How to Practice Mindfulness: Simple Plan to Be More Mindful in 2020
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How to practice mindfulness, simply and easily…. a complete guide. Will show you everything you need to know about the benefits of mindfulness, how to practice mindfulness and how to make mindfulness a part of your lifestyle.
Have you ever felt stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed by life?
We live in a busy world. With emails and texts flying all around as you are stepping over your children's toys and trying to get the dog fed while the food on the table is getting cold, you probably feel stressed out on a daily basis.
Fortunately, there is a simple habit you can use to naturally calm yourself down and appreciate life a bit more.
It’s called mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of purposefully focusing all of your attention on the current moment, and accepting it without judgment. This is a great place to start if you are looking for the key element in happiness.
Done correctly, mindfulness will allow you to decrease your stress and anxiety, minimize the amount of time that you spend feeling overwhelmed, and help you appreciate each small moment as it happens. In a world of chaos, mindfulness might just be the trick you need to learn to be able to cope with the madness.
If these sound like outcomes you’d love to experience, then I recommend reading through this ultimate guide to being mindful throughout the day.
Sidebar: If you'd to learn more about building the mindfulness habit, I recommend checking out this year-long physical journal that has 365 daily prompts.
What You Will Learn
- 20 Benefits of Mindfulness
- 1. Mindfulness reduces rumination and overthinking.
- 2. Mindfulness alleviates some stress.
- 3. Mindfulness improves memory, concentration, and performance.
- 4. Mindfulness helps with emotional reactivity.
- 5. Mindfulness promotes cognitive flexibility.
- 6. Mindfulness creates happier relationships.
- 7. Mindfulness reduces anxiety.
- 8. Mindfulness improves sleep.
- 9. Mindfulness promotes mental health.
- 10. Mindfulness provides pain relief.
- 11. Mindfulness enhances sex life.
- 12. Mindfulness increases resilience and equanimity.
- 13. Mindfulness slows down the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.
- 14. Mindfulness enhances creativity.
- 15. Mindfulness reduces feelings of loneliness.
- 16. Mindfulness meditation reduces implicit age and race bias.
- 17. Mindfulness increases body satisfaction.
- 18. Mindfulness enhances the ability to deal with and recover from illness.
- 19. Mindfulness helps students achieve academic success.
- 20. Mindfulness helps lower the incidence of burnout and turnover at work.
- History of Mindfulness
- How to Practice Mindfulness 101
- 1. Dedicate time and space for your mindfulness practice.
- 2. Make a conscious effort to focus on the present moment, without judgment.
- 3. Allow yourself to do nothing and just be.
- 4. Don’t think about the past. Don’t plan the future. Don’t look at the time.
- 5. Pay attention to your thoughts, words, actions, and motivations.
- 6. Notice your judgments and let them pass.
- 7. Return to the present moment.
- 8. Don’t be too hard on yourself when your mind wanders off during practice. Gently bring your attention back to the present.
- How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation
- Mindfulness vs. Meditation
- Mindful Meditation 101: A Step-by-Step Guide
- 1. Define a time and a prompt for your practice.
- 2. Find a quiet place to go.
- 3. Get comfortable.
- 4. Pay attention to what your legs are doing.
- 5. Sit up straight, but stay relaxed.
- 6. Think about your arms.
- 7. Soften your gaze.
- 8. Relax your entire body.
- 9. Think about your intention.
- 10. Focus on your breath.
- 11. Notice when your mind begins to wander.
- 12. Forgive your wandering mind.
- 13. When you are finished, slowly lift your gaze.
- 14. Slowly bring your attention back to the present moment and your surroundings.
- Mindfulness at Work
- Mindfulness for Anxiety
- Mindfulness for Depression
- Mindfulness for Parents
- Mindfulness in the Classroom
- Mindfulness for Children
- Mindfulness for Teens
- 1. Make mindfulness relevant to the daily lives of teens.
- 2. When teaching mindfulness to a group, groups of 12 or less are more receptive to learning and sharing.
- 3. In a school setting, it’s better to teach mindfulness to students after their freshman year.
- 4. Use a mindfulness app to facilitate consistent practice.
- Mindfulness Apps, Books, and Podcasts
- Final Thoughts on How to Practice Mindfulness…
First up, we’ll cover the benefits of mindfulness—specifically, how it can positively impact both your mental and physical well-being.
20 Benefits of Mindfulness
1. Mindfulness reduces rumination and overthinking.
One of the most common symptoms that comes along with anxiety is rumination or overthinking. After you begin to worry about something, your brain will hold onto that tightly and make it difficult to let go. It is easy to get into a thought loop where you continue to replay each and every bad outcome imaginable. We all know this is not useful because worrying about something does not prevent it from happening.
One study actually showed that people who were new to mindfulness and began to practice it during a retreat were able to show fewer signs of rumination and anxiety than the control group.
