Simply put, mindfulness is the act of meditating on the current state of your body. You feel your breath, your skin in contact with air, your feet on the ground, and you use these physical sensations to help you quiet your mind. The purpose of mindfulness is to be aware of what is happening here and now in order to take your mind off of racing thoughts about the past and the future. There are countless ways to practice mindfulness, and we would love to help guide you to finding which ways work best for you.
If you have never practiced mindfulness (you probably have! You just didn’t know that’s what it was!) start small. There is a very short and easy mindfulness exercise called STOP.
S- Stop what you’re doing.
If you sense yourself getting agitated, angry, or stressed, sad, overwhelmed, etc. take a step back.
T- Take a few deep breaths.
This can go on for as much or little time as you want. You can take this as an opportunity to try out different breathwork exercises. A good one for beginners is box breathing. In this exercise, you inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, then exhale for a count of 4. You can also try the 4-7-8 exercise where you breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7, then exhale forcefully through your mouth for a count of 8.
The purpose of these exercises is to bring much-needed oxygen to your brain along with calming your parasympathetic nervous system (we can get more into that at a later date.)
A lot of people assume that meditation is only for those who can “empty” their minds. This isn’t true. Many people who practice mindfulness and other forms of meditation still have intrusive thoughts that make their way into their practice. This part of the STOP practice asks you to notice what thoughts and feelings you are experiencing in the moment and take the time to understand that feelings and thoughts are not facts. Notice the emotions you are having and acknowledge their impermanence. There is science behind the idea that naming your emotions can help you turn down the fear response to those emotions because they are no longer an unknown entity. The same goes for any physical feelings you may experience. Is your back hurting? Take this time to focus on the impermanence of pain.
Break this practice with some sort of reward for taking care of yourself. This can be a cup of tea, a little stretch, or a conversation with a friend. Continue to give yourself moments of comfort and acknowledgment throughout the day.
Mindfulness doesn’t just happen in extended periods of meditation. It happens in the little moments. We must go about our lives no matter how stressful they may be. Mindfulness is a practice you can bring with you throughout the day. Take the idea of impermanence into your daily life. Did someone cut you off in traffic? STOP and regulate your nervous system to avoid allowing that one moment to dictate the trajectory of your day, Is something stressful happening at work? Remember that work is just a small part of your life and your identity and take a moment to repeat the previous steps.
Mindfulness is about taking the time to appreciate the little things: your breath, the wind against your skin, the feeling of the earth beneath your feet. It is taking the time to acknowledge the turmoil of the day and understand that you can get through it because you have before. Obviously, there are some moments that are intrinsically more stressful than others and a simple STOP may not get you back to a calm baseline, but that is ok. Mindfulness is not about avoiding uncomfortable situations. It is about understanding that you have the power to get through them.
We look forward to teaching you other ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life!