Unlike it’s more formal cousin meditation, mindfulness does not require following a structured program, or school of thought, but it can still provide you with powerful benefits.
In just minutes, mindfulness can reduce stress, anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure.
But a mindfulness practice won’t just improve your physical wellbeing. It can also increase focus, creativity, wellbeing, and performance.
New research is also coming out showing that a mindfulness practice increased feelings of wellbeing in school children, and that mindfulness-based stress reduction is a valuable strategy for a variety of stressful occupations.
To help you get started with a meaningful mindfulness practice, we’re sharing our four favorite ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life.
1) Mindful Breathing
The best place to start a mindfulness practice is with breath awareness. Most of us breathe in and out without thinking about it, but becoming conscious and aware of our breath, even if it’s just one inhalation and exhalation, is a simple and powerful way to become more mindful.
Basic Breathing Mindfulness Exercise:
Take a deep breath and focus on the sensation of air entering your nose, throat, and lungs.
Hold your breath, count to 8, and exhale.
Try doing this for 10 breaths. Take note of how you feel afterward.
Employ this simple breathing exercise to focus your mind any time you’re feeling distracted or overwhelmed.
2) Mindful Moving
Once you’ve begun practicing mindful breathing, mindful movement is the next step.
Mindful movement simply means getting out of your head and into your body. And don’t worry, it’s not exclusive to yoga! It can easily be applied to any type of movement, from a CrossFit WOD to a simple walk.
Here’s how it looks for us:
As you move, keep your focus on your feet, legs, core, arms, and hands. Feel your body position, your muscles contracting, your breath moving in and out.
This tactic not only helps clear your mind and ensure proper form (thereby preventing injuries!), but it may also help you increase the effectiveness of muscle generation during weight training!
Cultivating a deep awareness of your body takes time, so commit to being a mindful mover each day.
3) Mindful Thinking
At this point, you may start to notice a big challenge to your mindfulness efforts: your own mind!
Intrusive thoughts are perhaps the biggest barrier to a strong mindfulness practice, but luckily there are ways to handle the “monkey mind”!
Instead of actively engaging in thoughts as they arise, simply observe them.
When a bothersome thought arises, consider it the way you would a leaf floating down a running stream. Continue to focus on your breath, feel your body, and let the thought drift away.
It may “circle back” (ie. pop back up into your head) a few times, but eventually your “monkey mind” will realize that you’re not playing it’s game and the “stream” of your mind will become clear again.
4) Mindful Living
Mindful living is the culmination of all your other mindfulness efforts. Once we start incorporating mindfulness into breathing, movement and thought, we cultivate a deeper level of connection and awareness to all aspects of our life and being.
One easy way to “level up” our mindfulness game is to take it out into the world. While we may want to start breathing, moving, or thinking mindfully in a quiet, controlled space, we shouldn’t be afraid to challenge ourselves to practice mindfulness in less optimal conditions.
Can we be mindful in the middle of a traffic jam?
Can we be mindful when arguing with our partner?
Can we be mindful when reading a stressful news story?
The answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes, and by cultivating a mindfulness practice you’ll find a greater ability to positively manage all the situations, stresses, and challenges of life.
Mindfulness isn’t just a “woo-woo” way to check out of the world around us. Instead, it helps us handle our lives with more clarity of purpose, more peace and ultimately more ease.
Sure, mindfulness is all in our heads. But the real magic happen when its benefits radiate out to all aspects of our lives.
We recommend mindful movement, mindful breathing and mindful thinking as easy routes to the ultimate goal of mindful living.
Also published on Medium.