Advertising

Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Practice Mindfulness (A Beginner’s Guide)

Advertising
How to Practice Mindfulness (A Beginner’s Guide)

Mindfulness is a mental practice. It’s simply being aware of your thoughts, actions, and behaviors throughout the day, in your relationships, and interactions with the world around you.

There are some myths (which will be debunked below) that plague mindfulness as an overwhelming, “fake” attitude toward the typical and harsh realities of life; but mindfulness is simply a turning of attention to the direction in which our mind goes, without judgement.

It’s not wishing we were more positive or happy or friendly with others; instead, it’s a silent and objective observation of your own reactions, which surprisingly, you’re very much in control of! Instead of pretending into your feelings and emotions, and acting from a place of unconscious thought, mindfulness shows you how to remove the blind filters from your behavior, and tune into how you really act and feel.

From this place of truth, you can make changes that are in your highest good. So how to practice mindfulness?

1. Meditation

The most effective way of tuning into your thoughts and feelings is through meditation. It’s a practice by which you can slow down, sit down, and allow the world around you (and within you) to simply pause.

It’s a chance to tune into your breathing, which will automatically affect your nervous system, lower your blood pressure, and minimize any stress you may be bringing into your day. It’s also a chance to tune into your thoughts, and notice the ones that may be bringing you down.

We go through life at an incredibly rapid pace, and we seldom get the opportunity to slow down and listen to our thoughts. Meditation is that pause button we can hit, to acknowledge the quality of our thoughts.

What thoughts can stay and feel good for us to have? What thoughts can go, and no longer serve us? This is the epitome of a mindfulness practice.

Advertising

Creating a consistent meditation practice – 3-4 times per week – is a great way of using this tool to its advantage. How long you meditate is entirely up to you; know that even a few minutes per day is serving you well!

2. Affirmations

When life gets hectic and your mind wanders to overthinking and stress, it can be helpful to have a word or a phrase to come back to. This is called an affirmation.

It’s a simple phrase, said in the present tense, that acts as a lifeline to bring you back to not just the present moment, but to the kind of mental state you’d like to be in to take on the rest of your day.

Affirmations are powerful statements that you can use over and over again, whenever needed. You can have a few that you can recycle as the situation calls for it; or you can have one dedicated one that you keep coming back to.

Here is a list of affirmations that you can try. You can also make use of these affirmation apps to find inspirations. When you feel yourself mentally wandering away, pause; come back to your affirmation and say it out loud or to yourself three times. Take a few breaths and notice how you feel.[1]

3. Mindful Walking

Mindful walking is a type of meditation practice that encourages you to truly take notice of how you walk. It’s a great practice to begin to tune into your physical body, and the anatomical contractions that happen on a reflexive level (most of which we’re absolutely unaware of!) It also re-focuses your brain on the task at hand, and keeps it concentrated and disciplined.

Either inside or outside, begin to simply walk. You can walk in any direction, but make the pace nice and slow. Become aware of each step, as you plant your entire foot down onto the Earth.

Advertising

Go deeper into your awareness, and begin to take note of how the toes feel as they splay out in your footstep; how the leg lifts and the hips move; how the torso shifts as you balance your walk forward.

All of these simple yet complex movements pull you deeper into awareness of your physical body in space.

Take this mindful approach to the rest of your day. Can you become just as aware of everything else you do that may have been on autopilot?

4. Journaling

Journaling is a practice of writing down your thoughts as they come up. Creating a consistent practice means giving your thoughts and emotions a safe and healthy means of expression.

You may like to sit down at the end of your day and journal about how you felt, what came up, what brought you challenges, and what brought you joys. It’s a practice that pulls you into the present moment, and gives you a platform on which you can analyze your thoughts and dissect your feelings into something deeper:

How does it feel to be vulnerable and honest in your words? What emotions come up as you jot down your thoughts for the day? And can you begin to see these little snippets of truth and revelation without judgement?

One of the myths of a mindfulness practice is that it promotes a sense of “fake positivity.” We think that by meditating, journaling and speaking loving affirmations to ourselves, we’ve somehow covered up feelings of sadness or struggle that we undoubtedly face as human beings.

But beginning a mindfulness practice allows us to face these moments of hardship without being too harsh or critical on ourselves.

Advertising

With meditation and journaling as some of our tools, we can allow ourselves to be sad or angry, but know that we have a choice in how long we stay there… which brings us to another practice tool.

5. Acceptance

Life is not always going to be easy to love. We can say the same for ourselves and our loved ones.

One of the founding pillars of a solid mindfulness practice is allowing yourself to simply accept every emotion that comes your way: be that sadness, anger, apathy, confusion, and the like.

Feel all the feelings. They’re a part of you.

While some are not pleasant to endure, they teach you how to accept all parts of yourself that make up the whole. It’s not just a practice of mindfulness; it’s a practice of wholesome self-love, because you can’t only love the pretty, neat, easy parts of you.

Mindfulness teaches you how to welcome all feelings and thoughts without judgement or criticism. So the next time you’re feeling hard on yourself and are in a tough spot, allow the emotions and thoughts to rise up. They simply want to be seen. Imagine them like a sea of clouds on a bright, sunny summer day. See each of them come into your view, and then with your breath, watch them float on by.

