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  • Sonya Deol

What is Mindfulness and How Can You Practice It?

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

a man sitting on a cliff looking into the distance

Mindfulness has become a popular word in recent years and is often associated with silent meditation or deep breathing. While both are examples of practicing mindfulness, there is much more to the concept that needs to be understood.

Being mindful means intentionally and non-judgmentally bringing attention to the present moment, the way it is. It is consciously slowing down; pausing; tuning into thoughts, feelings, sensations, and the environment around you. It is telling yourself “I am here now”, orienting yourself in the present instead of the past or future. Mindfulness isn’t trying to stop or control thoughts and feelings in order to have an empty mind. If difficult thoughts or feelings are present, being mindful means acknowledging them from a distance.

Everyone has the ability to be mindful – learning to access it is what is key.

a pile of rocks on the shore of a beach

History of Mindfulness:

Mindfulness originated from Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism and was later introduced to the West. The idea of mindfulness is not tied to any specific religion; it is a way of life that anyone can practice.

Benefits of Mindfulness:

  • Being aware of emotions and learning to accept them

  • Positive personality shifts over time

  • Being able to manage stress

  • Decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression

  • Healing from pain and trauma

  • Better communication within relationships

  • Feeling a sense of inner peace and fulfilment

  • Becoming more self-compassionate

Possible Downfalls of Mindfulness:

While the benefits of mindfulness are great, possible risks may be increased anxiety, depression, or physical complaints due to a heightened focus on yourself. Also, expecting a “quick fix” can be a barrier to mindfulness.

It’s important to note that mindfulness learned in a therapeutic setting by a trained professional is more likely to be helpful than practicing alone.

a woman seated in a yoga posture

Types of Mindfulness Practice:

1. Observing your thoughts

Taking a moment to notice your inner dialogue with curiosity and focusing on the present is something you can do at anytime of day. Try imagining that your thoughts are displayed on a screen in front of you and watch them pass by with curiosity.

2. Body scan meditation

Starting at the top of your head, scan each part of your body for any tightness or tension and consciously release it.

3. Deep breathing

Breathing from your diaphragm (located between your ribs and stomach) helps you breathe fuller and deeper. This can signal your mind and body to enter into a calm state.

4. STOP exercise

S - Stop what you're doing for a moment

T - Take a few deep breaths

O - Observe any thoughts, feelings, sensations

P - Proceed with what you were doing

5. Five senses exercise

Pausing and noticing one thing you can hear, see, smell, feel, or taste can bring you into the present moment.

6. Guided meditation apps

Finding mindfulness meditations from YouTube, Spotify, or other apps like Headspace can be useful if you are looking for help with something specific, like sleep or anxiety.

Don't worry if you feel edgy or have trouble being present when practicing mindfulness - this is common. If this happens, simply notice it because that in itself is being mindful of your experience.

There is no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. And you may need to try several different exercises before you find what works best for you. Approach your practice with patience, openness, and consistency as you learn to add more mindfulness into your life. For more information on mindfulness-based therapy, read about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) here.



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