2. Mindfulness alleviates some stress.
Because people are faced with an increasing amount of pressure these days due to the complex nature of our society, they are often plagued with a lot of stress. This contributes to a wide variety of other health problems. Mindfulness can reduce stress by acting as a preventative measure, and help people get through difficult times.
3. Mindfulness improves memory, concentration, and performance.
Paying attention and concentrating on the task at hand may be one of the most important cognitive abilities people have. Mindfulness is one of a very few methods that works as an antidote for mind-wandering and the negative effects that losing concentration may have on you. In fact, research on students has shown that there is a connection between mindfulness and paying attention both in and out of the classroom.
Studies have shown that meditating on a regular basis causes the brain’s cerebral cortex (which is responsible for memory, concentration, and learning) to thicken.
4. Mindfulness helps with emotional reactivity.
Of all the reasons that people usually have for learning meditation, being less emotionally reactive is typically high on the list. Being mindful or “Zen” equates to rolling with the punches in life and being non-reactive to things that might come your way.
And there’s definitely something to this. Mindfulness meditation has allowed study participants to distance their emotions from upsetting pictures and focus more on a cognitive task, as compared with a control group.
5. Mindfulness promotes cognitive flexibility.
One study suggests that not only will mindfulness help people become less reactive, it also may give people more cognitive flexibility. People who practice mindfulness appear to be able to also practice self-observation, which automatically disengages the pathways created in the brain from prior learning, and allows information that is happening in the present moment to be understood in a new way.
Meditation also activates the part of the brain that is associated with adaptive responses to stress, which corresponds to a faster recovery to a baseline train of thought after being negatively impacted.
6. Mindfulness creates happier relationships.
Researchers are still unsure this works, but emerging brain studies have shown that people who engage in mindfulness on a regular basis show both structural and functional changes in the brain regions that are linked to enhanced empathy, compassion, and kindness.
Another benefit of mindfulness is in its effects on the amygdala, which is the brain’s emotional processing center. Mindfulness is linked to reductions in both the volume of the amygdala and its connection to the prefrontal cortex. This suggests that mindfulness might support emotion regulation and decrease reactivity, which are two important tools for creating and maintaining relationships.
7. Mindfulness reduces anxiety.
Research has found that mindfulness is especially helpful in reducing anxiety. Practicing mindfulness regularly helps to rewire your brain so you can refocus your attention. Rather than following a negative and worrying thought down a path of all possible outcomes, you can learn to recognize your thoughts for what they are and just let them go.
8. Mindfulness improves sleep.
The relaxation response that your body has to mindfulness meditation is quite the opposite of the stress response. This relaxation response works to ease many stress-related health issues, such as pain, depression, and high blood pressure. Sleep disorders are often tied to these ailments.
One study of older adults confirms that mindfulness meditation can aid in getting a good night's sleep. According to this study, mindfulness meditation can “increase the relaxation response through its function of increasing attentional factors that impart control over the autonomic nervous system.”
9. Mindfulness promotes mental health.
Researchers have found that IBMT (integrative body-mind training) begins positive structural changes in the brain that could help protect against mental disease. The practice of this technique helps boost efficiency in a part of the brain that helps people regulate behavior.
10. Mindfulness provides pain relief.
About 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain every day, but 40% to 70% of these people are not receiving proper medical treatment. Many studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can reduce pain without having to use endogenous opioid systems that are usually believed to reduce pain during cognitive-based techniques like mindfulness.
The self-produced opioid system has usually been thought of as the central part of the brain for relieving pain without the use of drugs. This system self-produces three opioids, including beta-endorphin, the met- and Leu-enkephalins, and the dynorphins. All of these work together to reduce pain by practicing mindfulness.
11. Mindfulness enhances sex life.
Research has shown that mindfulness can enhance a woman's sex life by quieting any mental chatter that is crossing their minds and preventing them from feeling the present sexual stimuli. This, in turn, can help enhance a man's sex life as well.
12. Mindfulness increases resilience and equanimity.
One study found that Lama Oser’s (The Dalai Lama’s right-hand man) left-to-right prefrontal cortex activity ratio was sky high compared to a sample of 175 other people. This information indicated extremely high levels of equanimity, well-being, and resilience to negativity, all of which could be traced back to his discipline of mindfulness.
13. Mindfulness slows down the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.
Researchers have found that positive brain changes that are associated with mindfulness meditation (such as the reduction of stress and anxiety) may work to slow the progression of age-related cognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Patients suffering from Alzheimer’s who participated in the study showed a lower rate of cognitive decline after the eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program than a control group who did not participate in the program.
14. Mindfulness enhances creativity.
Creativity requires a person to have some balance between the “freestyle” network and the “control” network of the brain. Balancing freestyle and control with self-expression produces creative results. Practicing mindfulness is a key part of creating this balance.
Researchers have even studied the effects of two different kinds of meditation practices on divergent and convergent thinking, and found that mindful meditation significantly improved both of these types of thinking.
