Practicing mindfulness is a revolutionary act in this world which continuously tries to rush us, capture our attention and overwhelm us with constant noise and chatter.
In this day and age, all of us seem to be stressed, depressed and anxious without really knowing why.
But if we go to the root cause, it is because we are not in the present moment.
Nothing really has our attention. We are never really here and we are never really there and as a result, we are not really living our life.
It is because we are not mindful, we are constantly thrown away like a basketball with every emotion, feeling or any outer circumstance.
So if you’re here wanting to know how you can practice mindfulness, I heartily welcome you to live mindfully and intentionally.
What is mindfulness?
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Mindfulness is simply being fully present with what you are doing, thinking and feeling. It is the state of being fully there, wherever you are.
When you are mindful, you know where you are, you know what you are doing, you know what you are thinking and how you are feeling.
This might sound simple and as if it doesn’t make sense, but how many times do we forget what we were doing.
Have you ever locked the doors, but are still not sure whether you’ve locked them or not?
Do you enter a room and forget what you went into that room for?
Do you keep forgetting where you kept your keys or your earphones and other items?
Chances are high for all of us. And it is because we are not mindful.
Mindfulness is knowing we are sitting when we are sitting. Mindfulness is knowing we are eating when we are eating.
Mindfulness is not wanting to be anywhere else but in the present moment.
Why start practicing mindfulness
1. To be more present
Practicing mindfulness is the only way to be more present in our day-to-day life. It helps us truly live our present moment wonderfully.
When we are mindful, there are no thoughts about the past or about the future. We are only thinking of what we are doing in the present moment.
Thus mindfulness helps in reducing regret about the past, and anxiety about the future.
2. To be more grateful
Practicing mindfulness helps in cultivating a grateful heart. One cannot complain when one is fully present.
You start being more grateful for what is. You start accepting whatever the present moment gives you at the moment and bask in thankfulness.
3. To be more focused
Practicing mindfulness improves focus because mindfulness asks us to do only one thing at a time and do it with complete attention.
There is no room for distraction, and if we do feel distracted and our thoughts start to wander, by practicing mindfulness we again come back to the present moment.
4. To be less stressed
Because we’re fully available in the present moment with no thoughts about the past or the future, mindfulness helps in reducing stress, and anxiety and improves our overall wellbeing.
5. To be less rushed
We tend to constantly rush from one thing to the next. We are eager to finish what we are doing to start doing something else.
- We rush to finish washing our dishes so that we can work on something else.
- We rush to eat our food so that we can send that email or go do some other work. Whatever we do is not what we’d like to do at that moment.
There is a constant need to do something else other than what we’re doing.
Mindfulness helps us to slow down and take it one at a time.
Mindfulness helps us to do each and everything with equal importance whether it is washing the dishes, doing our laundry or working on an important project.
How to begin practicing mindfulness
1. Focus on your breath
The first step in practicing mindfulness is to focus on your breath. Mindfulness requires you to come back to your breath.
Our breath is our anchor to the present moment. It is what unites us to live fully and be present fully.
Our breath is available at each moment of our lives to each and every one of us. It is our freely given tool to practice mindfulness at any moment.
Simply breathe. Focus on your incoming breath and outgoing breath. Notice your breath coming and going.
Notice the ebb and flow and notice how long and short your breath is. When you focus on your breath you immediately return to your body, to your self and that is when you’ll know you are mindful.
2. Find one activity to do mindfully
When beginning to practice mindfulness, find just one activity in your day to do mindfully. Commit to doing that one activity mindfully every day.
It can be mindfully drinking your first cup of tea in the morning, or it can be a mindful shower.
Take your time to do them and be fully present while you do them.
Here are some activities you can do mindfully:
There are so many activities we do daily. By simply being more mindful when we are doing them, we can practice mindfulness in everyday life.
3. Create a day of mindfulness
Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen Buddhist monk in his book, ‘The miracle of mindfulness’ asks us to have one day of mindfulness in a week.
This day can be any day of the week, but it would be preferable on a weekend when we are all on ourselves.
On this day, strive to be mindful throughout the day from the moment you wake up.
When you wake up, don’t rush to wake up, but notice your body, your sensations, and your breathing for some time.
Walk slow and walk mindfully to the kitchen or to your bathroom.
Try to do this slow and mindfully and try to be with your breath. Notice your thoughts and feelings without judging.
This day of mindfulness is YOUR day. Experiment to see how it goes and write it down in your journal.
Creating one day of mindfulness can be a great start to penetrate mindfulness into other days as well later on.
4. Do things slowly
The spirit of mindfulness is in the spirit of nature.
‘Nature never rushes, yet everything is accomplished’– Lao Tzu
Learn to do things at the pace of nature. Do things slowly.
Ask yourself, ‘What am I hurrying with?’
