What Is Mindfulness and How Do We Practice It?
Mindfulness is a state of attentiveness that promotes awareness of the present moment, including the feelings, senses, emotions, and thoughts that come along with it. Within this, mindfulness encourages not only awareness of the present moment, but ACCEPTANCE as well. By acceptance, mindfulness refers to a place of nonjudgment which allows individuals to not only recognize and observe what they are feeling, but to do so without judgment of themselves for that feeling or present moment.
Why use mindfulness techniques? Experts comment that mindfulness could decrease the symptoms of depression and anxiety and allow individuals to acclimate to new settings. They also suggest that such techniques can improve focus, boost memory, and manage unpleasant emotions.
How do you apply mindfulness in every-day life? Combining the practice of meditation with mindfulness creates an effective way to meditate that implements the benefits of mindfulness and self-acceptance. Mindfulness meditation involves sitting or lying in a silent space and focusing on the present moment and body, specifically on BREATHING! Pay close attention to each breath as you inhale and exhale. It is normal and common for the mind to wander or even feel bored during your first time using mindful meditation. It is important not to criticize ourselves for thoughts that wander, but instead, notice and accept where your mind has traveled, re-center, and refocus on your breathing.
Building on the concept of meditation within mindfulness, another major technique is to utilize Body Scans. A Body Scan exercise represents the process of slowing down and bringing awareness and alertness to each part of the body. This allows us to zone in on each body part as you scan mentally within the body. First, start at the feet and work your way UP the body and focus deeply on the sensations of each body part. Body Scans usually include noticing the sensations from feet, ankles, calves, thighs, pelvis, abdomen, arms, hands, fingers chest, back, shoulders, neck, face, and head. Notice which areas of the body feel heavy with stress (ex: tightness in the neck). Always remember that mindfulness is NOT based on the accuracy of techniques, but rather close attention to the present and our bodies to better understand what we are experiencing. Mindfulness gives all of us a chance to reconnect with ourselves and our present.