15. Mindfulness reduces feelings of loneliness.
Being lonely is more than living in a silent house or having a lack of companionship. With time, loneliness can take a toll on the psyche and have a serious impact on one's physical health as well.
Feelings of loneliness have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, anxiety, depression, and even a shortened lifespan. This means that it is important to develop effective treatments for those who are living in isolation.
One study looked at 40 adults and found that meditating for half an hour each day for eight weeks reduced their feelings of loneliness.
16. Mindfulness meditation reduces implicit age and race bias.
Research has suggested that mindfulness can positively change the negative thoughts or associations that people once had. The impact of mindfulness has been studied in regards to several biases through measurements of implicit association tests. These tests found that people who listened to mindfulness meditation had an increased state of mindfulness and a decrease in their implicit biases.
17. Mindfulness increases body satisfaction.
Mindfulness meditation involves self-compassion without judgment and full acceptance of oneself. It encourages a non-striving and non-judgmental view of the world. When people are unsatisfied with their bodies, they are not able to view themselves without judgment, due to their excessive preoccupation with their appearance.
A 2014 study assigned women to either a meditation intervention group or a control group. The women in the intervention group experienced three weeks of self-compassion training through meditation. These women “experienced a significantly greater reduction in body dissatisfaction, body shame, and contingent self-worth based on appearance, as well as greater gains in self-compassion and body appreciation” than the women in the control group. Amazingly, these positive effects were still felt three months later.
18. Mindfulness enhances the ability to deal with and recover from illness.
When you think of mindfulness or meditation, you probably think of a quiet, private time of peace. On the other hand, when you think of hospitals or doctors’ offices, you probably think about the anxiety, pain, and chaos going on around you. So, how can mindfulness have a place in health care?
The eCALM trial is a therapy program for cancer patients. It found that mindfulness can reduce the physical symptoms of stress, decrease one's emotional reactivity to negative experiences, and facilitate post-traumatic growth while enhancing energy and relieving fatigue.
Additionally, a study found that mindfulness meditation has also been found to decrease anxiety and foster post-traumatic mental and emotional growth in breast cancer survivors, as well as increasing energy and spirituality.
19. Mindfulness helps students achieve academic success.
Everyone knows that, in addition to academic success, people want our youth to be happy and physically well. All of these goals are connected, and we now realize the role that social and emotional well-being have in achieving academic success. Learning how to focus one's attention on productive tasks, become more self-aware, stay motivated to keep going when work becomes difficult, and deal with the frustrations of learning and communicating with peers are vital skills that depend on a student's ability to comprehend and manage their emotions.
Researchers have found that college students who learned the craft of mindfulness were able to perform better on the verbal reasoning section of the GRE, and experienced improvements in their working memory. While the emphasis on academic achievement is typically what is highlighted in debates on school reform, important movements are being made by people who take a more complete and holistic approach to education.
20. Mindfulness helps lower the incidence of burnout and turnover at work.
Early reports of job burnout came to light in the 1970s and were mostly focused on people who were working in health care or human services. While there is a growing body of research on job burnout, there is no widely agreed-upon definition. However, job burnout is essentially one's inability to properly respond to chronic occupational stress, with the experience of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a low rate of personal achievement.
Job burnout can manifest as depression, aggression, decreased commitment, decreased cognitive performance, and decreased motivation. This phenomenon has been associated with an increased risk of physical and mental health problems such as increased blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, and depression.
One study found that there is an inverse relationship between mindfulness and job turnover intention, suggesting that employees who are trained in mindfulness are less likely to leave their jobs for any reason.
So those are the 20 benefits of mindfulness. Did any stand out as positives that you want to experience?
Now let’s move on to the history of mindfulness, and then we’ll dive into how to practice mindfulness throughout the day.
History of Mindfulness
Mindfulness has been practiced for thousands of years in various religious and secular traditions. From Hinduism and Buddhism to yoga and even non-religious meditation, mindfulness has been around for a long time. People practice mindfulness both by itself and as part of a larger tradition.
In general, mindfulness was popularized in the East by religious and spiritual institutions. But in the West, its popularity is linked to particular people and specific secular institutions. However, even the West's secular tradition of mindfulness has roots in Eastern religion and specific practitioners.
The popularity of mindfulness in the United States is historically attributed to Jon Kabat-Zinn. Kabat-Zinn works at the University of Massachusetts Medical School as a professor of medicine emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society.
He has authored several books on mindfulness, such as:
Kabat-Zinn was first introduced to mindfulness as a student at MIT. In 1979, he went on to develop the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and adapted the Buddhist teachings that he had learned on mindfulness to develop his stress reduction and relaxation program, which is now called “mindfulness-based stress reduction.”
Kabat-Zinn links mindfulness to science more than Buddhism as he continues to bring the practice into the mainstream of clinics, which has been successful so far. Due to his integration of Western science, mindfulness has become a popular practice here in the United States.
