How to Begin Practicing Mindfulness

Nowadays, being “mindful” in every field is a trend. But what exactly do mindfulness and being mindful mean? If you don’t have a clue, read our article so you don’t get left behind this trend!

6 min read - 04 August 2021 Man in nature, looking at mountains and a lake What exactly is mindfulness?

“Mindfulness shows us what is happening in our bodies, our emotions, our minds, and in the world. Through mindfulness, we avoid harming ourselves and others”, says global spiritual leader and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh.
 
In addition to being a spiritual study, it is now scientifically proven that mindfulness practices reduce stress. Retired medical doctor and the creator of the research-backed stress-reduction program “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” (MBSR), Jon Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.

In very simple terms: Mindfulness is being fully present in the moment and fully engaged with whatever you’re doing by being aware of your thoughts and feelings without interpretation or judgment. It allows practitioners not to be overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around them. It’s a skill that everyone can adapt to their lives with regular practice. 


What happens to your brain when you practice mindfulness?

Growing research shows that as you train your brain to be mindful, you remodel the physical structure of your brain. MRI scans prove that particular areas of the brain may either shrink or grow in response to regular mindfulness practice.

  • Mindfulness reduces stress levels:
After practicing mindfulness, the grey matter in your brain’s amygdala — a region known for its role in stress — can become smaller.

  • Mindfulness increases creativity:
Spending too much time planning, problem-solving or thinking negative thoughts can be tiring and inhibits creativity. It also makes you more likely to experience stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression. Practicing mindfulness can help you direct your attention away from this kind of thinking and engage with the world around you. The grey matter in the pre-frontal cortex (the area of your brain responsible for things like planning, problem-solving, and controlling your emotions) can become thicker.

  • Mindfulness is good for memory:
An area of the brain known as the hippocampus helps your memory and learning. This area can also become thicker after practicing mindfulness.


Simple Mindfulness Practices

The best thing about mindfulness is that it can be practiced anywhere, anytime. Here are a few of the easiest mindfulness practices:

  • Pay attention to your 5 senses: 
Experience everything you do with your 5 senses. For example, if you’re hiking in the forest, begin to notice your environment with your 5 senses: touch, sound, sight, smell and taste. Of course, you may not be able to feel every sense in every situation you’re in. Just do whatever you can and don’t try to experience all of them at the same time. Instead give yourself some time to explore each sense. Another example of 5 senses practice: When you’re eating your favorite food, take your time to see, smell, taste and truly enjoy it. At first it can be hard to slow down and notice things in a busy world, but eventually your sensing skills will improve.

  • Observe your breathing:
Sit in a comfortable place that won't cause you to fall asleep. Close your eyes if it makes it easier for you to concentrate. If you don’t want to close them, just look ahead at a fixed point. Slowly begin to divert your attention to your breath. Focus on how you inhale through your nose, how the breath travels through your body and how you exhale the air again. As you carry on breathing, try to feel how your belly rises and falls as the air enters your nostrils and leaves your nostrils. Don’t be too hard on yourself if your attention starts wandering to your thoughts, plans and/or worries. Just notice what has just happened, bring your attention gently back to your breath and carry on. Refocusing on the present is also a part of mindfulness practice. You can use a soft-sounding alarm to set time for this practice.


To sum up

There are many different mindfulness practices available. Whether you do them as long meditations or just quick daily practices, the benefits soon begin to emerge. It’s important to note that practicing mindfulness is available anytime you want. Taking time to pause and breathe when the phone rings instead of rushing to answer it may be a good start for your mindful actions.
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