Practising meditation or other forms of mindfulness has become more popular in recent years. Mindfulness has been shown to be helpful for many different reasons. It can help people with mental health concerns such as anxiety, and may also help with physical ailments like nausea in chemotherapy patients. There have also been studies that show that patients who practice mindfulness have higher levels of mental health, are less anxious and stressed, experience less chronic pain, and experience many other potential advantages. Patients seeking information on these connections, such as a mindfulness and addiction recovery resource, should contact their medical providers.
For those who want to begin practicing mindfulness, there are many ways to get started. Many people begin by attending a meditation class or following along with a guided mindfulness video online. However, there are many different ways to incorporate mindfulness, and its advantages, into your daily life. Here are some things you can try:
Pay attention to your breathing
One way to practice a basic form of mindfulness is to take a few moments each day to focus on your breathing. Notice the sensation of air moving in and out of your nostrils, and feel your chest rise and fall. Focusing on your breathing and the way it feels when you breathe is a good way to learn how to be more in the moment and to slow down your thinking. If you want to try a more intense, focused breathing experience, follow along with a guided breathing video or class.
Practise mindful eating
Slow down and savor each bite of food. Notice the flavors, textures, and smells of what you’re eating. Try to think about the ingredients, effort, and past life of your food. Think about the work that has gone into it, from the farm to the table. Focus on picking out the individual flavors and ingredients, and notice the way the different parts feel and smell. Mindful eating can help you to appreciate and notice your food and helps you to slow down and enjoy it, as well.
Take a mindful walk
Go for a walk outside and focus on the present moment. Notice the colors, sounds, and sensations around you. Find a place to sit quietly where you can notice the smallest details around you, such as insects working quietly on the ground, the details of a fallen leaf, or the crevices in the bark of a tree. Shut your eyes and focus on the things you can hear. Listen to the sounds of the birds, of people talking, and of traffic. Try to hear underlying sounds that you don’t usually notice. You can also focus on the smells around you, such as the smells of flowers, warm grass, or rain. Even noticing less pleasant smells and sounds such as traffic and exhaust can help you to be more mindful.
When someone is talking to you, give them your full attention. Listen without interrupting or thinking about what you’re going to say next. Try to give your full attention to the words and intentions of the person. Think only about how they are feeling and what they are saying, and then take a moment to carefully consider your response before answering. Practice careful breathing and try to remain calm if you are having a stressful or uncomfortable conversation, and you will be able to deal with it without feeling as stressed or anxious.
Take a few minutes each day to reflect on the things you’re grateful for. This can help you cultivate a more positive outlook on life. Practising gratitude can look like keeping a gratitude journal, making a habit of thinking about three things you’re thankful for, or praying a blessing before each meal. A gratitude journal is a good way to become more intentionally mindful because it forces you to really think about what you are thankful for and write it down in a concrete way. This can be more beneficial than abstract thoughts such as “I’m thankful for family”.
Connect with nature
Spend time outside and appreciate the beauty of the natural world. Take a hike, go for a swim, or simply sit in a park and observe the trees and birds. Spending time in nature is a good way to help yourself be less stressed, learn to focus on the moment, and develop a slower pace of life. Studies show that spending time outside in nature is beneficial for mental health, and today most people spend less time outside than ever. Many people are outside for less than 10% of their day, and much of that is simply spent walking between indoor locations.
Engage in a creative activity
Painting, drawing, writing, or playing music can all be mindful activities. When you are being creative, you should try to focus on the process rather than the end result. Creative pursuits force us to slow down and be in the moment. You can listen to meditation or mindfulness music or recordings while you are making art, or simply focus on the task at hand. Slow your breathing and allow the creativity to flow from you.
Practise yoga or tai chi
These practices can help you connect with your body and cultivate a sense of calm and centeredness. If you want to know how to get started with yoga or a similar mindfulness exercise, consider joining a guided class at a local wellness center or online. You can also learn more about these mindfulness methods by following along with online classes or using an app.
Practise mindful meditation
Sit quietly and focus on your breath or a mantra. When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to whatever you are focusing on. Mindfulness can be done with guided imagery to help you learn to focus your attention, or you can simply practice training your thoughts on your own. If this is hard, try some of the other, easier ways to work on mindfulness and then work your way up to being able to focus your mind in any situation.
No matter what your goals are, mindfulness can be a good way to help you have better mental health, focus on your inner thoughts and feelings, relax, learn to handle your stress, and develop a more peaceful and calm inner life.
Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.