How to Practice Mindfulness 101
There are countless ways to be more mindful throughout the day, but in this section, I’ll cover a simple eight-step process for practicing mindfulness.
1. Dedicate time and space for your mindfulness practice.
You want the space you choose for mindfulness practice to be quiet, calm, and soothing. You will also want to pick a time during which you are unlikely to be interrupted. Create a space in your house that is peaceful and allows you to just relax while practicing mindfulness. Don't use this space for anything aside from meditating. This way, when you sit down, your body will be notified that it is time to calm down and practice mindfulness.
2. Make a conscious effort to focus on the present moment, without judgment.
If you stop to think about it, the only moment in which you are really able to live is the present. Don't think about the future or the past, and fully accept yourself in the moment. Always come back to focusing on your breath and listening to the sounds around you.
3. Allow yourself to do nothing and just be.
You do not always have to be running around in order to get things accomplished. Often, your mind and body need to recharge so you can be productive when you do have to work. Allow yourself to have this resting period, and think of it as a necessary part of living a good life in the long run.
4. Don’t think about the past. Don’t plan the future. Don’t look at the time.
You know you can't change the past. So why can't you let it go? Stop thinking about things that have already happened. Additionally, the future is not here yet, so there is no need to focus too intently on that either. The future will come to you soon enough. Focus instead on the present moment without worrying about what time it is, or when you have to be somewhere next. Don't worry about how much time you allow to pass before getting up.
5. Pay attention to your thoughts, words, actions, and motivations.
When you are thinking, saying, or doing something, what is the reason behind it? Are you telling someone a story to benefit them in some way, or is it just benefiting you or your ego? Think about the motivations behind everything you do before you do it to see if it is really necessary. Make sure that you are always coming from a good place when you choose to speak or act in any way.
6. Notice your judgments and let them pass.
It is ok to have judgments. This is a normal thing that everyone experiences. However, it is important to acknowledge them and allow them to pass as nothing more than fleeting thoughts. Judgments are not permanent, and your mind can always change, so don't get too caught up in your initial judgments of anything.
7. Return to the present moment.
If you begin to feel anxious about the future or regretful about the past, return your attention to the moment at hand. Stop and realize there is nothing you can do to change anything that has already happened or anything that may be coming to you in the future. Always return to the here and now to live in peace.
8. Don’t be too hard on yourself when your mind wanders off during practice. Gently bring your attention back to the present.
Everyone's mind is going to wander now and then while they are practicing mindfulness meditation. It is ok to recognize your passing thought and let it go. Once it is gone, take some deep breaths and reset your focus to be in your mindfulness practice.
This is just one mindfulness blueprint. As I said before, there are countless ways to practice mindfulness. For instance, you can add a bit of meditation, which we’ll cover next.
How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness vs. Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation both have health benefits that are both physical and mental, but many don't realize that they are two different things. Jon Kabat-Zinn says that practicing mindfulness is only one form of meditation.
When people are meditating, they often believe that something is supposed to happen during that time. For example, they think they will be able to completely empty their minds and be at peace in the moment. They may even believe they will feel weightless.
However, mindfulness is simply the practice of being aware. You don't have to focus on this for a certain amount of time during the day. Rather, you can choose to be mindful any time and anywhere. You can even be mindful during a conversation with a friend.
Mindfulness meditation, however, refers to a popular kind of meditation that is known to Buddhists as samatha. If you’re interested in combining the two into a simple mindful meditation exercise, then I recommend this simple blueprint. In the following section, I included 14 steps for adding meditation to a mindfulness activity but feel free to adapt the following to suit your daily routine.
Mindful Meditation 101: A Step-by-Step Guide
1. Define a time and a prompt for your practice.
It does not have to be the same time every day, but using a prompt such as brushing your teeth or drinking your morning tea will allow you to help get your body into the mode to meditate. It will send your brain a signal that it is time to quiet down.
2. Find a quiet place to go.
You may have a space set up in your house where you practice your meditation, or you may prefer to go outside or to some other quiet place where you can feel calm. It doesn’t truly matter where you decide to meditate, as long as it is quiet and you will not be interrupted.
3. Get comfortable.
Get into a physically comfortable position on a stable and solid seat. It is best to sit during meditation. However, if you feel like you might become tired or fall asleep during your meditation, you may need to kneel or even stand. Loosen your clothes so nothing is holding back your breathing.
4. Pay attention to what your legs are doing.
If you are on a cushion, sit with your legs crossed comfortably in front of you. If you are sitting in a chair, gently rest the soles of your feet on the floor beneath you.
5. Sit up straight, but stay relaxed.
Allow your spine to fall into its natural curvy position. Comfort is of utmost importance here. Imagine there is a thread extending from your tailbone to the top of your head, lifting your chin and allowing you to sit up tall.
6. Think about your arms.
Loosen them up and allow your elbows to bend slightly. Keep your upper arms parallel to your upper body, and rest your palms wherever feels the most comfortable on your legs.
