Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. The goal of mindfulness is to wake up to the inner workings of our mental, emotional, and physical processes. There’s growing research showing that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re actually remodeling the physical structure of your brain.
When we practice mindfulness, we’re practicing the art of creating space for ourselves—space to think, space to breathe, space between ourselves and our reactions.
What You Need to Know Before Practicing Mindfulness:
- There’s no way to quiet your mind. All you’re trying to do is pay attention to the present moment, without judgment.
- Your mind will wander. As you practice paying attention to what’s going on in your body and mind at the present moment, you’ll find that your mind might drift to something that happened yesterday. Your mind will try to be anywhere but where you are. This is part of human nature. If you can notice that your mind has wandered, then you can consciously bring it back to the present moment. The more you do this, the more likely you are to be able to do it again and again.
- Your judgy brain will try to take over. When you practice mindfulness, try not to judge yourself for whatever thoughts pop up. Notice judgments arise, make a mental note of them and let them pass, recognizing the sensations they might leave in your body, and letting those pass as well.
- It’s all about returning your attention again and again to the present moment. It seems like our minds are wired to get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the breath. We use the sensation of the breath as an anchor to the present moment. And every time we return to the breath, we reinforce our ability to do it again. Call it a bicep curl for your brain.
How to Practice Mindfulness
- Take a seat. Find a place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you.
- Set a time limit. It can help to choose a short time and be sure to set a timer.
- Notice your body. You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, you can sit loosely cross-legged, you can kneel—all are fine. Just make sure you are stable and in a position you can stay in for a while.
- Feel your breath. Focus on your breath as it goes out and as it goes in.
- Notice when your mind has wandered. Your attention will wander to other places. When you notice notice simply return your attention to the breath.
- Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in. Just come back to your breathing.
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