging: Observe your thoughts and feelings without labeling them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
  2. Patience: Allow things to unfold in their own time, without rushing the process.
  3. Beginner’s mind: Approach each experience with a sense of curiosity and openness, as if experiencing it for the first time.
  4. Trust: Have faith in your own intuition and experiences.
  5. Non-striving: Let go of the need to achieve specific outcomes, and instead, simply be present.
  6. Acceptance: Acknowledge things as they are in the present moment, without trying to change them.
  7. Letting go: Release attachment to thoughts, feelings, and experiences, allowing them to come and go naturally.
  8. Gratitude: Cultivate a sense of appreciation for the richness of the present moment.
  9. Generosity: Practice giving without expecting anything in return, whether it’s your time, attention, or kindness.

To get started with mindfulness, you don’t need any special equipment or a lot of time.

All you need is a few minutes each day to pause and notice the present. You can practice mindfulness while sitting in a quiet room, walking in a park, or even doing everyday tasks like washing dishes or brushing your teeth.

The key is to be fully present in whatever you’re doing, to engage all your senses, and immerse yourself in the experience.

What is Meditation?

getting started with mindfulness - man sitting facing the sun meditating with headphones on

Before we delve deeper into mindfulness, I want to take a moment to define meditation. Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.

While mindfulness and meditation are often used interchangeably, they are not exactly the same.

Mindfulness is a form of meditation, but not all meditation is mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being fully present and accepting of the current moment without judgment, while meditation often involves a more concentrated effort to calm the mind and may incorporate various techniques, including mindfulness.

I wanted to introduce meditation here because, throughout this article, I’ll be discussing both mindfulness and meditation.

Understanding the distinction between the two may help you better grasp the concepts and practices we’ll be exploring.

So, as we journey further into the world of mindfulness and meditation, remember that both practices offer unique paths to peace, clarity, and self-understanding.

How Do I Get Started Practicing Mindfulness?

Starting a mindfulness journey is a personal commitment to your well-being. It’s about taking a few moments each day to connect with yourself, tune into your inner world, and cultivate a sense of peace and tranquility.

It’s important to know that the following steps are for the early stages of learning to be mindful. As you become more comfortable with the practice, you should be able to be mindful in everything you do.

Here are some steps to help you get started with your mindfulness practice:

Setting Aside Time for Practice

The first step in starting a mindfulness practice is to set aside time each day for it. This doesn’t have to be a large chunk of time.

In fact, it’s better to start with small, manageable periods and gradually increase them as you become more comfortable with the practice.

You might start with just five minutes each day. Choose a time that works best for you. It could be in the morning, to set a positive tone for the day, or in the evening, to unwind and let go of the day’s stresses.

The key is to make it a part of your daily routine, just like brushing your teeth or having breakfast.

Choosing a Quiet and Comfortable Space

The next step is to find a quiet and comfortable space where you won’t be disturbed. This could be a corner of your bedroom, a spot in your garden, or even a park bench. The important thing is that it’s a place where you feel calm and at ease.

Make this space your mindfulness sanctuary. You might want to add elements that enhance the sense of tranquility, like a cushion for comfort, a candle for focus, or a plant for a touch of nature.

Starting with Short Sessions and Gradually Increasing the Duration

When you’re just starting out, it’s important to begin with short mindfulness sessions. This could be as little as five minutes a day.

The goal is not to strain or push yourself, but to gently ease into the practice.

Start by focusing on your breath. Notice the sensation of the air entering your nostrils, filling your lungs, and then leaving your body.

If your mind wanders, which it inevitably will, gently bring your attention back to your breath.

As you become more comfortable with the practice, you can gradually increase the duration of your mindfulness sessions.

You might extend your practice to 10 minutes a day, then 15 minutes, and eventually 20 minutes or more. Remember, there’s no rush. The journey is more important than the destination.

In the end, starting a mindfulness practice is about making a commitment to yourself. It’s about dedicating a few moments each day to tune into your inner world, to cultivate a sense of peace and tranquility, and to nurture your well-being. So take the first step today, and embark on your mindfulness journey. You deserve it.

In the next section, we’ll explore different techniques of mindfulness practice.

Different Techniques of Mindfulness Practice

Once you’ve set aside time and space for your mindfulness practice, the next step is to explore different techniques.

Here are some of the most common mindfulness techniques that you can incorporate into your practice:

Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing is a fundamental technique in mindfulness practice. It involves focusing your attention on your breath, observing each inhalation and exhalation without trying to change or control it.

To practice mindful breathing, find a comfortable position, close your eyes, and start to notice your breath.

Pay attention to how the air feels as it enters your nostrils, travels down into your lungs, and then leaves your body. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring your attention back to your breath.

Body Scan Meditation

Body scan meditation is another powerful mindfulness technique. It involves mentally scanning your body from head to toe, and observing any sensations, feelings, or thoughts that arise.

To practice body scan meditation, lie down in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to center yourself.

Then, starting from the top of your head and moving down to your toes, mentally scan each part of your body. Notice any sensations, whether it’s tension, relaxation, warmth, or coolness. Remember, the goal is not to change anything, but simply to observe.

Sitting Meditation

Sitting meditation is a traditional mindfulness practice. It involves sitting in a comfortable position, focusing on your breath, and observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment.

To practice sitting meditation, find a quiet and comfortable place to sit. It could be on a cushion on the floor, or on a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.

Then, let your breath return to its natural rhythm and simply observe it. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring your attention back to your breath.

Walking Meditation

Walking meditation is a form of mindfulness practice that involves being fully present while walking. It’s a great way to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life, especially if you find sitting meditation challenging.

To practice walking meditation, find a quiet place where you can walk without interruption.

