- You don’t understand what it is [and isn’t]. Mindfulness isn’t about being perfectly present and focused at all times. Mindfulness isn’t something only for by people that practice yoga or meditate. Mindfulness is about being aware when your mind has wandered and bringing your focus and attention back to the moment.
- You’re making it more complicated and bigger than it needs to be. You can notice when your mind is wandering in the shower, while you’re enjoying a cup of coffee or playing with your kids. You can take a deep breath before you react to a frustrating situation. You can notice your breath in line at the grocery store. And no matter how scattered, spacey or impulsive you’ve been, you can always begin again.
- You’re only practicing as a reaction to being upset. Our brains have a hard time learning something new when they’re under stress. The more you practice being focused on the present moment when you’re happy and calm, the easier and more effective it will be when you’re stressed and crazy busy.
- You’re trying to do it alone. Practicing mindfulness is breaking a habit long held habit. As with learning anything new, look for support with books, videos, classes and friends.
Wondering how to practice mindfulness? All hype aside, ‘mindfulness’ simply means paying attention to the present moment. Practising mindfulness can help you to cope with everyday life and deal with tough times. It can also help you to concentrate, relax and be more productive.
Here are some different ways you can practice mindfulness, some mindfulness practice exercises, plus tips on what to do if you’re finding it hard.
Focus only on the present moment
You can develop mindfulness during regular activities such as when walking, driving or even brushing your teeth. The key is to try and focus only on the present moment and not pay too much attention to your thoughts about the past or the future.
Ask yourself what is happening for you right now. Is your breathing slow or fast? Are you tired? Are you hungry? How do you feel?
Concentrate on what’s happening around you
When you concentrate on what’s happening around you, you’re less likely to get caught up in your thoughts. Ask yourself whether you feel hot or cold. What does the air feel like on your face? What sounds can you hear? What can you smell?
Try not to be judgemental about anything you notice
This is tricky to do, but try not to label things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Just notice things and let them be. For example, instead of labelling a particular smell as ‘bad’, just notice it without judging it.
Try mindful meditation
If you’re ready to go a little deeper into developing your mindfulness, consider mindful meditation. To do this, sit quietly with your eyes closed and focus on your breath, or on a word or a phrase that you repeat quietly. Allow your thoughts to come and go, and try not to follow them. When your mind starts to wander, gently lead it back to your breathing, or to the word or phrase you’ve chosen.
You can practise mindful meditation by yourself, or you can use an app (such as Headspace or Smiling Mind) if you want some guidance. If you find your mind wandering, it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. It just means you have a normal human mind!
Practise mindful breathing
Take a few extra minutes to focus on your breathing. You can do this with your eyes closed or open. What does your breathing feel like? What does it sound like? Where do you first feel the breath in your body? Check out ReachOut Breathe app if you want a helping hand.
What if I’m finding it hard?
Becoming more mindful involves training your brain, so, like most things you learn, it can take time.
- Don’t expect to be able to hold your focus for very long, especially when you’re just getting started.
- It’s completely normal for your thoughts to wander.
- The goal isn’t to have a totally ‘blank’ mind; it’s more about noticing and gently guiding your mind back when your thoughts do wander.
- The more you practise mindfulness, the better you’ll become at it.
- If you’re struggling with a particular strategy, try a different one. Every person is different, and you may find some strategies easier than others.
What can I do now?
- Get into the habit of practising mindfulness every day – even if it’s just for a few minutes while you brush your teeth. A good time to set aside is first thing in the morning, or right before bed. Stick to your schedule for a week. How did you do?
- Download and try the ReachOut Breathe app.
- Check out five other ways to be mindful without meditating.