I’ve heard mindfulness described as mindlessness. That instead of filling your head with thinking and stress and noise and worry, you empty your head and in that clear state, you are free to focus on your immediate surroundings. That’s a good description I think. Especially if, like me, it’s a bit of an alien concept and you are struggling to figure out what it means.
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Those more experienced in the practice of mindfulness are enthusiastic about the benefits. Reducing stress, for one. Improvements in overall health and wellbeing. Ability to focus and concentrate. Boost resilience (I like that one: I think we could all do with a bit more of that in this day and age). But if you’re new to it, getting started with something like mindfulness can seem like an overwhelm in itself, and kind of defeat the object of doing it in the first place.
But do not worry. Practising mindfulness doesn’t have to start with having experienced in advanced meditation techniques. If you’re a complete beginner, there are far easier techniques you can try that will give you a taste of what it actually feels to be mindful and have all the health and mental benefits that come with it. Mindfulness is like a muscle – practice and repeat on a daily basis, and you can strengthen it over time.
Here are 5 easy techniques you can start with as a novice.
Find a short route that has a lot of natural scenery to take in. Walk at a steady pace, noticing the rise and fall of your footsteps along the pavement. Now look around you. Take note of what you see. The colors of the leaves on the trees. Whether there are clouds in the sky. If you can see any birds. Listen to the sounds you can hear. Your footsteps. Nature. Life. Notice your breathing. Breath deeply, regularly and in rhythm to your walking speed.
Body Scan Meditation
Lie down on a comfortable, flat surface. Bring awareness to your breathing, and breath deeply and slowly. Now start with your toes. Notice the sensations you can feel in your toes. Next move up to your ankles. Do the same. Focus on the area for a few moments, noticing anything you can sense. Continue up the body, scanning each body part one by one until you get to the very top of your head.
Stand by a large window. Sit, and make sure you are comfortable. Look out the window and scan the scene in front of you. Focus in on something interesting. Notice everything you can about what you see. Don’t attach feeling to it (e.g. I meant to cut that tree back!), just be objective (e.g. the branch at the top is swaying in the wind and I can see a few leaves falling slowly to the ground). Continue doing this with everything you can see in your view, bit by bit.
The Five Senses
This is a pretty easy one. Sit somewhere comfortable and relax. Breath deeply. Now take a look around. Notice 5 things in front of you that you can see. Now focus on touch. Think about 4 things you can feel with your body right now using touch. Next, listen. Focus on 3 things you can hear around you. Now, smell. Notice 2 different smells around you. And lastly, taste. Notice 1 thing that you can taste – either by eating or drinking something, or just noticing the taste of your mouth as it is.
6 Minute Gratitude Journal
Schedule 6 minutes, once a week, and make sure it is a time when you won’t be disturbed. Using your favorite journal (I love the 6 minute diary), spend 6 minutes thinking about all the things that have happened that week that you are grateful for. Write them all down, one by one, in your journal. Once you’ve finished, read through your list and reflect back on it.