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Published on January 7, 2020

How to Practice Mindfulness (A Beginner’s Guide)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Reference

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Aleksandra Slijepcevic

Accredited and Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher writing for Health & Fitness

How to Effectively Cope with Work Anxiety 4 Signs You’re Emotionally Drained (And What To Do) 15 Positive Coping Skills for Stress That You Should Learn How to Practice Mindfulness (A Beginner’s Guide) 15 Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Health

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Published on April 1, 2020

Why an Attitude of Gratitude Is Essential (And How to Develop It)

Why an Attitude of Gratitude Is Essential (And How to Develop It)

There is one way to make sure that you wake up every single day feeling calm, joyful and blissed-out, and that is to adopt an attitude of gratitude.

When you make it a conscious habit to express appreciation for your life, the Universe listens and responds with more love. Let me be clear… this doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person if you aren’t able to see the good on a bad day.

Life is far from perfect. Sometimes things happen that cause us to react negatively. Having a pity party is okay now and then. However, it does nothing good for your mental and emotional well-being.

An attitude of gratitude forces you to get outside of your problems and look at the bigger picture. In turn, you are better able to bounce forward when challenges occur in life.

What Is an Attitude of Gratitude?

An attitude of gratitude means that you operate from a place of abundance instead of a place of scarcity and fear. Each of us always has a choice of what we will focus on.

Grateful people give thanks for everything in their life, even on the days when it feels like nothing is going right.

To turn an attitude of gratitude into a sustainable habit, your foundation for feelings of gratitude must be independent of your circumstances.[1]

Hence, even on the days when it feels like nothing is going right, you have to find the silver lining and give thanks for what is working.

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As Melody Beattie says,

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, and confusion to clarity.”

Why Is Gratitude Important?

We all know how important it is to have a positive attitude. We’re taught to look at the world as a half-full glass, rather than a half-empty one. There’s good reason to adopt this mindset.

Studies show that if you express gratitude, it raises your happiness by 25%.[2] When you take a moment to give thanks for what you have, instead of ruminating on what you don’t have, it fills you up.

If gratitude is so good for your mental and emotional health, then why do so many people struggle to practice it? As humans, we are hardwired to dwell or fixate on the bad.

Psychologists have found that negative events have a greater impact on our brains than positive ones, referred to as the negative bias.[3]

As a result, a lot of people tend to move farther away from gratitude, which is an essential precursor to happiness. As Lewis Howes says,

“If you concentrate on what you have, you’ll always have more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you’ll never have enough.”

4 Simple Ways to Develop an Attitude of Gratitude

Let’s look at 4 simple ways that you can develop an attitude of gratitude.

1. Keep a Gratitude Journal

If someone were to ask you right now what you’re grateful for, would you be able to answer, without overthinking?

We often experience things that we should be grateful for, only to forget about them the next day. This is why writing down what you are grateful for is a good idea. By doing so you are rewriting your brain to focus on the good.

Gratitude journaling is the habit of recording and reflecting on things (typically three) that you are grateful for regularly.[4]

When it comes to practicing gratitude, consistency is key. Get into a routine of writing in your journal daily, preferably in the morning. This is a great way to start your day with a grateful heart.

Here’s How a Gratitude Journal Can Drastically Change Your Life

2. Express Your Gratitude

Once you have developed an attitude of gratitude, you are free to share that love with others. How often do you take the time to tell people in your life how much they mean to you?

Research shows that on the days that individuals strive to express their gratitude, they experience more positive emotions and are more likely to report helping someone and to feel connected with others.[5]

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Think about the people in your life who have made a positive impact on you. Reach out and tell them how much you appreciate them. There are plenty of ways to express your gratitude.

Start writing thank-you notes to anyone who has helped you along your journey, give out meaningful compliments, and celebrate the joys of others as if they are yours, too. Now, more than ever before, we need to uplift and inspire one another.

3. Celebrate the Small Things

We are conditioned to focus on and celebrate our big achievements, instead of our small wins. However, if you fail to ignore the small things and keep rushing from one thing to the next, you will quickly become demotivated.

Who you become isn’t determined by the end goal. Rather, it’s determined by the person who you become along your journey to success.

When you celebrate the small things, what you’re doing is celebrating your habits.[6]

Take time to pause, slow down and savor the small things. Instead of obsessing about the future or dwelling on the past, be more aware of the present moment. It’s all you’ve got. Relish in it.

4. Meditate on Gratitude

Meditation is a powerful practice in self-awareness. The goal isn’t to silence your thoughts. Rather, it’s to become an active observer of them. The process of meditation is all about allowing the mind to do its thing and accept it as it is.

I’ve always struggled with meditation. Sitting in silence for long periods of time isn’t my cup of tea. However, once I started combining meditation with gratitude, the game changed.

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I began the process of transforming my inner and outer world. Today, meditation has now become a non-negotiable ritual in my life.

Through meditation, we can build up areas of our brain and rewire it to enhance positive traits like focus and decision making and diminish the less positive ones like fear and stress.[7]

When you master the mind, you master your emotions. All of a sudden, everything in your life flows with more ease. You become less reactive and are better able to handle life’s challenges with grace.

The beauty of a gratitude meditation is that you can practice it anywhere. Take a few minutes out of your busy schedule each day to reflect upon the things and people whom you are grateful for.

If you’ve never tried meditation before, this guide is for you: How Do You Meditate? 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

Watch your mood change instantly. It’s powerful.

Final Thoughts

It’s never too late to start cultivating an attitude of gratitude.

What are you grateful for? Give thanks for whatever that is every single day. Life is beautiful. Take the time to stop and appreciate it. Gratitude has the power to transform your entire life.

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More Ways to Practice Gratitude

Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

Reference

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