What is mindfulness? How do I start a mindfulness practice?
Mindfulness is a way of living life that helps us become aware of how we feel and respond to situations. It allows us to live in the moment without getting caught up in our thoughts. My mindfulness journey has been one that has drastically improved the quality of my own life. I use mindfulness daily as a tool to manage chronic health symptoms, including nausea and nerve pain. It has been my saving grace in parenthood when my toddler spends the day as mayor of Tantrum Town, and it’s at the cornerstone of my work as a mental health therapist when treating clients. I have found it has brought me peace and has helped unlock my potential to live the life I want to be living. Read on to learn a little more and gain some quick tips to jump start your mindfulness practice.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a state of awareness where we are fully present with what we are doing at any given moment. When we’re existing in a mindful state, we can focus on one thing at a time, and take life as it comes rather than wandering off into other things. Mindfulness is an amazing tool for stress management, mental health symptom relief, chronic pain, and so much more. Mindfulness is even being talked about to support with COVID-19 and even relief from Long COVID symptoms.
Mindfulness is more than meditation, more than yoga, and more than deep breathing. When I introduce the concept of mindfulness to clients, I often like to use a video that discusses how we can use mindfulness as a tool of empowerment. By practicing mindfulness, we can build a greater sense of calm, peace, and confidence about life.
How can I start practicing mindfulness?
There exists a plethora of ways to start practicing mindfulness—one of the simplest ways is to simply notice your thoughts, and when you find your awareness or your thinking switching topics then intentionally bring yourself back. Sound complicated? Light a candle. Stare at the flame—is it orange? Blue? Moving with the wind? When you notice yourself getting distracted, bring yourself back. You can also use a meditation app on your phone, take a walk outside and really notice the sensations around you, or you can just use this super easy mindfulness mug!
"Mindfulness is a mental activity that in due course eliminates all suffering." -Ayya Khema
How do I know if I'm "being mindful?"
The short answer—you’ll know. Mindfulness helps you to build awareness of what’s going on inside your head and you may find yourself feeling more confident in your decisions or living a lighter life. If you’re using mindfulness as a coping or calming tool, you may notice relief from some anxiety or depressive symptoms. Perhaps increased motivation to do the things or maybe your heart rate is more stable and your racing thoughts have calmed.
Mindfulness encompasses such a variety of practices, from the brief practices listed above to longer intensive meditation, walking meditation, yoga, guided imagery, and so much more. Mindfulness is not something external, but is believed to be something innate, existing in all of us, and we must just learn only how to access it. Practicing mindfulness consistently has become empirically supported, demonstrating successful impact on anxiety and psychological stress. My greatest suggestion is just to have an open mind, start small, and be consistent--five minutes a day can be really impactful. What are some of your favorite ways to practice mindfulness? How did you start your mindfulness practice? If you haven't started yet, what are your barriers or what's holding you back?