by Dr. Nicole
Are you stressed and feel like your mind is scattered? I know leading up to the end of the year I totally was! I felt like I couldn’t focus and there just wasn’t enough time to get everything done that I needed or wanted to do. I wasn’t being mindful and because of that I was letting my time get away from me. I couldn’t complete the tasks that were in front of me because I was constantly thinking about all the things I still needed to be doing. Many of you have been there or are there now. Well there is a way to stop that feeling! I am not saying that your list of things to do will go away, but if you start to practice mindfulness your ability to focus and adapt to those daily stresses will improve. More and more research is showing that mindfulness can reduce stress and anxiety, improve attention and memory, and it helps to promote self-regulation and empathy.
So what is mindfulness? It is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Most people who have tried and given up on any kind of meditation, did so because when they tried to clear their mind EVERYTHING came rushing in. They usually think “well I tried and I just can’t do it”. The beauty of mindfulness is you are actually supposed to pay attention. You are supposed to pay attention to the sensations of your body, like do you feel relaxed, are your shoulders tight, do you feel pain somewhere? You also pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, and especially your breath. Our minds wander all the time, sometimes you are thinking about a big project or what you are going to make for dinner, you are reviewing the past or planning for the future. When you are practicing mindfulness you are practicing the skill of paying attention to the present, by noticing when your mind wanders off. Accepting it and coming back to your breath. This is the place where we can rest and settle our minds.
Mindfulness meditation made easy
- Set aside some time. You don’t need a meditation cushion or bench, or any sort of special equipment to access your mindfulness skills—but you do need to set aside some time and space. Start by sitting up straight but not stiff, allow your head and shoulders to rest comfortably; place your hands on the tops of your legs with upper arms at your side.
- Now breath. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and relax. Feel the fall and rise of your chest and the expansion and contraction of your belly. With each breath notice the coolness as it enters and the warmth as it exits. Don't control the breath but follow its natural flow.
- Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgment. Easier said than done, we know.
- Let your judgments roll by. When we notice judgments arise during our practice, we can make a mental note of them, and let them pass.
- Return to observing the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.
- Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.
- Take 10. A daily practice will provide the most benefits. It can be 10 minutes per day, however, 20 minutes twice a day is often recommended for maximum benefit.