7. Soften your gaze.
Allow your chin to drop just a little, and allow your eyelids to fall slightly downward. You don't have to close your eyes—you can just allow what appears before your eyes to be there without focusing firmly on it.
8. Relax your entire body.
Scan your muscles, relaxing each one before the next. Start with your toes and work your way up your entire body. Don’t forget about your shoulders, face, and jaw, which are all very common areas to hold tension.
9. Think about your intention.
This doesn't have to be a long process. Begin with your basic reasons for practicing mindfulness, and your intended goals. You may be looking to feel more energized throughout the day, or you may be aiming to decrease the amount of judgment that you feel yourself thinking on a regular basis.
10. Focus on your breath.
Think about your breathing and the air flowing in and out of your respiratory system. Think about the physical sensations while you are breathing, and the rising and falling of your chest and stomach.
11. Notice when your mind begins to wander.
This is ok, and you don't want to try to force away passing thoughts. When you see that your mind is wandering, gently return it to your breathing.
12. Forgive your wandering mind.
If your mind is wandering constantly, don't try to fight it too much. Rather than wrestling with your thoughts, stop to observe them, and practice being able to not react. Keep sitting and paying attention. While it might be difficult to press on with your meditation, there is nothing else you can do. Keep trying to come back to your breath.
13. When you are finished, slowly lift your gaze.
There is no right or wrong amount of time to meditate, but if you are new to meditating, you may want to start with shorter sessions that last only about 10 minutes. As you become more comfortable with meditating, you can practice for longer periods of time.
14. Slowly bring your attention back to the present moment and your surroundings.
Acknowledge the space around you. Slowly begin to wiggle your fingers and toes, and then start to move your hands and the rest of your body. Take your time getting up, and be sure to notice any sounds that are in your environment. Think about how your body feels in the current moment, from top to bottom. Think about your feelings and emotions.
If you prefer following along to a video, here’s a simple 10-minute video from The Honest Guys that walks you through a quick mindfulness meditation.
And if you want to experiment with even more mindfulness activities, then I recommend checking out this post.
Okay, we’ve covered two methods for being more mindful. But there will be times when you need to apply mindfulness to specific scenarios. In the following section, I’ll go over a variety of ways you can be mindful throughout your life (or help others do the same).
Mindfulness at Work
This is a great site to visit if you want to learn how to be mindful while you are at work. If you cannot seem to focus throughout the day, and fail to get everything finished that you intended to because you keep getting distracted, practicing mindfulness at work might be a good idea for you.
During the week, spend two minutes right after you wake up in your bed focusing on your breathing. Your thoughts may begin to move on to what you have to do that day, but allow these thoughts to pass and bring your attention back to your breath. Enjoy this peace before the busy day begins.
Once you get to your office, do a quick 10-minute brain-boosting activity. Either sitting at your desk or while you are still in your car, do a short practice of mindfulness before getting into your work for the day. This is your time to keep all of your focus solely on yourself.
Lower your gaze, relax your muscles, and sit up straight. Fully focus on your breath, and just think about inhaling and exhaling over and over.
To help maintain your attention on your breathing, silently count each breath. Whenever you feel like you are going to be distracted, let go of that distraction and return your focus to your breathing.
Mindfulness for Anxiety
Focusing on your breaths one by one can help relieve anxiety. While you probably don’t typically think about the action of breathing, if you are able to become aware of it, you will be able to teach yourself how to calm down.
If you become anxious, simply start to pay attention to your breath, and feel it coming in and going out of your lungs during the day.
Four things to keep in mind while building your focused deep-breathing habit:
1. Don't relax so much that you slouch over and make a barrier for your lungs to breathe. Sit up nice and tall to give your lungs the room they need to take in as much oxygen as they can. Identify any areas of your body where you feel tension, and think about breathing into those areas, creating a relaxing effect as you exhale.
2. Make sure that you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. This is because your nose has small hairs and other defense mechanisms that keep some toxins and cold air out of your body. Your nose also has the ability to detect any poisonous gases or impurities that are in the air that could be harmful to your health. Also, viruses and bacteria are prone to enter your body when you breathe in through your mouth, so make sure to leave all the work to your nose.
3. Practice abdominal breathing when you inhale by receiving the air into your torso and pushing your stomach outward. Continue to breathe in as if all of the air is going into your stomach. When you exhale, breathe out through your mouth slowly and let your stomach go back to its normal position.
4. Make sure that you know the difference between shallow breathing and abdominal breathing. Shallow breathing stops at the chest and does not offer great health benefits. Abdominal breathing, on the other hand, fills up your entire lungs and encourages the full exchange of oxygen. Deep breathing through the abdomen also massages your abdominal organs as your diaphragm moves.
