3 Simple Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness into Your Life

Mindfullness

What is mindfulness? Why should you care?  Although the concept has seen a recent surge in popularity, it originated in Buddhist meditation, and was first popularized in the United States by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.  Practicing mindfulness involves focusing one’s attention and awareness on the experiences of the present moment; accepting what you feel in the moment is another key component.  Studies have shown that mindfulness can reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety, relieve stress, increase one’s capacity for compassion, improve concentration and focus, and even help the body recover from illness.  The techniques of mindfulness can benefit anyone, and they are simple enough for you to try at home.  Here are a few suggestions to help you cultivate mindfulness in your life.

1. Focus on Sensory Experiences.

This may sound self-explanatory, but many of us miss out on the full effect of an experience because we are too busy multi-tasking or worrying about something else.  Next time you sit down to eat something you really enjoy (like a favorite snack, or a piece of chocolate), make that action your sole focus.  You may be surprised at how satisfying it is!  You should also make a point to notice things in your everyday life that you might otherwise take for granted – like the beautiful scenery you pass on the way to work, or the peaceful quiet of an empty room.  Even if you sometimes observe these things in passing, try to concentrate on really giving them your undivided attention, without letting other thoughts cloud your mind.  In time you will find which experiences produce the strongest positive responses – then you can make a point to seek them out.

2. Practice Meditation.

This doesn’t have to be traditional meditation in the lotus pose chanting a single-word mantra; the goal is to break yourself out of a cycle of negative and unproductive worrying.  One approach is to center your thoughts on the physical sensations your body is feeling, starting with breathing.  Pay attention to each inhale and exhale, and how the air feels as it enters and leaves your lungs (closing your eyes may help).  You’ll probably find that your breathing becomes slower and deeper after a few minutes.  Next focus on the places where your body is touching something, like your feet against the floor or your back against a chair.  Feel these points of contact with your environment and relax into them.

3. Suspend Judgment.

This is the hardest step for most people.  The goal is to stop yourself from making a value judgment about the way you feel or experience the world around you.  The sensations and emotions you feel are what they are; there is no right or wrong way to experience a given moment.  If you find yourself becoming critical, pause for a moment and redirect your thoughts to a more neutral tone.  Making peace with this will help you to build self-kindness and give you a better perspective on your thoughts and worries, as well as fostering greater understanding and compassion in your interactions with others.

Mindfulness is one of many strategies that can help to improve your mental health and psychological wellbeing.  If your outlook does not improve, or you have thoughts of hopelessness or suicide, please seek professional help immediately.  The doctors and therapists at South Denver Psychotherapy will work with you to get past the difficult times. For urgent care, please contact the crisis hotline at 1-800-784-2433.

Want to know more?  Check out these links:

http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/benefits-of-mindfulness.htm

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition

http://selfdeterminationtheory.org/SDT/documents/2003_BrownRyan.pdf