I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard people say that they can’t meditate, or they are not good at it. Other comments include that they don’t have time and their mind races constantly. Does this sound like you? Yes, it is true- our minds go into automatic pilot and our thoughts come and go seemingly without our control. Have you ever paid attention to what your mind tends to wander to? Have you ever become a witness to your own thoughts?
This is mindfulness! Mindfulness is living in the now. It’s being more aware. It is intentionally paying attention to each moment, being fully aware of whatever is happening around you and within yourself. Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment, with purpose, and without judgement. Although traditionally a Buddhist practice, mindfulness is now commonly taught to help manage a variety of mental health conditions. Many studies have shown that mindfulness can improve your health and wellbeing. Did you know that it has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression? It can also help you learn to regulate your emotional reactions, it decreases your chances of burnout, and even increases your immunity to the influenza virus. Research has also shown that mindfulness even helps to improve relationships as it aids in developing skills needed for interpersonal relationships, and it increases empathy and compassion.
You can practice mindfulness meditation for just 5 min a day and you will start to reap the benefits. It is accessible to you at any time. Let’s practice!
- Set a timer for 5 minutes.
- Sit comfortably, with your eyes closed and a tall spine (no slouching).
- Bring all your thoughts and attention to your breath. Notice the inhalations and exhalations at the base of your nostrils.
- When thoughts, emotions, physical feelings or external sounds occur, simply notice them and accept them. Do not attach yourself to these thoughts and do not judge them. They are simply thoughts.
- When your thoughts have wandered away from your breath (and they will!), simply become aware that they have wandered, and then gently bring your focus back to your breath. You will need to do this over and over again! It’s normal for thoughts to arise, and for your attention to follow them. No matter how often this happens, just keep bringing your attention back to your breathing.
Our minds wander about 50% of the time. However, each time you practice mindfulness, you are taking more control over your focus of attention and learning how to choose what to focus on.
Eventually, with practice, you can use mindfulness even during times of intense distress. Your mindfulness practice will have brought you to a space where you can observe the distressing thoughts mindfully and know that they are merely thoughts. You do not have to believe these thoughts or argue with them. Simply breathe WITH them and allow them to exist.
As Kabit-Zinn said “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”.