Mindfulness for Depression
Mindfulness can be extremely helpful if you are aiming to improve the cognitive symptoms of depression that can impair every area of a person’s life. For example, poor concentration can have a negative impact on your job or schoolwork. Negative thinking can also lead to negative emotions, which only deepens one's depression.
Focusing on the present moment helps people become aware of their passing negative thoughts, acknowledge that they are there without passing any judgment, and realizing that those thoughts are not an accurate depiction of reality. Through mindfulness, people can view their thoughts as being less powerful and more distorted, allowing them to pass by easily.
If you can learn to watch yourself think rather than get wrapped up in the emotions of your thoughts, you won't be carried away by negative thoughts. You can allow them to come and go easily.
Part of being mindful is being able to develop and use your “felt sense,” meaning that you know how to be fully aware of the processes of your body, your breathing, your heart rate, and the sounds that you hear.
It is also important to connect with nature when you are trying to fight depression. Taking some time each day to spend outside in the sunlight can have a huge effect on one's mental and physical well-being. In fact, many studies have shown that spending time in nature has many health benefits, including boosting your immune system, relieving symptoms of depression and anxiety, improving concentration and creativity, relieving stress, and improving your memory.
Nature is one of the most reliable boosts that you have to your mental and physical well-being. If you work in an office, even having a view of nature out a window can help decrease stress and anxiety.
Recognize and acknowledge when you are feeling stressed or scared. Think about how your stress response is active rather than thinking that you are inadequate as a person. Recognize that this is a healthy response.
Practice making a gratitude journal each night. Gratitude may be one of the most overlooked tools that each one of us has access to each day. Cultivating gratitude is free of charge, and it doesn’t take up much of your time, but there is potential to get huge benefits from it.
If you keep a gratitude journal that you write in before bedtime, it can help improve your sleep. For example, one study found that keeping a gratitude journal decreased depression, while another study found that showing evening gratitude increases optimism, improves sleep, and lowers blood pressure. If you want to be able to sleep better, creating a gratitude journal is a great idea.
Mindfulness for Parents
Make time for mindfulness meditation every day. This can be your time to unwind and focus only on yourself, with no one interrupting you.
1. Embrace being a “good enough” parent. Have you heard that “good enough” is the new perfect? No one knows exactly what they are doing when it comes to parenting. We are all just kind of making it up as we go along. Accept your parenting and know that if you love your children, there is not much you can do wrong.
2. Be the first to apologize. I know, sometimes you might not want to, and you actually might not even really mean it. But there is very little traffic on the high road, so it is often best to take it.
3. Establish healthy boundaries with your children. Recognize your unattained personal goals and don't burden your children with them. Don't bring children into adult situations or adult problems. Let children discover that level of the world for themselves. It is very important to remember that you are your child's parent, not their friend.
4. Give more attention, which is the most concrete expression of love you can give. Put your phone down when you are in the presence of another person. Practice active listening by mimicking body language and repeating back what someone is saying to you. Don't allow other things to distract you when you are with someone you love. Take the time to read to your young children at night, or listen to the small details of their day. These are the important moments that you don't want to pass you by.
5. Cultivate kindness and compassion in yourself. Don't think negative thoughts about you, or neglect a compliment when a friend gives you one. Be kind to yourself, and love yourself for who you are and the successes that you have had in life. If you are kind to yourself, your children will see this and learn how to be kind to themselves in return.
6. Live by routine. Children love routines. They make life a bit more predictable and comfortable. They allow you to know what to expect, and to be able to get things done in a predictable way. Of course, you can break your routine sometimes. In fact, it is healthy to do so on occasion. But for the most part, try to stick to a healthy routine that works for you and your family.
7. Take regular screen breaks. Turn your phone off, turn your television off, and turn off any other electronics in your house that may be distracting you from interacting with your family. Take some time to read a book or just talk to the other people living in your house.
8. Designate a “quiet chair” in your home. Anyone can sit in this chair, but everyone should know that when someone is sitting in this chair, they do not want to be bothered, and they are trying to relax. This chair should be open for everyone to use when they need it, and just allow for a peaceful space in the house.
Mindfulness in the Classroom
Mindfulness is very important if you are a teacher. Teaching requires a lot of patience and focus, so mindfulness is a great way to help get through even the toughest of days.
Try starting each class with a mindful moment. During this time, you can instruct your students to just close their eyes and take some deep breaths.
Practice mindful listening. Think about the intentions of the person who is speaking to you, and take in everything they are saying without judgment.
Take a few mindful breaks throughout the day. This may involve a student ringing a bell or getting the attention of the class in some other way, even if the class is in the middle of a lesson. The class then stops and everyone becomes silent before getting up and stretching and then sitting back down to do some deep breathing. This is also a great time for students to think to themselves about a few things that they are grateful for. After this break, the lesson can pick back up again, and the students will be refreshed and ready to keep learning.
Every now and then throughout the day, check in with your attention, and ask the students to do so as well. Make sure people are paying attention in class rather than having their minds wander to other things. Bring everyone's focus back to the subject at hand.