‘Why is there this need to hurry?’
‘Can I do this thing unhurriedly and in a relaxed way?’
Doing things slowly helps us to be more intentional with our actions.
It helps us to be with our breath and our body.
Take your sweet time to cook, bathe, drive, walk and enjoy the wonder of life.
Only when we slow down can we start noticing our breath, our surrounding, our environment, our thoughts and our feelings.
So slow down to be mindful.
Here are some posts to help you slow down:
5. Practice gratitude
If you find it difficult to practice mindfulness, an easy way out is to do it by practicing gratefulness.
I believe there is not much difference between being grateful and being mindful.
When we’re mindful, we’re automatically grateful and when we’re grateful we become automatically mindful.
So when trying to do something mindfully, try doing it gratefully. It is the same.
For example, when walking, be grateful for your legs that you are walking and enjoying the walk. Say thank you to your legs, to your surroundings and to your body. When you do so you’re being mindful that you’re walking.
When taking a shower, be grateful for the water that is fully available making you feel refreshed, be grateful for your body, for your breath, for your time and enjoy your shower as you come back to your breath. When you do so, you’re taking a mindful shower.
Here is a post I’ve written on why thankfulness is mindfulness.
6. Notice your body
We focus on the breath when practicing mindfulness so as to let our minds return to our bodies.
Our mindful breath is what unites our mind with our body. When you begin practicing mindfulness, start by noticing your body posture.
What is your body doing at the present moment? Is it standing up? Laying down? Are your legs crossed and folded? In what position is it.
Notice your body and be aware of how you are sitting or standing, or whatever your position is.
7. Notice your sensations
Another great way to start practicing mindfulness is by noticing your sensations. There are 5 senses in us- touch, hearing, sight, smell and taste.
Each one of the 5 senses can aid us in being mindful.
Touch- Feel and be aware what is touching your body. For example, when you take a shower be mindful of the touch of water.
When drinking tea, feel the touch of the warm cup in your hand and the touch of the tea when it reaches your tongue.
Hearing- Notice what you hear around you. Is it the fan? Ac? Cars? Birds? Some distant noise? Be mindful of what you’re hearing at the present moment.
Sight- Notice what is in front of you and name them in your mind.
Smell- Be aware of what you smell is reaching your nose.
Taste- Be mindful of what taste enters your mouth. This is really important when trying to eat mindfully.
8. Observe your thoughts and feelings
Every day we have all kinds of thoughts and feelings that come up which may or may not be because of outer situations.
When somebody is rude to us, we feel hurt or angry. When somebody does us bad, we have negative thoughts for the person. Thoughts and feelings keep coming and going.
And for most of us who are living in unawareness, it is easy to go on rolling in along with those thoughts and be so immersed in them that we forget the present moment.
But here mindfulness teaches us to instead be the observer.
To practice mindfulness, we must begin to see our thoughts and feelings as if they are a river passing by and we are at the shore watching them.
We don’t try to stop the river of our thoughts and feelings. We simply notice them without judging or attaching to them.
We can also see them as thought clouds which keep on coming and going.
We do nothing, but just be a good observer of our thoughts and feelings.
This helps us become grounded and centred when life tries to knock us out and when challenges emerge.
9. Keep returning to your breath
Whatever you do, keep returning to your breath and come back to your body. It cannot be perfected in one go, that is why it is a practice.
Practice coming back to your breath every time it wanders. Return to your body. Be a good observer and accept everything that comes up without judging and without being agitated.
Breathe in. Breathe out mindfully.
10. Be kind to yourself
Lastly, don’t forget to be kind to yourself. Don’t let perfectionism get the best of you. Remember this is a practice and needs a long time to cultivate.
We have been acting on auto-pilot for years and years, so it will take time to slow down and be mindful.
There are continuous distractions around us, so it is better to let go and also notice the sources of our distractions and burnout so that we can move on the path of mindfulness easily and freely.
Whatever comes up in your thoughts and feelings, simply observe them without judgement and give kindness to them instead.
Your job is only to come back to your breath, be kind and be fully present in what you’re doing.
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How do you know if your mindfulness is working?
Once you start practicing mindfulness for some period of time, you will know if your mindfulness practice is working for you or not.
Here are some ways you will be able to tell whether your mindfulness practice is working:
- You have stopped complaining about things you used to complain about earlier.
- You have become more accepting of people and circumstances.
- You have become more kind to others.
- You are calm in situations you used to feel tense earlier.
- You have improved on your self-talk and have become kinder to yourself.
- You have slowed down your pace and have started to enjoy things you used to feel bored doing earlier.
- You have started observing your surrounding and environment more.
- You listen more intently.
- You catch yourself quickly when thoughts about the past or future come to you and return to the present.
- You feel lighter and in control.