May 6, 2015

6 Ways To Practice Mindfulness

Meditation, the art of practicing mindfulness, doesn’t have to mean sitting in silence on a cushion in the lotus position. Mindfulness is all about the ability to embody the present moment. 

It’s about focusing on what is happening right now, instead of worrying about the future or fretting about the past. Practicing mindfulness helps you enjoy what you’re doing, savor what you’re eating, and really be with the people you’re with. It’s is the art of focusing 100% of your attention in one area, even if it’s only for a few minutes. According to psychologist and author Marsha Lucas, Ph. D, “mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Meditation can offer a wealth of benefits, such as  increasing concentrationdecreasing anxietypromoting happiness, and increasing compassion. Here are some simple ways to choose mindfulness in your day:  

Practice Gratitude
Shifting focus onto the good things (and putting a positive spin on the not so good) is a powerful exercise in mindfulness. Gratitude grounds us and brings our gaze to the present in a really positive way. Try writing down three things you’re grateful for everyday and see what happens!

Move Your Body⎯Without Music
Whether it’s running or yoga, tai chi or motorbike riding, nothing brings awareness to your body like movement. And doing it without a playlist will make you more conscious of your breathing and all of your senses: the sound of your breath, the sights around you, the feeling of the road at your feet⎯or wheels.

We do it without even trying, which is why shifting your attention to it is the mecca of mindfulness. It slows the heart rate, focuses the mind and shifts our attention away from our head and down into our body. Spend five minutes a day just being aware of your body⎯the easiest way is to focus on your breath.

How many times have you read a page of your book over, and over, and over again because you had something else on your mind? Be present to the story in your hands.

Create Something
Making something out of nothing takes concentration and passion⎯be it a meal, journal entry, website or a work of art. Try removing distractions while you’re doing it⎯switch off your phone and television and instead focus on each step you take, the words you create, the strokes you make. Look up, and around. For years, I took the same route to work and never looked up. It sounds strange, but when I finally did I noticed so much more about the space I was living in. I noticed the birds in the trees, the way the sun shone on the leaves, and the beautiful architecture of terraces houses that dot the city. We spend so much time staring straight ahead. Stop, take a deep breath and really absorb the world around you.

Sit On A Cushion
I know this is a sneaky one, but I couldn’t write a post about meditation without praising the benefits of the more traditional approach of simply sitting with your breath for twenty minutes. Yes, it’s challenging, but it’s not impossible. Try it for a week for just five minutes each morning⎯I guarantee you’ll feel more relaxed, clear-headed and grounded. Start by trying these simple guided meditations from UCLA health. Aim to do at least one thing a day with absolute mindfulness, and remember that even the most seasoned meditators call it a ‘practice’. Be kind to yourself⎯your body and mind will be kind right back.