End each class with a mindful moment. Take about five minutes at the end of class to have students close their eyes and concentrate on their breath. Then, have them mentally reflect on what you learned in class that day. This will also allow students to have a bit of a mental break between classes. The teacher can then end the class on a positive about how hard the students have worked, how they should be proud of themselves and others, and how much she cares about their well-being.
Mindfulness for Children
Raising your kids to be mindful is a wonderful way to share this habit with the next generation. If you’d like to learn more about how to do this, then I highly recommend reading Goldie Hawn’s book 10 Mindful Minutes. But to get started, here are eight exercises you can share with your little ones.
1. The Bell-Listening Exercise
To do this exercise, ring a bell and ask the children to listen to the noise of the ringing as it slowly decreases in volume. Have the children raise their hands when they feel like the ringing has completely stopped. Then have the children continue to remain silent for one minute, paying close attention to any other sounds that are present in the room once the bell is no longer making any noise. Afterward, ask each child one by one to tell you every sound that they noticed during that time. This exercise helps teach children how to connect to the present moment and pay close attention to their senses.
2. Breathing Buddies
Have each child lie down on the floor on their backs, and give each of them a stuffed animal. Tell them to place the stuffed animals on top of their bellies. Have them breathe in silence for one minute, and feel how their stuffed animal (“breathing buddy”) slowly moves up and down with their breath. Have them also note any other sensations that they feel.
Have the children imagine their passing thoughts turning into bubbles and floating away. Having a “breathing buddy” will make this form of meditation friendly for the children, allowing them to see that they can have fun without being wild.
3. The Squish and Relax Meditation
While the children are lying down with their eyes closed, tell them to tighten each muscle in their bodies, starting with their toes and moving all the way up to their heads. Have them hold each tightened muscle for a few seconds before fully releasing it and relaxing their bodies. This activity will help the children loosen up their bodies and minds. This is also a very effective method to teach children how to stay in the present moment.
4. Smell and Tell
Find something fragrant to hand out to each child. This could be an herb such as thyme or rosemary, or something like a lemon wedge. Ask each child to close their eyes and inhale the scent, focusing their attention only on the aroma. Scent is a great tool for relieving anxiety.
5. The Art Of Touch
Have each child close their eyes before handing them an object that has a distinct feel, such as a feather or a stone. Ask each child to describe what the object feels like to a friend. This is a compelling way to teach children about isolating their senses from one another and being able to pay attention to unique experiences.
6. The Heartbeat Exercise
Ask the children to jump in place for 60 seconds. Have them sit down and feel their pulses with their fingers. Tell the children to close their eyes while feeling their heartbeats, focusing on their breath and seeing what else they notice changes within their bodies.
Sit in a group and have the children talk about their feelings, one at a time. Ask them to describe their feelings and where exactly they go on in their body, and what makes certain feelings arise. Talk about which feelings the children enjoy having, and which they don't like to have at all.
Ask the children what they do to make themselves feel better if they are not feeling well. Then go over the previous exercise with them, reminding them of the ways that they can let negative thoughts go, relax, and focus on their breath whenever they start to feel bad.
8. Mindful Poses
Ask children to find a safe, familiar, quiet place to do some mindful posing if necessary. This is an easy way to get children started with mindfulness. Tell the children that doing these poses will help them feel good and strong:
The Superman: Teach the child to stand with their feet a bit wider than their hips and clench their fists. Have them reach their arms out, stretching the body as much as possible.
The Wonder Woman: Teach children to stand up tall with their legs wider than hip-width apart, and place their hands or fists on their hips.
Mindfulness for Teens
Mindfulness activities that are designed for adults can also be practiced by teenagers—they just need to be taught and have the necessary motivation to learn and practice.
1. Make mindfulness relevant to the daily lives of teens.
You have to let them know what is in it for them to incentivize their practice. Teach teens about how mindfulness can help reduce the stress that is related to tests or sports. Also, tell them that it will help them increase their concentration in school.
Teach in smaller groups so you can give individual attention to each student. This way, each student can learn how mindfulness can help them in their own specific way.
3. In a school setting, it’s better to teach mindfulness to students after their freshman year.
Allow the teens to get past the stage of having goofy energy, and into the age where they are able to pull themselves together and try to focus on the task at hand. More mature students are more likely to be able to do this.
4. Use a mindfulness app to facilitate consistent practice.
Teens are on their phones all the time, so if they have an app that they can refer to, they are more often to practice mindfulness outside of class.
Mindfulness Apps, Books, and Podcasts
When trying to learn about mindfulness, it is best to read as much as you can about the subject and try out various programs to see which work the best for you.
That’s why I recommend checking out the following resources.
This is a great app for people who are on the go. Every day, it delivers quick three-minute meditations for people to get the short burst that they need.
You can use Breethe all day for motivation and guidance in your mindfulness practice. Breethe helps users keep up with their mindfulness from when they wake up to when they go to sleep.
