A Beginner’s Guide To Mindfulness
When we think of mindfulness, many might imagine a bearded guru on a mountain top in deep meditation. Perhaps the idea of mindfulness evokes images of Zen gardens or even yoga poses. Being mindful is very simple. In fact, being mindful is probably the easiest thing we can do to have a semblance of control in life. Mindfulness is a psychological process where the individual is actively aware of their thoughts and works to keep themselves present- in the moment. Most people walk around completely oblivious to their thoughts and reactions. In fact, most people are under the impression that they have little to no control of how they react or think when in fact it is the only thing within our control!
Why Be Mindful?
Simply put, mindfulness is a powerful technique to avoid common mental distress like depression or anxiety. Most people can be categorized as either fretting about the future or dwelling on the past. Those who fear a possible future tend to have anxiety based disorders like Generalized Anxiety Disorder or even Panic Disorders. People who perseverate on the past tend towards disorders like Major Depression or other mood disorders. Mindfulness pulls the individual into the here and now. It allows the individual to think before they react and make healthy choices before they behave.
3 Easy Techniques to Employ Mindfulness
Take 10 Breaths
Breathing tends to be an unconscious activity. Most of us are unaware of our breathing unless it becomes labored. When we become aware of our breathing, we are forced to be present and focus on our body sensations. Make sure to breathe in through your nose and out slowly from your mouth. When you take in air, make sure you fill your lungs to capacity and, when you breathe out through your mouth, make sure you expel all the air from your lungs. This also has the added benefit of oxygenating your blood which helps in dissipating the feelings of anxiety from lack of oxygen.
At least once a day, you need to anchor yourself. This technique requires that you take off your shoes and close your eyes. Simply sit down and place your feet on the ground. While breathing slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth, push them down and imagine them taking root into the ground. Focus on how your feet feel. Notice the tension in your legs, through your hips and all the way to the top of your head. Now, open your eyes. Look around you and make note of your surroundings.
The two previous techniques can be done quickly but do require some semblance of calm, or at the very least, a private space to take off your shoes. ?
The 5 Things technique can be done at any time and in any place. All you need to do is actively make note in your mind of 5 things that are happening at this moment. For example: As I type this I am noticing the sound of the rain outside, the feeling of my foot on chair rail, the look of my fingers flying over the keys, the sensation of my back as I maintain my posture and the slight smile on my face. This technique forces the individual to be present while still doing whatever activity they need to do. This is something you can do if you feel anxious about a presentation or even while writing an article.
Mindfulness is an active way of thinking that forces the individual to take off the automatic pilot. We are creatures of habit that have automated everything from our technology to our reactions. Mindfulness takes us off that automation and brings the controls back into our own hands (minds). Between reacting and emotions is a space of time that allows us a mindful response. This allows you to be the director of your life rather than a spectator.
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