Mindfulness exercises are ways of paying attention to the present moment, using techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga. Training helps people to become more aware of their thoughts, feelings and body sensations.
Following on from last week’s blog, Bev Alderson; a Mindfulness, Yoga and Stress Management Consultant discusses different mindfulness techniques and how to implement these.
The Practice of Mindfulness – Part 2
How to practice mindfulness
In part 1 of this article we looked at what mindfulness is all about and some of it’s many benefits. I hope that by understanding a bit more about mindfulness, you are now ready to find space in your day to give it a try?
If yes, there are 2 key aspects to becoming more mindful:
- Commencing a formal practice of mindfulness meditation
Influencing neuroplasticity and building the muscle of the mind
- Doing mindfulness activities
That work to bring you into a space where you are tuned into your inner and outer experience.
These are described below with some example practices that you may like to try, either immediately after reading through this article or at a convenient time during your day.
If you are new to mindfulness meditation I recommend starting with a realistic and achievable time, perhaps 5 minutes most days. Find a regular time that suits your schedule, and a place you will go to meditate where you are unlikely to be disturbed. Sit on a chair with an upright but relaxed posture, place your feet flat on the floor and rest your hands on your thighs or in your lap. Set a timer and away you go.
When selecting a meditation practice, it really is a case of picking one that resonates with you. We are all different and will be attracted to a different style of practice. Below are 3 different styles you may like to try to get you started. If you would prefer to listen to a meditation there are plenty of apps on the market, such as Headspace or Calm, or you can look to the internet for inspiration.
Body Scan Meditation
Take a few moments to settle in, feeling your feet on the floor, the parts of the body that are connected to the chair and your hands on your thighs or in your lap. Either gaze to one point or close your eyes. Bring your awareness to the breath, and watch the breath for a few rounds as it comes in and out through the nostrils.
Next rotate your awareness around the body, observing how it feels and any sensations you can become aware of. Notice the parts of the body where there is no tension and which are already feeling relaxed. Notice tension and tight spots or aches and pains in the body. Perhaps pay attention to a few spots that tend to hold tension such as the face, jaw, shoulders, belly and hips. Aim to let go of any tension as you go by actively relaxing the area of the body feeling tense.
When you have finished, the body can take a few moments to notice how you feel and to connect to the breath, the parts of the body touching the chair and to feel your feet on the ground before ending your meditation.
Take a few moments to settle in and connect to the breath by watching the natural flow of the breath for a few rounds.
Once you have found the rhythm of the inhale and exhale, start to add a count to the breath. Breathing in for 1 and breathing out for 1, continue working your way to 10.
Each time you become aware of the mind becoming distracted and wandering (perhaps to a sensation, thought or story), first notice where the mind has gone and then simply begin the count again. If you make it all the way to 10 then simply begin from 1 again.
Take a few moments to reconnect to the breath by watching the natural flow of the breath for a few rounds and noticing how you feel before finishing the meditation.
Take a few moments to settle in and to bring awareness to your breath.
Establish a connection to your natural inhale and exhale.
Repeat the word CALM silently to yourself, as you inhale and as you exhale – in line with the rhythm of your breath.
Notice how the word feels as it merges with the breath, and any thoughts and sensations that arise. Aim to watch what arises, almost as if in the third person.
Take a few moments to resettle and reconnect to the breath before finishing your meditation.
Mindful activities work to bring you into a space where you are tuned into your inner and outer experience.
There are lots of ways to do this and again it is really about finding activities that resonate with you. Here are three that you may like to try to see if they fit with your day and preferences.
Change your routine
Mixing up the order in which you do things removes the tendency to do them on auto pilot:
- Changing your morning or evening routine.
- Taking a different route to work or somewhere you go regularly.
- Getting dressed in a different order.
- Try using the opposite hand to do things like open doors.
Implement a Pause
Add pauses in your day to notice what you are experiencing outwardly, and what you are experiencing inwardly. Notice if your mind is busy or calm, notice if you have stress or tension in the body and the quality of your breath i.e. whether it is long or short, even or uneven. Perhaps you will notice that you need to move, or to get some fresh air or take a break. Or you may like to simply take 5-10 conscious breaths, gently slowing down and smoothing out your breath, to help rebalance your nervous system.
Colours of the Rainbow
Take a walk and notice everything you can see under the colours of the rainbow: red, yellow, pink, blue, orange, purple and green. Switching colours whenever the mood takes. A great exercise in noticing more.
Good luck with your practice and enjoying the many benefits of bringing more mindfulness into your day to day life.
Mindfulness is a wonderful tool in helping to get the most out of daily life, and can be practiced through formal meditation and mindfulness activities. These practices may change the way your mind works, and the experiences you have inwardly and outwardly as a result of doing them regularly. There are many benefits to mindfulness backed up by research, including a reduction in stress, an increase in the ability to focus and retain information, enhanced creativity, improved relationships and better health and wellbeing and much, much more. In the workplace this can translate to happier and healthier employees and improvements to your bottom line. In schools it can support students in learning more effectively and managing stress levels.
Bev Alderson is a Mindfulness, Yoga and Stress Management Consultant who works with individuals, groups and workplaces wanting to take a more positive and proactive approach to enhancing wellbeing and in turn achieving greater results.
Bev brings a unique perspective and authenticity to her work, having spent 18+ years performing high pressured management roles within the Finance and IT industries in both the UK and Australia.
With many thanks to Bev for this blog; if you have any questions regarding the health topics that have been raised, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Clare via phone; 01684 310099 or e-mail [email protected]
1. Michael J Meaney (2001). “Maternal care, gene expression, and the transmission of individual differences in stress reactivity across generations”
2. Dr Herbert Benson (1975) “The Relaxation Response”
3. Sara Lazar http://www.tedxcambridge.com/speaker/sara-lazar/
4. Robert Woolfolk (1975) “Relaxation Treatment for Insomnia”