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How to Get Started With Mindfulness: Tips, Exercises & More

Published on May 31, 2022


How to Get Started With Mindfulness: Tips, Exercises & More
How to Get Started With Mindfulness: Tips, Exercises & More

When you hear the word “mindfulness,” it probably conjures up images of zen meditation on a yoga mat, surrounded by essential oil diffusers and crystals. While finding a quiet place to be alone with your thoughts is a big part of starting a mindfulness practice, this spa-like picture isn’t the whole story.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is being conscious or aware of something, most notably how your brain and body react to situations and how you respond emotionally to everything from last-minute deadlines to dinner-time battles with your toddler. It encourages you to dive deep into what you’re feeling on any given day — to recognize those sensations and emotions and either turn them into solutions or respond in a compassionate, caring, and productive way.

Mindfulness, then, can help us achieve a higher level of emotional regulation so that we are less reactive to negative emotions, thoughts, and events in our lives.REF#1831

There are different ways to practice mindfulness, from mindfulness meditation to basic principles of self-awareness. It can even look like noting when our mind wanders and exploring why it does so, ultimately bringing our attention back to the present moment using mindfulness techniques. 

Why is Mindfulness Important?

It’s hard to stay focused in the present moment. Although most of us would love to “be where our feet are,” that can be difficult when we constantly juggle our work, families, and activities. 

Think of all the situations you navigate in a day: work stress, never-ending Zoom meetings, childcare concerns, family commitments, caring for your home or pets, and finding time for yourself are just a few things you may deal with on a day-to-day basis. Errands and must-do tasks are stressful enough — now add digital clutter and conversation like Twitter threads, TIkTok videos, and Facebook drama. There’s a lot going on! 

We are continually inundated by more content than ever before. The average person receives over 120 emails delivered to their inbox per day. REF#1831 Often, these emails and notifications don’t have any bearing on everyday life.

Health professionals agree that mindfulness has important health benefits, like helping us manage feelings of stress, cope with serious illnesses, and support mental health.REF#1832

What is the Science of Mindfulness?

It might sound far-fetched. How could the practice of mindfulness benefit us in our daily lives? If you’re skeptical, there’s also scientific research to back up the merits of mindfulness exercises.

According to research, the effects of mindfulness can affect activity in the amygdala and support connections between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex, which can help us respond better to stressful situations. REF#1833

Additional research shows that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) techniques can cause us to become more compassionate. In fact, a particular type of meditation, called loving-kindness meditation, has been shown to support compassion and make it more effective. REF#1834

What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness?

What are the benefits you can expect from mindfulness?

One of the most important benefits of mindfulness is healthy cortisol levels, which can naturally help us feel more relaxed and more at peace. REF#1835 Another benefit is feeling less stressed after meditation practice and mindfulness exercises. 

Researchers are even able to point to structural changes in the brains of people who practice meditation and mindfulness practices long-term, like Buddhist monks. REF#1836 REF#1837

If you’re looking for a scientifically-backed, natural way to support your mental health and overall well-being, adopting mindfulness practices can help.

How To Get Started With Mindfulness

The easiest way to get started on a mindfulness journey is to think simply. You don’t need to light incense or sit on a mat outside, though you can certainly do that if you want! Instead, try incorporating a minute of mindfulness into specific parts of your daily routine.

Mindful Minutes

For example, as you get dressed in the morning, stop what you’re doing, take a few deep, cleansing breaths, and notice what’s going on both around and inside you. Are you feeling stressed? Does this process make you happy and calm? Do you find yourself unable to focus on clothes because the dresser is dusty? These are all things to note. Why do you feel that way? What could make this process better for you? 

During your work day, set aside a few minutes after a meeting ends to sit quietly at your desk and notice how you’re feeling. Are you feeling invigorated or overwhelmed? What prompted that feeling? Flag any increased reactions you may have noticed (feeling proud counts!) or ways you could make your environment more comfortable.

Try tying a minute of mindfulness to things you do every day, like brushing your teeth, drinking coffee, or walking the dog. Set aside distractions and allow yourself to just be. Breathe in the world around you and note how you feel in these everyday moments.

As you note these things, be careful to practice self-compassion. The goal is not to shame yourself for noticing certain things or feelings, but to notice them with no judgment.

Body Scan

This is a type of mindfulness that involves becoming still, usually in a prone position (laying down flat on your back), and taking inventory of your body sensations from head to toe. While doing this, you’ll also be working to release tension from areas of your body that cling to it. 

For instance, you may start with your head, noticing whether or not your eyes and forehead are tense and, if so, actively releasing them. You may move lower and discover that your tongue is pressing against the roof of your mouth, in which case you can release it. 

If you’re uncomfortable doing this alone or afraid you won’t be able to focus properly, you can follow an online guided meditation.

Meditation

Meditation is another important part of mindfulness. If you’ve never practiced meditation before, it can feel intimidating. The goal of meditation is usually to focus on clearing your mind of all thoughts or to focus and meditate on one sole thought or affirmation. 

To get started, find a quiet space to sit alone for a few moments. Notice how your body feels as you get settled and start connecting to your breathing with deep, slow inhales and exhales. Many people find that a good deep breathing technique involves deep inhales through the nose and exhales through the mouth.REF#1838

Next, try to clear your mind and focus solely on your breath — it sounds easier than it is, so don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself to master it right away. You may find a guided meditation app is a helpful tool to set you on the path to success. Plenty of mindfulness apps can also help you establish a mindfulness practice as part of your wellness routine. 

Helpful Mindfulness Tips

The practice of mindfulness is a form of self-care with the ultimate goal of releasing judgment of how you feel in the present moment. As you dive deeper into your mindfulness training, you can non-judgmentally recognize feelings, emotions, and reactive responses that no longer serve you. You can then work to remove them. 

  • If body scans are difficult, try focusing on physical sensations instead, such as the sensation of your body against a mat or your hands against your stomach. Connect your breathing to these sensations. 
  • You can practice mindfulness interventions during your day. Find a quiet space to focus on breathing and clearing your thoughts for three minutes. This may be enough time to help you find self-regulation during a particularly difficult work day or a stressful situation. You can also try mindful eating by focusing on the sensations around you as you eat.
  • Try using herbs to help soothe your nervous system and prepare your body for meditation and relaxation. 
  • You can also try mindful movement such as yoga or tai chi. These exercises can help you connect with your body and focus your mind through breathing techniques.
  • If you have specific concerns you’d like to work through, you can find a therapist who practices mindfulness-based cognitive therapy MBCT). This is similar to cognitive behavioral therapy but emphasizes mindfulness-based interventions.

Try not to get discouraged. Many people find it difficult to practice mindfulness when they first begin. Start with small mindfulness and meditation sessions of no more than one to three minutes. As you are able to hold your mindfulness practices longer, you’ll enjoy deeper benefits. 

With a little time and some dedication, you’ll be well on your way to a more mindful existence.

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