What Is Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of simply letting yourself become aware of what is going on within and around you. Specifically, mindfulness is about remaining non-judgemental about the present moment. Instead, you are simply acknowledging your thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness and meditation practices can allow you to learn to be fully present in what you are doing and how you are feeling. By engaging in mindfulness, you can reduce stress and symptoms of depressions or anxiety, while improving memory skills and your ability to manage your emotions.
One main benefit of mindfulness and meditation practices is eliminating the negative narrative. Oftentimes, we tell ourselves negative stories without even realizing it. For example, perhaps you just hung up the phone with a friend and they told you they would call you back in five minutes. An hour goes by, and you haven’t received a call. Your mind begins to think of all of the reasons your friend didn’t call back: “They’re mad at me”, “They don’t want to talk to me”, etc. In reality, something came up and it had nothing to do with you. It is easy to tell ourselves these negative narratives without even realizing it. Practicing mindfulness can help you realize when you start creating these stories, and stop them before they upset you. Once you learn to observe your thoughts, you can begin to learn how to let go of them.
What Are Some Mindfulness and Meditation Practices You Can Try?
There are many ways to practice mindfulness that are simple and easy. Below are just three examples of mindfulness and meditation practices, but there are many more. Try a few out and decide which is best for you!
Body Scan Mindfulness and Meditation Practice
Body scan meditation is a mindfulness practice that allows you to engage with your physical self and pay attention to what you are feeling. This practice is helpful for when you are feeling overwhelmed, as it will bring you back to the present moment. Further, this practice will teach you to notice what happens in your body when you’re feeling certain emotions without any judgment.
Find a comfortable and quiet space and find a place to sit, whether that is in a chair or on the floor.
Bring your awareness to the space around you, as well as your body and any sensations/emotions you are currently feeling.
Close your eyes.
Take a few deep breaths.
Notice your feet and legs, and any sensations that you are feeling in them. Do these sensations relate to any emotions you are currently feeling?
Next, pay attention to your stomach. Does it feel tight? If so, take a few deep breaths to allow your stomach to relax.
Continue this process, slowing moving through your hands, arms, neck, jaw, and head. Notice what feels stiff and do your best to relax it if you can.
Take one more deep breath, focusing on your entire body.
Open your eyes and spend a few moments thinking about how you and your body feels.
Check out this link for an audio that will guide you through the steps of body scan meditation!
Breath Awareness Meditation
Another type of mindfulness that you can practice is breath awareness. By breathing mindfully, you can alleviate feelings of stress or anxiety. When doing this practice, it is important to notice if any thoughts come into your mind, then let them drift away.
Breath Awareness Meditation Steps:
Similarly to body scan meditation, find a quiet and safe space and sit in whatever position is comfortable for you
Place your hands with your palms up on your lap or by your side.
Close your eyes and take a moment to bring your attention to your breath.
Begin to inhale and exhale, with each lasting a few seconds every time.
Once you are in a comfortable breathing cycle, allow yourself to continue this breathing for 3 to 5 minutes.
While doing this exercise, you can think about what you are thankful for. Some other thoughts may pop into your head white you are doing this. Take a second to acknowledge them, then let them drift away.
Slowly open your eyes and take a few moments to reflect on how you feel.
Check out this link for an audio that will guide you through the steps of breath awareness meditation!
Another mindfulness practice you can try are pleasant/unpleasant logs. These daily logs will help you recognize when pleasant and unpleasant events are happening and allow you to reflect on them. For example, the log will ask you how you feel, what bodily sensations are you feeling, what thoughts are you having, and more.
Try your best to fill out these logs once a day to become more aware of your feelings and how you respond to pleasant and unpleasant events. If you are new to pleasant/unpleasant logs, start by only filling out the pleasant logs to build positive experiences more mindfully. Then, when you feel you are ready, begin to fill out the unpleasant logs as well. Unpleasant logs are a great way to observe your distress tolerance non-judgmentally. Once you begin to fill out these logs, you may notice that when you separate the negative narrative from the experience, you may find that unpleasant experiences are not as bad as you think. Sometimes, when we tell ourselves these negative stories, we make experiences worse than they actually are. Overall, unpleasant and pleasant logs will allow you to look at your experiences, positive and negative, from a non-judgemental standpoint .
Below are links to an unpleasant and a pleasant events log!
These are just a few examples of mindfulness and meditation practices. Try these out, and more, to see what is right for you!
Thank you to Atlanta licensed psychologist Dr. Laura Riss and Best Within You Therapy & Wellness intern Jane Goldsmith for this mindfulness blog post.