This app offers a variety of meditations that have different themes. You can pick a meditation that matches your current feelings. For example, if you are feeling overwhelmed, you can pick a meditation that addresses that. If you are feeling anxious, you can listen to a calming meditation to help you ride it out.
Calm offers relaxing sounds of rain, crickets, and even a crackling fireplace in the background of its guided meditations to give the user an additional sense of relief from everyday life.
This app uses spoken-word exercises that are meant to be used for about 10 minutes a day. The free version of this app comes with 10 sessions. If you find it helpful, you can purchase more.
This is a great app whether you are new to mindfulness meditation or have been doing it for several years.
Dan Harris, the author of 10% Happier, hosts this podcast that features enlightening interviews with relevant guests, including bestselling authors, entrepreneurs, meditation teachers, and more. Some well-known guests that have been interviewed on this podcast are author Sharon Salzberg and actress Bellamy Young. With new episodes every Wednesday morning, this podcast will always give you something to look forward to.
This podcast will allow you to use mindfulness and meditation to become more calm, increase your focus, and live a happier life. Some guests that have been featured include Nate Hockstra, Pat Flynn, and Michael Pullman. Langford uses interviews and offers strategies and tips to help listeners live in the present and become centered. This is a great podcast for entrepreneurs, business owners, CEOs, teachers, and parents. You can find new episodes of this podcast each Sunday and Wednesday.
This podcast conquers the big questions of meaning with scientists, theologians, artists, and teachers. Some guests that have been featured on this podcast that you may be familiar with include author Atul Gawande and actor Michael Sheen. There are new episodes each Thursday.
If you want to focus on self-awareness or consciousness to help you identify or change your core beliefs, put a halt to your emotional reactions, and improve your relationships, this might be the right podcast for you. It is updated at least once each month.
There is a great focus on spirituality, religion, and Hinduism in this podcast. Ram Dass gives an excerpt from a past lecture in each episode of this podcast, which is updated at least once each month.
6. Tara Brach
Tara Brach is a popular meditation teacher who blends Western psychology with Eastern spiritual practices. She helps listeners pay mindful attention to their inner lives, as well as full engagement with the world. This podcast is updated on Thursdays and Fridays.
This book by Dan Harris, anchor of Nightline, recounts his journey through the worlds of spirituality and self-help, and tells the reader ways to become happier that are truly achievable.
Authored by Sonja Lyubomirsky, The How of Happiness is a complete guide to understanding the various elements of happiness based on years of scientific research.
Linda Graham, MFT, shows the reader how to rebuild resilience in this creative and groundbreaking book.
This book is a collection of author Thich Nhat Hanh’s key practices in learning how to live in the present moment rather than the past or the future.
This book by Bob Stahl addresses the fact that stress and pain are an inevitable part of life that can lead us to feelings of irritability, tension, and burnout. He argues that the key to maintaining balance in life is responding to stress with mindful, non-judgmental awareness.
This practical book by James Altucher helps the reader take back the power to say “no,” and shows that saying “no” can save you time and trouble.
Dr. Don Joseph Goewey talks about the simple yet powerful shift in your attitude that can change a brain that is wired for stress into a brain that is powered for success.
In this book, psychiatrist David D. Burns explains the remarkable and scientifically proven things you can do to immediately lift your spirits and develop a more positive outlook on life.
Dr. Shad Helmstetter shows the reader how to get rid of and replace past negative patterns of thinking with new, healthy programs that can be life changing.
Finally, this book that I co-authored with Barrie Davenport shows the reader how to stay in the present moment, even if only for a few minutes. This book is great for those who recognize the need to improve their focus and peace of mind.
Final Thoughts on How to Practice Mindfulness…
If you are new to mindfulness, then try doing it for just five minutes a day until you get the hang of it.
It can help improve your life by reducing stress and negative thoughts, increasing energy and awareness and teaching you how to let go of fleeting negative thoughts.
As a practice that has been around for thousands of years, mindfulness has been very helpful for many people looking to make improvements in their lives.
All you have to do is make the commitment to pick one of the exercises mentioned in the post, read over the simple steps for how to practice mindfulness and then schedule time daily to make it happen.
Next, if you'd like to learn more about mindfulness and meditation, then we have a wide selection of resources on this page. Specifically, here a number of blog posts that you might find interesting:
- How to Practice Mindfulness (a Step-by-Step Guide)
- What is the Difference Between Mindfulness vs. Meditation?
- 71 Mindfulness Exercises to Live in the Present Moment
- 17 Mindfulness and Meditation Podcasts
- 20 Top Mindfulness Books
- 14 Tips to Quiet Your “Monkey Mind”
- How to Create a Mindfulness Jar (for Children)
- 7 Ways to Practice Mindful Listening
Finally, if you need extra help with building the mindfulness habit, I recommend checking out this year-long physical journal that has 365 daily prompts.
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