The term, “mindfulness” seems to be everywhere — it’s touted as the new yoga, the answer to stress, or the alternative to prescription drugs. But beyond the buzz, do you understand the concepts of “mindfulness”?
Credit: Debra Bolton, Charlotte Shoup Olsen, and Donna Krug, Everyday Mindfulness, Fact Sheet, Kansas State University, July 2018. (edited)
Mindfulness Has Many Definitions Living in the present moment/awareness of the present moment — paying close attention to thoughts, physical sensations, and our surroundings.
Observing personal experiences of mindfulness, being completely focused on a project — reading a book, doing a hobby, or playing a sport. This heightened awareness is mindfulness.
Taking a few deep breaths — becoming fully aware of the present moment.
Having nonjudgmental awareness in which each thought, feeling, and sensation is acknowledged and accepted in their present state. This steady and non-reactive attention usually differs from the way people normally operate in the world.
Paying attention, precisely, to the present moment without judgment.
Seven Principles of Mindfulness
Seven principles serve as the basis for mindfulness. Each can help you act skillfully and not emotionally in stress situations:
Non-judging: Be a neutral observer to each experience.
Patience: Allow each experience to emerge at its own pace.
Beginner’s mind: Avoid bringing in what you know to the current moment and try experiencing it as if it is the first time.
Trust: Believe in your intuition and your ability to see things in a new way.
Non-striving: Avoid the need for winning or losing or striving for a purpose.
Acceptance: See things as they are in the present moment.
Letting go: Take the time to detach from your usual feelings and thoughts.
Beginning Mindfulness Exercises Practice mindful relaxation: Mindful relaxation combats stress effectively. With practice, one soon learns how to shift into a relaxation mode. The brain responds to relaxation by increasing alpha brain wave activity, lowering blood pressure, pulse rate, respiration rate, and metabolic rate. Try these steps to help achieve mindful relaxation:
1. Commit to an uninterrupted time each day to practice a mindful meditation. Begin with as little as 5 minutes. Many benefit from increasing meditation time to 20 minutes or more. 2. Choose a quiet place away from any technology. 3. Find a comfortable body position — in a chair or sitting comfortably on the floor. 4. Focus on your breath flowing in and out. 5. Let any negative thoughts float away like clouds.
Try breathing techniques
When people feel stress they tend to take short, shallow gasps of air. The resulting lack of oxygen restricts blood flow and causes muscles to strain. As deep breaths increase, the heart rate slows and blood pressure lowers, which breaks the stress cycle. You may choose any time or any place to think about your breathing — even stopped at traffic signals waiting for the green light or standing in line to buy groceries.
Imagery exercises work with or without a facilitator. A common imagery practice invites you mentally to picture yourself in a quiet, calm setting. Take note of how this setting encourages your body and mind feel calm and relaxed.
Add body exercises
Sit in a chair or lie on the floor. Put your arms above your head and stretch as high as your arms and shoulders allows. At the same time, stretch your legs and feet as your body allows. Then focus on one side of your body and repeat the stretching on the other side. Now stretch the right arm and left leg followed by stretching the left arm and right leg. Finish the exercise by starting at the top of your head and consciously relaxing your scalp and facial muscles. Move on down your body, consciously relaxing each part of your body until you reach your toes. Continue to sit or lie in this relaxed state for a few moments.
When it comes to everyday mindfulness, remember to practice, practice, practice! Some people like to team up with a mindfulness group to get started. If you find that inconvenient or uncomfortable, start with breathing exercises and gradually add more movement as you explore ways to relax your body and mind.