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What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. Mindfulness meditation involves acute self-awareness, awareness of your surroundings, and the ability to exist in your current space without judgment. This type of meditation is often combined with other wellness practices, such as yoga and walking, to ward off obsessive or damaging thoughts that cloud our focus.
6 Mindfulness Exercises
There are a few different ways to practice mindfulness. Basic mindfulness exercises include:
- Breathwork. Basic mindfulness meditation techniques include focusing on your most natural process: breathing. Focus on each inhalation and exhalation, taking full, deep breaths, and paying attention to how the air feels as it enters and escapes your body. If your mind wanders and you’re having trouble keeping it on track, select a specific word—a mantra—to repeat to yourself, which can help realign your focus.
- Mindful eating. This helpful mindfulness exercise involves slowly consuming your food, paying attention to the smell, flavor, and texture, and how it feels in your mouth. By placing an intense focus on the act of eating, you can stave off intrusive or negative thoughts and build an appreciation for the current moment.
- Sensory activation. Mindfulness training includes being aware of your surroundings, including what you can see, touch, taste, feel, and hear. Take note of all your sensory triggers, not dwelling on any one of them for too long.
- Embrace and release. It’s hard to control the thoughts and emotions that pass through our minds, but mindfulness looks to embrace these feelings and thoughts. Give yourself a few moments to experience negative emotions without judgment, and then let them go.
- Body scan meditation. Body scan meditation is a form of mindfulness meditation that involves taking an in-depth analysis of your body, paying close attention to any physical sensations or feelings of pain, and releasing them. Start at the top of your head and slowly scan your way down, allowing yourself to briefly focus on any physical sensations or specific emotions, acknowledging their existence, then allowing them to pass, continuing to scan your way down.
- Mindful walking. Walking meditation is a mindfulness practice that blends the physical experience of walking with the focused mindfulness of a meditative state. Mindful walking involves walking without stopping for a period of time, focusing on every step, and each of your breaths as you move. Notice how your feet feel when they hit the ground and how your limbs feel as they move with the motion of your body. Focusing on your breathing and bodily sensations can help clear your mind of obsessive or intrusive thoughts.
5 Tips for Exercising Mindfulness
Here are a few helpful tips to remember when practicing mindfulness activities:
- Start simple. Beginning a mindfulness routine can be challenging because it takes time and patience to learn to control our thoughts and emotions. Start with basic beginner exercises, like breathwork or mindful eating, and work toward more advanced techniques until you find a comfortable daily routine that works for you.
- Try brief sessions. You don’t have to meditate for long periods to achieve results. Recent studies in neuroscience have indicated that brief meditation sessions (as short as five minutes) can significantly impact brain activity.
- Avoid judgment. Mindfulness is about acknowledging feelings and sensations and releasing them. Allow yourself to experience all the thoughts and emotions running through your brain without judging yourself for thinking or feeling them.
- Take a step back. Everyday life can move fast, and keeping up with this daunting pace can adversely affect our health and overall well-being. Making time to step back, take a few breaths, and realign our brains can help us process our thoughts and feelings, which can benefit our mindfulness practices.
- Be consistent. Being unable to ward off intrusive thoughts for even a few seconds can be frustrating, but mindfulness requires practice and training to become a regular habit. If you run into mental roadblocks during your first few attempts, using a dedicated mindfulness app can help guide you through the practice.
Want to Learn Even More About Cultivating a Mindfulness Practice?
Find something comfortable to sit or lie on, grab a MasterClass Annual Membership, and dial into the present moment with Jon Kabat-Zinn, the father of the Western mindfulness movement. From formal meditation exercises to examinations of the science behind mindfulness, Jon will prepare you for the most important practice of them all: life itself.