Start to walk slowly, paying attention to the sensation of your feet touching the ground. Notice the movement of your body, the feeling of the air on your skin, and the sounds around you. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring your attention back to your walking.

Each of these techniques offers a unique way to practice mindfulness. You can experiment with each one and see which works best for you.

Remember, the goal of mindfulness is not to achieve a certain state, but to cultivate a sense of presence and awareness. So be patient with yourself, and enjoy the journey.

In the next section, we’ll discuss how to integrate mindfulness into your daily life.

Integrating Mindfulness into Daily Life

While setting aside time for formal mindfulness practice is important, equally valuable is finding ways to integrate mindfulness into your everyday life. Here are some ways you can bring mindfulness into your daily activities:

Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is the practice of paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both inside and outside the body.

We pay attention to the colors, smells, textures, flavors, temperatures, and even the sounds of our food.

We also pay attention to the experience of the body. Where in the body do we feel hunger? Where do we feel satisfaction? What is the experience of satiety?

When I first started mindful eating, I was surprised by how everything I ate felt like it was the first time I was eating it. This is a symptom of the ‘beginner’s mind’, which is part of mindfulness, where you try to experience everything as if it’s the first time.

To practice mindful eating, start by choosing a small piece of food, such as a fruit or a few nuts. Look at the food. Notice its texture and color.

Then, take a bite, but before swallowing, notice the taste. Is it sweet, sour, bitter, or salty? How does the texture feel against your tongue? Continue eating slowly, savoring each bite. Yummy!

Mindful Walking

Mindful walking is a way to get physical activity and practice mindfulness at the same time. It’s different from regular walking because you focus your mind completely on the act of walking.

To practice mindful walking, find a quiet place where you can walk without interruption.

As you walk, pay attention to the sensation of your feet touching the ground, the rhythm of your breath, and the feeling of the wind against your skin.

If your mind starts to wander, gently bring your attention back to the experience of walking.

I try to practice mindful walking at every opportunity. At work, this could be a simple walk to the coffee station, and what’s great is that no one knows that I am mindfully walking.

Mindful Listening

Mindful listening involves fully focusing on the sounds around you and trying to experience them in the present moment.

It can be practiced anywhere and at any time, whether you’re listening to music, the sound of the wind, or having a conversation.

To practice mindful listening, find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably and close your eyes.

Take a moment to relax and take a few deep breaths. Then, start to focus on the sounds around you. Try not to get caught up in thinking about the sounds or identifying them. Just listen and let the sounds come and go.

These are just some of the ways of including mindfulness into your daily life and can be as simple as taking a few moments to breathe, savor your food, listen to the sounds around you, or feel the ground beneath your feet.

It’s about being fully present in the moment, no matter what you’re doing.

What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is more than just a buzzword; it’s a comprehensive practice with a multitude of benefits backed by scientific research. Here are some of the key benefits of incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine:

  1. Reduced Stress: Mindfulness has been shown to significantly reduce stress. By focusing on the present moment, we can alleviate the anxieties tied to dwelling on past events or anticipating future ones.
  2. Improved Working Memory: Mindfulness practice can enhance your working memory capacity. This means better cognitive efficiency in processing information and making decisions.
  3. Enhanced Focus: Mindfulness can help improve your ability to suppress distractions and focus on the task at hand. This can lead to increased productivity and effectiveness in both personal and professional settings.
  4. Less Emotional Reactivity: Mindfulness can help you become less emotionally reactive. By observing your feelings and thoughts without judgment, you can achieve a state of calm and balanced awareness.
  5. Increased Cognitive Flexibility: Mindfulness can increase cognitive flexibility, allowing you to adapt to new situations, think outside the box, and view things from multiple perspectives.
  6. Improved Relationship Satisfaction: Mindfulness can enhance relationship satisfaction by improving your ability to respond well to relationship stress and communicate your emotions effectively.
  7. Enhanced Self-Insight and Intuition: Mindfulness can enhance self-insight, morality, intuition, and fear modulation, all functions associated with the brain’s middle prefrontal lobe area.
  8. Physical Health Benefits: Mindfulness has numerous health benefits, including increased immune functioning, improvement to well-being, and reduction in psychological distress.

Source: American Psychological Association

The Takeaway

In this article, we’ve explored the concept of mindfulness, its benefits, and how to get started with a mindfulness practice.

We’ve discussed different techniques such as mindful breathing, body scan meditation, sitting meditation, and walking meditation. We’ve also looked at ways to integrate mindfulness into daily life through mindful eating, walking, and listening.

Remember, mindfulness is not about achieving a certain state, but about cultivating a sense of presence and awareness. So why not take the first step today? Embrace the journey and discover the transformative power of mindfulness.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be construed as professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of any mental health condition, we strongly advise consulting with a qualified healthcare professional.

FAQs

Starting with mindfulness can be as simple as taking a few moments each day to focus on your breath. Find a quiet and comfortable space, sit down, close your eyes, and simply pay attention to your breathing. As you become more comfortable with this practice, you can explore other mindfulness techniques such as body scan meditation or mindful walking.

The first step to mindfulness is making the decision to set aside some time each day for mindfulness practice. This could be as little as five minutes a day. The key is to make it a part of your daily routine and to practice consistently.

Teaching mindfulness to beginners involves starting with the basics. This includes explaining what mindfulness is, discussing its benefits, and guiding them through simple mindfulness exercises such as mindful breathing or body scan meditation. It’s important to emphasize that mindfulness is not about clearing the mind of thoughts, but rather about observing them without judgment.

The seven principles of mindfulness are: non-judging, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance, and letting go. These principles serve as a guide to help cultivate a mindfulness practice and to navigate the challenges that may arise during the practice.

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