So what is all of this mindfulness mumbo jumbo and why should you care about it?
Simply stated, mindfulness is exactly what it sounds like: being mindful or having a sense of awareness of yourself, your thoughts, your feelings, your presence. It’s about living in the moment without a hint of judgment. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Mindfulness meditation is a practice with roots in the Buddhist tradition. But no worries, you don’t have to be Buddhist for it to work! And for the record, you should probably care because there are a ton of health benefits to practicing mindfulness, and once you really master it, it’s easy!
What are some of the benefits to practicing mindfulness, you ask?
1) Less stress
2) More sleep
3) Better mental health
4) Increased immune function
5) Increased attention span
6) Improved relationships
7) Less worrying
8) Better sense of overall health and well-being
But how do you practice mindfulness meditation? There are several easy techniques to get you started in no time.
Sit. Environment is important, people. You’re not going to be able to hear yourself if you’re trying to mediate where it’s loud. You should choose a spot that’s quiet and comfortable, and, while you’re at it, place yourself in a position where you can easily relax.
Breathe. Deep, slow breaths are perfect. Try to concentrate on everything from the sound of your own breathing to every little sensation in your body.
Focus. Pay attention to what’s going on in your mind. What sorts of thoughts are you having? You don’t need to linger on a thought. Just let it pop up and let it go. Mindfulness is all about recognizing what’s going on inside of you. Don’t latch onto a thought; when this happens, we tend to start getting caught up in our feelings, leading to self-judgment. This is a judgment free zone. The goal is to just be aware. If you find that your thoughts are all over the place or racing too quickly, try focusing on your breathing again.
Spice it up. Focusing on your breathing not working for you? Try some visualization. Mentally take yourself to a place that makes you feel relaxed and at ease. Imagine yourself here. What do you feel, hear, or smell? Try to focus on the sensations happening here.
Practice. Keep practicing, and you may find that your mind strays at first or that you’re unable to focus. This is totally normal if you haven’t tried to practice mindfulness before. Practice makes perfect.
How long should you meditate?
This is completely up to you. If you’re new, you might want to start out with meditating for just a few minutes. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself if you can’t slow down your thoughts. Begin with a minute or two and then work your way up to more time based on your own preferences. One of the best things about mindfulness is how you practice is customizable based on your own needs. Challenge yourself to try it for one week. What have you got to lose?