5 Simple Steps To Being More Mindful
Although it has been around in one form or another for thousands of years, mindfulness has recently become one of the most popular forms of meditation in Western society. Perhaps it’s easy to see why – in today’s fast-paced and constantly connected world, it is all too easy to get caught up in the chaos and become overly stressed. Mindfulness helps you to overcome such stresses or anxieties – in this article we explain what it is and give you 5 simple steps to becoming more mindful.
What Is Mindfulness?
Put simply, mindfulness involves being awake ’in the now’ rather than lost in thought. Mindful meditation involves focusing on the breath flowing in and out of the body to become grounded in the present moment. While doing so, mindfulness teaches you to observe your own thought patterns – both positive and negative – as they come and go.
The idea is to begin seeing your thoughts as fleeting, intangible mental events that appear and disappear as they please, rather than real aspects of your life. By developing this new perspective of your thoughts, you can more easily decide whether or not to act on them.
Mindfulness As A Formal And Informal Practice
When we imagine someone sitting on the floor meditating, we are imagining formal mindful practice. Many people choose to do this regularly – as little as 5 minutes every evening can make a big difference to your happiness and stress levels.
On the other hand, informal mindful practice involves being more mindfully aware as you go about your everyday life. For example, you could practice being more aware of your surroundings while walking around the local park or making a cup of coffee at work – rather than becoming lost in your own thoughts.
There Is No Right Or Wrong
It is important to remember that when it comes to mindfulness there is no right or wrong. “I can’t concentrate”, “This isn’t working” and “Why aren’t I feeling relaxed?” are common thoughts when first getting to grips with mindful meditation. However, they suggest that there is an end goal or a correct way of feeling – and more often than not they lead to more stress.
On the contrary, mindfulness is simply about noticing your thoughts and letting them come and go. The same goes for any other distractions that may arise during your meditation. Simply becoming aware of what you are experiencing is in itself good mindfulness practice.
A Few Things To Consider Before You Start Mindful Meditation
Before you try sitting down for a period of mindful meditation, it makes sense to consider a few things. Firstly, how long do you plan to meditate for? In today’s busy world it can be difficult to dedicate an extended period of time to sit in peace and quiet, especially if you have family or work commitments. But it is important to set aside a period of time – even if it is only 5 minutes.
Another thing to consider is whether or not you can eliminate distractions. Although some distractions – such as noise from outside – are impossible to remove, you can take several steps to ensure your meditation won’t be interrupted. Turning your phone to silent mode is perhaps the most obvious, but it may also be worth informing your family members or housemates of your intentions and politely asking them to give you some space while you meditate.
Step 1 – Sit Comfortably
You should first sit comfortably on a chair, stool or cushion. If you are sitting on a chair, make sure your lower back is away from the base of the seat so that your posture is straight and self- supporting. This will help you to gain a sense of awareness and of being awake, so that you can focus on thoughts coming and going, rather than simply relaxing and letting your mind wander. Let your eyes close, or if it feels more comfortable lower your gaze with a soft focus.
“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.”
Step 2 – Concentrate
As you sit in silence, focus on how you are currently feeling in yourself. What thoughts are going through your head? How do you feel physically? Are you stressed or anxious, or do you feel calm and relaxed? Try to get a clear sense of your current state of being, before moving on to step 3.
“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”
Step 3 – Focus On Your Breath
When you feel ready, focus on the sensations of breathing down in your abdomen – or wherever you feel them the most. Concentrate on how each breath feels as it comes in and goes out, noticing the duration of each breath and any pauses in between. Your mind will naturally begin to wander, but do not fret. Simply acknowledge that this is what minds do, before gently returning your attention to your breathing.
“In today’s rush, we all think too much — seek too much — want too much — and forget about the joy of just being.”
Step 4 – Body Awareness
At a certain point you can shift the focus of your attention from your breathing in the abdomen to your whole body. Try to become aware of any other sensations throughout your body – such as your feet on the floor, your back against the chair, and your hands on your lap. There are no rules here – you can hold the entire body in awareness or zoom in on particular areas when they begin to pull for your attention.
“Simple mindfulness practices engage the mind and the body, helping you to let go and slowly bringing you back to a sense of equanimity and peace.”
Step 5 – Release Tension
As you begin to tune out the chattering of your mind – or at least see it as a series of fleeting mental events – you may find you are overcome with a sense of peace and tranquillity. Simply existing in the moment for a short while – rather than worrying about the 100 things you need to do – can help to release tension, leaving you refreshed and providing you with a new sense of calm.
“There are 2 paths in life: listening to the mind with its endless stream of judgements, beliefs and thoughts or living life in this moment.”