This is Part 2 of 2. To read Part 1, go here.
In our previous post, we defined mindfulness and discussed the science behind it. Mindfulness actually changes the brain and yields a number of results, including reduced stress, better body image, and reduced depression and anxiety, among other things.
One of the reasons mindfulness has become so popular is that it is easy to practice. Whether you’re 9 or 99, you can learn to practice mindfulness. And you can easily integrate it into your daily life – no special knowledge, equipment, or gurus required!
Mindfulness: How to Practice It
What comes to mind when you think of meditation? You might picture someone sitting on a mat in a dark room, legs crossed and eyes closed, maybe making an “Ommm” sound or listening to new age music for an hour…While that is certainly one way to practice meditation, it’s not the only way!
This article from Psychology Today puts it this way:
Mindfulness meditation is unique in that it is not directed toward getting us to be different from how we already are. Instead, it helps us become aware of what is already true moment by moment. We could say that it teaches us how to be unconditionally present; that is, it helps us be present with whatever is happening, no matter what it is.
Essentially, you can practice mindfulness meditation any number of ways: while walking your dog, eating a meal, or practicing yoga. All you need are focus, your breath, and a few minutes a day.
Remember, the two main components of mindfulness are awareness and acceptance. Be aware of your breath, but don’t try to alter it. Notice the sights and sounds around you, your feelings and emotions. But don’t judge them – just notice them and accept them. Your goal is simply to be present in each moment.
PsychCentral recommends these 7 ways to practice mindfulness throughout the day:
1. Practice mindfulness during routine activities.
Bring awareness to the daily activities you usually do on autopilot. For instance, pay more attention as you’re brushing your teeth, taking a shower, eating breakfast or walking to work. Zero in on the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feel of these activities.
2. Practice right when you wake up.
Practicing mindfulness first thing helps set the tone for the rest of the day and increases the likelihood of other mindful moments. If you find yourself dozing off, just practice after having your coffee or tea. Don’t open Facebook or turn on the TV, check your phone or email, until after you’ve focused on your breath for a few minutes.
3. Let your mind wander.
It’s normal for your mind to wander. But this can actually be a good thing. “The beneficial brain changes seen in the neuroscience research on mindfulness are thought to be promoted in large part by the act of noticing that your mind has wandered, and then non-judgmentally – lovingly [and] gently— bringing it back.”
4. Keep it short.
Our brains respond better to bursts of mindfulness. Shorter, more frequent mindfulness practices are better than one long session or even a weekend retreat. While 20 minutes seems to be the gold standard, starting at a few minutes a day is ok too.
5. Practice mindfulness while you wait.
Waiting can be frustrating. Lines, traffic, you name it. But while it might seem like a nuisance, waiting is actually an opportunity for mindfulness. When you’re waiting, bring your attention to your breath. Focus on “the flow of the breath in and out of your body, from moment to moment and allow everything else to just be, even if what’s there is impatience or irritation.”
6. Pick a prompt to remind you to be mindful.
Choose a cue that you encounter on a regular basis to shift your brain into mindful mode.
7. Learn to meditate.
“The best way to cultivate mindfulness in everyday life is to formally train in meditation,” Halliwell said. It’s like learning a new language. “You can’t just decide to be fluent in Spanish – you have to learn the language first,” he said. “Practicing meditation is how to learn the language of mindfulness.”
You can find CDs that will help you meditate, as well as apps on your smart phone such as the ones recommended by our DBT therapist, Bianca Von Bank in her blog post, which you can read here. The therapists at IntrinPsych Woman are also happy to help you learn mindfulness meditation as a part of your daily practice.
For more ideas, Wildmind also recommends some ways to practice mindfulness.