By: Jennie Crooks, MSW Candidate 2016
Pause. Then bring your attention to the present moment, intentionally and nonjudgmentally. That’s mindfulness.
Fundamentally, mindfulness helps us pause and redirect our attention to what’s happening “right now.” When we practice mindfulness, we stop living in the future or the past, and better enjoy all of the moments in our lives.
Recent research reveals that mindfulness impacts areas of your brain associated with emotional regulation, perspective taking, learning and memory, and sense of self. Among many benefits, mindful meditation can reduce rates of depression and anxiety, reduce blood pressure at similar rates to medications, and improve overall well-being.
Incorporating mindfulness into your life doesn’t have to mean carving out time for a daily meditation practice. Start with these 9 simple ways to practice mindfulness, anytime and anywhere.
Mindfulness, right now
- Experiment with reading this text. Experiment with bringing your attention only to the words on this page, noticing the color and shape of the letters. If you get distracted, can you intentionally and nonjudgmentally return to this text?
- Experiment with noticing your breath. Experiment with bringing your attention to your breath as it enters and exits your body. Notice what happens as the breath enters or exits your body. Perhaps experiment with locating one spot where your experience of breath is most vivid (e.g. nostrils, abdomen, chest). Can you rest your attention on this place for five mindful breaths?
- Experiment with noticing your body. If you’re standing, experiment with bringing attention to the sensation of gravity holding you to the earth, or your feet against the floor. If you’re sitting, do your best in bringing attention to the sensation of your legs and seat against the chair. Is there any tension that perhaps you’ve not noticed until now?
- Experiment with noticing the world around you. Find one small item in your field of vision and allow your gaze to rest upon it. Experiment with noticing the color, shape and texture. Can you bring a curiosity to this item as if you’ve never seen it before?
- Experiment with noticing the sounds around you. If you’re willing, experiment with closing your eyes and bringing your attention to your ears, seeing if you can notice what sounds arise. Notice if you are quick to name or label sounds. Does any time exist between sound hitting your eardrums and your brain labeling it?
Mindfulness, in the morning
- When you wake, and before you get out of bed, experiment with noticing your breath and stretching your body. Is sleepiness in your body? If so, where?
- As you drink your coffee or tea, experiment with paying attention only to this experience. Notice the color and fragrance of the drink, and the temperature and texture of the mug in your hands. Notice if steam greets your face as you tilt your cup to drink, and be curious about the sensation of liquid in your mouth. Is there anything new about this familiar experience?
Mindfulness, in the evening
- As you brush your teeth,experiment with paying attention only to this experience. Notice when the experience begins. Notice what happens in the middle of the experience. Notice when the experience ends. What did you notice?
- Before you go to sleep, experiment with noticing your breath. Experiment with stretching your body. Notice the sensation of the sheets against your skin. Can you feel the weight of your body suspended by the bed?
There are many moments to practice mindfulness throughout the day; so many ways that mindfulness can be woven into the fabric of your life. All that’s required is that you pay attention on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally. We can influence the future by paying attention in the present. So go ahead, experiment with one of these easy practices right now.