Mindfulness is such a buzz word these days with almost as many definitions as uses. So, for our purposes here, let’s define mindfulness as bringing one’s attention and focus into the present moment with an attitude of openness and non-judgment. Being able to be with what is, exactly as it is, without seeking to change one’s experience, acceptance. Cultivating mindfulness can help with stress relief and reducing anxiety. Why? One reason is that we spend so much time in our heads planning or worrying about what may happen, thinking of all the “what ifs” that we pull ourselves away from our present experience. Mindfulness practices are one way to return to the present moment, which is usually calmer than the story we were telling ourselves in our minds, and so consequently we calm down. Simple mindfulness practices are a great way to shift our physical, mental and emotional experience from anxious to relative calm, peace or relaxation.
This 5-part series will include weekly practices meant to help you become more mindful, and in so doing, hopefully reduce some of the stress or anxiety that you’re experiencing. The first practice is listed here:
This is a simple mindfulness exercise, and one that you can do anytime throughout the day.
If you can, take a moment right now to try this. Check your watch and note the time. For the next 60 seconds your task is to focus all your attention on your breathing. You may notice that one minute can seem like an eternity. This mindfulness exercise can be extremely powerful. It can take some people many years of practice before they are able to complete a single minute of alert, clear attention. Keep in mind that this mindfulness exercise is not a test or a personal challenge. There is no right or wrong way to do it. You can’t fail at this exercise, you can only experience it.
How it works: Leave your eyes open and breathe normally. You’re not necessarily changing anything; you’re just noticing your inhales and your exhales. You may notice that your mind has wandered off (which is inevitable), so when it does, just bring your attention back to your breath. If you need something “more” to focus on, notice the sensation of your breath at your nostrils as you breathe in and out.
Why do it: It’s simple, available any time, free, and requires nothing but your attention. You can use this exercise several times throughout the day to bring your mind back to the present moment and restore a sense of clarity and peace. Over time, you can gradually extend the duration of this exercise into longer and longer periods. This exercise is actually the foundation of formal mindfulness meditation practice.
Stay tuned for the next mindful practice coming soon! Until then, breathe mindfully!