Embrace Yourself: How to Practice Mindfulness

One of my resolutions this year was to be more mindful. I want to practice mindfulness in my daily life. What is mindfulness? A lot of people associate mindfulness with meditation, and ultimately that is correct. Being mindful and practicing mindfulness is essentially meditation.  Mindfulness is all about being in the present moment. Which I, for one, have a hard time doing. I'm always thinking about what's next. What's coming tomorrow, this week, this month, this year. But I am working hard to try and think about what's immediately necessary. 

How to Start
When starting to practice mindfulness, I've found, it's really difficult. How do you start? What do you do? Just think about what's going on? Yes, essentially. Below are some things you can think about while practicing mindfulness. However, just observe, don't judge any of these points, that contradicts the mindfulness aspect! It's normal to want to judge yourself for your bad posture, or think you shouldn't be having a bad day. Acknowledge your judgment and learn from it! 
  • What is your breathing pattern? Fast? Slow? 
  • How does your body feel? Are you tense? Are you uncomfortable? How is your posture?
  • What do you smell? Hear? Feel? 
  • What are you thinking about? Are you able to keep focused? If not, just gently bring yourself back. 
  • How are you feeling today? What emotions are you feeling? 
When practicing mindfulness your breathing, just like in yoga, is a huge part of it. You've noticed your breathing, so what do you do now? When you're feeling stressed, overwhelmed or just generally bad, slowing down your breathing and taking some deep breaths can seriously calm you down in a matter of 10 deep breaths. If you're wanting an even calmer way of breathing, try this method by Dr. Andrew Weil:
  • Breathe with your belly (your stomach should expand when you inhale and flatten when you exhale)
  • Inhale through your nose quietly
  • Exhale through your mouth by whooshing air around your tongue through your lips
  • In hale for a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 7, and exhale for the count of 8. 
  • Start by doing the breath cycle four times, twice a day (building up to 8 cycles, twice a day for ultimate calming effects)
I'm not sure where I got this trick (I think from my yoga instructor) but inhaling for a count of 4, exhaling for a count of 5, inhaling for a count of 6, exhaling for a count of 4, and so on is super relaxing. When I've had a super stressful day, this is how I usually calm down at night. 

While practicing, it's so normal to not be able to keep your mind on track. It's hard to keep focused on one thing at a time, especially when it's something such as counting your breath. When practicing, think of your thoughts as water droplets in a river, let them just flow. That's what being mindful is all about. Recognizing your breath, your thoughts and your feelings. If you're having super negative thoughts that won't go away, inhale deeply and when exhaling, literally push the negative thought out of your head. Visualize it literally leaving your mind. It may take a couple of tries but eventually your negative thoughts will cease. 

"I don't have time"
Yes you do. One of my favorite times to be mindful is when I'm doing my daily things. While I'm riding the bus to school, I will look out the window and think about the weather, the houses I'm passing by, how I'm breathing, etc. Another way is to practice being mindful while working out or doing yoga (this is especially helpful and opens up so much clarity!) I also practice mindfulness while I'm doing dishes! 

How do you practice mindfulness?
What would you like to see from this series? Leave a comment!

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