Mindfulness is the practice of purposefully directing your attention to the present moment without judgment. It can help to reduce stress, improve mental clarity and promote emotional well-being. Mindful living starts with the basics – make sure your home is safe, balanced, and comfortable so you can focus on yourself and your practice.
- Focus on your breathing
As you practice mindfulness, one of the first things to notice is how your breath impacts your mood and well-being. When you focus on your breathing, it helps to calm the mind and bring attention to the present moment. It also teaches you to notice how your thoughts come and go, without judgment. It’s okay to think, but you should try to return your focus to your breath as often as possible.
Practicing mindfulness daily can help you to get clear on what’s important to you. For example, you can practice being mindful when interacting with others, giving them your undivided attention. This doesn’t mean you should stop listening to what they have to say, but instead, focus on really hearing them and understanding their point of view.
When you become more mindful, you’ll start to be able to connect with each experience in your life on a deeper level. You’ll notice the smell of the soapy water on your hands as you wash dishes, the feeling of the warm air blowing on your face as you open a window, and the crunch of each bite of your meal.
- Observe your thoughts
As you practice mindfulness, it becomes easier to recognize and step out of the loop of negative thoughts. Mindfulness gives you a sense of detachment and allows you to see your emotions for what they are, rather than reacting to them.
For instance, if you’re worried about an impending deadline, you can observe that worry in your mind the way you would notice a harmless car driving safely by your house. This gives you the space to decide whether it’s actually a threat or just your own preoccupation. Mindfulness also helps you to notice and appreciate the good things about your life. Having greater awareness of your feelings and thoughts can help you to make healthier choices, such as eating more healthfully or taking a walk instead of sitting in front of the television.
- Observe your emotions
Observing your emotions is one of the most powerful mindfulness skills. It allows you to get a step back from your emotional suffering and really see it for what it is, rather than getting swallowed up by it. To practice this skill, close your eyes (if it feels safe) and take a few calm breaths. Then ask yourself, “How do I feel right now?” Be as specific as possible in your response. You may be feeling many different feelings at once, and that is okay too!
It is common to sweep difficult feelings under the rug and ignore them, but this is not helpful. In fact, suppressing these feelings can lead to long-term distress. By not validating and processing your feelings, you allow them to taint your long-term memory, which can wreak havoc on your mood and self-esteem.
- Observe your body
Mindfulness involves a shift in how you pay attention to your life, but it doesn’t complicate it. The key is to bring a sense of curiosity to the moment, rather than trying to change your thoughts and feelings.
Instead of trying to push aside or ignore your emotions. You can try to learn more about them by observing what they feel like physically. For example, if you notice that your shoulders are tight or your jaw is clenched. You can try to release those muscles and relax your body by taking several deep breaths. And focusing on the sensation of your breath as it passes through your nostrils.
You can also observe what you’re feeling emotionally by doing a “body scan,” which is a form of mindfulness meditation. Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Start at your feet and notice the sensations of the soles of your shoes. Then move up through your legs, stomach, arms, hands, and neck, noticing any sensations as you go.