Just like clouds, our thoughts and emotions are temporary. They don’t define us, much like clouds don’t define an infinite summer sky.

Keep coming back to this practice any time you feel overwhelmed and self-judgmental.

Advertising

6. Mindful Eating

Our eating routine has become synonymous with distractions: watching TV, talking with friends, working, etc. We no longer just eat.

Mindful eating is just that: a chance for you to get really aware of what and how you’re nourishing your body with food. Not only will you begin to enjoy your food even more (now that you’re aware of it), but you’ll be able to chew longer (which processes the food fully and actually helps you prevent overeating) and taste the food you’re enjoying.

Next time you’re having a meal, put away all distractions. Turn off your TV, put your phone away, and sit down to be fully present with your food.

If possible, eat in silence. It’s a game-changer! Chew your food fully, and notice the smells, tastes, and appearances of what you’re eating. This food is nourishing your body and going into your system, so become more curious about it and how it benefits you.[2]

Final Thoughts

Beginning a mindfulness practice doesn’t have to overhaul your entire life’s routine. It simply asks you to become more aware of your thoughts, actions, and behaviors throughout the day. If you’re aware, you can implement changes that are for your highest good.

Through tools such as meditation, mindful walking and eating, journaling, and affirmations, you can rewire your brain’s default setting that’s stuck in struggle, to a way out of complacency and into mental and emotional freedom.

The key is in accepting yourself as you are, and taking that awareness approach deeper with tools that are always at your disposal.

More About Practicing Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Lua Valentia via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

More by this author

Aleksandra Slijepcevic

Accredited and Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher writing for Health & Fitness

How To Get Rid Of Your Social Media Addiction How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly 5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful How Adding Flow Yoga to Your Workout Routine Boosts Your Gains

Trending in Mental Wellness

1 How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time 2 Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why? 3 Does Depression Make You Tired And How? 4 Overwhelmed at Work? 17 Ways to Manage Work Anxiety 5 Why Am I Depressed If My Life Is Fine?

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on November 8, 2021

How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

Advertising
How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

Do you often feel stressed for most of your day? Maybe you always feel a burden that you just can’t get rid of? Focused meditation might be your answer.

In this article, I’ll explore what focused meditation is, how it differs in the pool of many styles of meditation, and how to implement and start this practice today. Likewise, I’ll highlight the benefits of a focused meditation practice for your overall health.

What Is Focused Meditation?

Meditation is the practice of becoming self-aware through breath and attention to connect the mind, body, and spirit.[1] Meditation as a whole can change the structure and function of our brain. That being said, focused meditation or a guided meditation for focus is by far the best one. Meditation for focus and concentration can come in different forms. Experienced meditators use the following:

  • Mindfulness – this meditation involves us to be focusing on your breath and observing thoughts. This allows us to focus on our feelings without becoming too absorbed in them.
  • Concentrative – a meditation that gets us to focus on a particular point; be it a word, breath, object, or a point in the space you’re meditating. This is meant for us to pay attention to that point and prevent our minds from getting distracted.
  • Moving – this meditation involves gets us to focus on slow and repetitive movements similar to yoga or tai chi. The goal is again to be focusing on your breath while relaxing your body and mind with the movements.

Focused meditation, also known as concentrative meditation, is the practice of meditating and bringing your attention to one single object. This object can be something practical and tangible, such as a mandala painting or a candle flame. It can also be something abstract, such as a phrase (also known as mantra) or a sound (such as Om).[2][3]

Whatever you settle your attention on becomes the focal point. None of these object examples are better than others—they are simply choices depending on what you’re looking to get out of your practice. For example, practitioners will choose candle gazing to interpret the images the flame makes in the shadows while others will choose a mantra because that particular phrase or word empowers or heals them.

How Does It Differ From Other Meditation Styles?

All meditation styles and practices overlap and build on each other. Their basic foundation is the same: to bring the practitioner insight and introspection.

Advertising

There is no right or wrong way to meditate, however, the various types of meditation can enhance particular qualities. Based on your personality and needs, one type of meditation may be more useful to you than the other. The 9 types of meditation are:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Spiritual meditation
  • Focused meditation
  • Movement meditation
  • Mantra meditation
  • Transcendental meditation
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Loving kindness meditation
  • Visualization meditation

Focused meditation, specifically, is the practice of focusing on one single object for the duration of the practice. How this differs from other meditation styles is that it gives the practitioner something tangible to do: focus. It’s almost like giving your mind an action to perform—listen to this sound, repeat these words, watch this flame, etc. This is also one of the reasons why this particular meditation style is great for beginners!

One of the biggest challenges in any meditation practice is that the mind gets carried away and we lose ourselves to random thoughts. This “obstacle” is actually a style of meditation in and of itself called Vipassana.[4] However, in focused meditation, we give the mind something to do so that it’s not simply left to its own devices. This type of meditation is beneficial for beginners and for practitioners who prefer some structure and guidance to their meditations.

