Mindfulness – How to Do It
Becoming mindful may seem like a complex task to the unfamiliar, but it’s actually quite simple. Mindfulness may be best understood as the process of learning to focus on the here and now. We spend much of our lives with a steady train of random thoughts popping in and out of our minds. These thoughts are rarely based in the present. They tend to be remnants of the past or anticipations of the future, most of which are not important to whatever we’re doing at the moment. Mindfulness helps us minimize the influence of these distractions, enhancing our ability to live in the present, and providing us with a clearer, calmer, and healthier mind.
Basic Mindful Meditation in Three Easy Steps
- Preparation: It’s best to have realistic expectations for mindful practice. There’s a ton of activity in our brains at any given moment, and we shouldn’t expect to be able to ignore every single bit of background noise. There’s nothing wrong with aiming for perfect silence, but it’s not something we should expect to experience. The goal is simply to be able to place our focus on the present, not necessarily to silence the noise. Set an alarm beforehand for a comfortable amount of time, maybe 30 minutes to start.
- Physical Relaxation: Pick a quiet, low-traffic area to begin. Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. At this point, we just want to calm our physical bodies to minimize the distractions that they may cause during the process. Start at one end of your body (head or feet) and focus on relaxing one area at a time until you’ve reached the other end.
- Mental Focus: This step is similar to a psychological technique called grounding. Essentially, we want to bring our attention to the things that are happening in the present. Physiological functions, like breathing and heartbeats, are natural targets. We can also focus on physical sensations, like the feeling of the air on our skin. As we place increased attention on the present, we may also begin to notice a decrease in the volume and frequency of background thoughts. We want to ignore this noise, so be careful to avoid continually “checking” to see if it’s changing. The goal is to maintain a focus on the present at all times.
Putting Practice to Good Use
Mindful practice is a great way to relieve stress and calm our minds, but it’s not supposed to be a solitary technique. We want to gain a mindful perspective in day to day life. Practicing mindful meditation and similar methods can help train our brains to maintain more focus on the present, and to be less influenced by the background noise in the mind. We can benefit most by putting effort into maintaining mindfulness at all times.