In order to live a fitter and healthier life, we must address all aspects of wellness – nutrition, physical fitness, and mental health. Engaging in mindfulness meditation is one way to take care of our minds and reduce overall stress. Simply put, being mindful is the practice of being aware and present in the here-and-now. Mindfulness meditation allows us to turn our focus inward and notice what is happening with our thoughts and in our bodies, taking time to separate ourselves from external distractions and stressors as much as is possible. Here are a few basic tips to get you started with this practice:
- Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit. Silence your phone and other devices and try to minimize possible distractions. Begin to pay attention to your breathing. Take a look at Barry Boyce’s techniques for preparing your body for mindfulness meditation at Mindful.org.
- Scan your body. Take a mental inventory of what’s happening in your body. Notice (without judgement) where you might have tension or pain, where you feel loose and relaxed, and how your breath feels in your body. If you would like to use a guided meditation to get you started, the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA has some free offerings of different durations here.
- Let go of thoughts. In our everyday lives we often become consumed by thoughts. In mindfulness meditation we try to let them go for a while, giving us a mental respite. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche of LionsRoar.com suggests, “No matter what kind of thought comes up, you should say to yourself, ‘That may be a really important issue in my life, but right now is not the time to think about it. Now I’m practicing meditation.’ It gets down to how honest we are, how true we can be to ourselves, during each session.” Some people find it helpful to use imagery as they let go of their thoughts. For example, try picturing your thoughts as puffy white clouds that float by on the breeze, or leaves being carried away on a running brook.
By introducing mindfulness to your health and wellness routine, you may find yourself better attuned to your body, more able to focus on the present moment, and better equipped to center yourself during stressful situations. Try these basic practices and leave a comment to let us know how it went!