The Benefits of Focused Meditation

In this style of meditation, what you’re really doing is exercising your mental muscles. Your brain is highly affected by dedicated and concentrated meditation practice.

Scientists have performed countless studies on focused meditation and have found that active meditators have more gray matter volume in their brain and, therefore, offsetting the cognitive decline that comes with aging. So, not only does practicing focused meditation help you learn how to focus better on certain tasks, but it also improves similar functions, such as memory. [5]

Likewise, it helps in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, which our society is currently crippled with.[6] By settling your attention on an object, you are essentially building your ability to observe your thoughts and sensations from a place of objectivity. This allows you to detach from negative self-talk that is often the breeding ground for depression and other mental illnesses.

Advertising

From a guided meditation for focus to practicing it yourself, daily meditation for focus comes with several benefits:

  • It’ll reduce stress
  • Help you to control anxiety
  • Enhance your self-awareness
  • Improve attention span
  • Helps you to focus on the present moment
  • Increase your creativity and imagination
  • And boost your patience and tolerance for things.

How to Practice Focused Meditation

Here are six tips to help you practice focused meditation. Based on your availability and interest, these tips may change and evolve. That’s the point: to create a structured practice that caters to your needs.

1. Find a Comfortable Seat

As with any meditation practice, comfort is truly key. The physical body responds to meditation practice by alerting you to whether it is comfortable and supported or stressed out and in pain. This is best observed in practitioners who tend to slouch and lose the tall, supported spine that is essential to meditation practice.

A simple rule in meditative sitting is to ensure that your hips are higher than your knees. Therefore, choosing to sit in a chair instead of on the floor may be a smart decision or perhaps propping yourself up on a cushion. For meditation techniques overall, it does not matter how you sit. All that matters is that you are supported and comfortable sitting for some time.

2. Choose Your Object of Focus

Every meditation training session is going to be different because no single day is the same for any one person. Therefore, experienced meditators know that choosing an object is more about listening to what you need at this time versus following any doctrine or “rule.”

If you’re not sure and have a hard time deciding, make focusing on your breath and pay attention to the inhale and exhale is a good option. Then, assign each inhale and exhale a number, and once you reach 10, start over. This is one of the simpler methods of keeping your mind occupied—by giving it a task. This also trains your mind, and over time and with practice, your mind will easily focus on an object without too much effort.

Advertising

3. Set Your Desired Time or “Go With the Flow”

If you have a structured routine and would like to stick to your schedule, by all means, set a gentle timer for how long you’d like your meditation to be. This is also your opportunity to throw out the notion that any meditation has to be a certain length of time to be correct—it does not.

Likewise, if you have the time, you can also listen to your body and come out of your meditation when you feel it’s right to do so. This is often a beautiful practice of listening and tuning in.

4. Relax Your Body as You Focus on Your Meditation

Typically, when we are focusing on something, we tend to tighten our body. Observe this next time that you’re concentrating on something: your jaw will tighten and your shoulders will squeeze up towards your ears.

As you sink into your meditation, keep this in mind and check in with your body every once in a while. Let your shoulders sink down your back and release any tension through your jaw and face. Lastly, relax your brow and let your eyes be heavy in their sockets. Then, return to your object of meditation. Observe if your meditation changes at all by relaxing your physical body.

5. Return to Your Breath and Object When You Get Distracted

Notice that I didn’t say “if you get distracted.” That’s because you definitely will drift off with random thoughts or get pulled away from your object of focus. In meditation, distractions are almost guaranteed. Therefore, it’s your opportunity to practice detaching yourself from feeling guilty or inadequate to continue.

Over time and with practice, you will find it easier to stay with your object of focus. In the meantime, however, notice when you get distracted. Pause and take a big breath in and out. Check in with your physical body and relax. Once you’re ready again, return to your object of focus. Meditation is simply one long cycle of wandering and coming back to yourself.

Advertising

6. Journal Your Experiences

When your meditation practice has ended, another powerful practice is to jot down any experiences that you felt. There may have been insights and “downloads” that you acquired during your session that you may want to record.

Likewise, you could write about any challenges that you faced. These are great lessons that will continue to show up for you, and it’s nice to keep a journal of them to see how they evolve and progress over time (and they will). Lastly, you can write about what works and what doesn’t, as far as picking your objects of meditation go. This way, you can learn what you most associate with and feel comfortable with.

While these steps are simple, it’s easier said than done. Whether you’re starting out with a guided meditation for focus, loving kindness meditation, or transcendental meditation, anticipating failure the first time you try these things is healthy. Furthermore, congratulate yourself for even making slight progress like noticing and returning to the present moment and noticing the sensations you experienced.

Final Thoughts

If practicing meditation causes you to feel distracted and unsupported, give focused meditation a go! With the help of an object to bring your attention to, it structures your meditation time and offers guidance and support.

Dedicating yourself to this style of meditation will help increase your memory, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote better cognitive function. Even though any style of meditation is a powerful way of taking care of your mental health, focused meditation gives your mind a tangible task with which to grow and strengthen.

More About Focused Meditation

Featured photo credit: Lua Valentia via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

Read Next