By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. More and more research is showing that engaging in these types of practices can be incredibly powerful for our mental, emotional, and even physical health.
But ‘mindfulness practice’ can sound scary if it’s something you’ve never tried before. Thankfully, it’s not nearly as scary as it seems! In fact, as long as you go slowly and use a little self-compassion, it’s not scary at all.
Here’s how to get started.
How To Start Your Mindfulness Practice
Don’t worry: you don’t need to become a Buddhist monk overnight. Being mindful is simply about getting out of your head and into the present moment, as much as possible.
This means starting to become more aware of the world around you, and your reactions to it. And this can be a wonderful thing! How many times do you rush through your morning shower, without enjoying the warm water on your skin? How many times to you walk past that tree on your way to work without noticing the little birds in its branches? When was the last time you lit a candle and let yourself bask in the glow?
Be gentle with yourself. You’re going to slip up, and even mindfulness masters get carried away in their own thoughts sometimes. So instead of trying to be mindful all day, every day, start by seeing if you can find a few minutes in your day to meditate.
How To Start Meditating
Again, ‘meditation’ can be a scary word. If you’re intimidated, just tell yourself that you’re going to take a little time to focus on your breathing, which is what meditation is all about.
Start by finding a few minutes in your day where you can be mindful. Then focus on slowing down your breathing and breathing deep into your belly (and out of your chest).
Slowly count 10 breaths. Pay attention to the sensation of air coming into your nose or mouth, filling up your lungs, and then leaving again. You might find it easier to focus on your nose, chest, belly, or whole body – where do you feel your breath moving you most?
As you breathe, pay attention to what you’re experiencing in your body. Is there tightness in your chest or throat? Tension in your shoulders? Pain in your lower back? Can you release anything and let go?
And a word to the wise: your mind will wander, and that’s ok. In fact, it’s more than ok – it’s human. The point of meditation is to notice when your mind wanders, and then gently bring it back to your breath. It’s in the noticing and the bringing your attention back to the present moment that the magic happens.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. And it’s much better to start slowly and commit to a small mindfulness practice that you can actually stick to, than to make lofty goals that are too hard to achieve.
So to start your mindfulness practice, try to commit to one minute of breathing meditation in the morning, one at noon hour, and one in the evening before bedtime (it’s a great addition to your existing evening rituals). And then any time in the day you can squeeze in a spare minute (waiting for the train? About to switch tasks at work?), do so.
It’s a good idea to set an alarm, so you’ll notice when your minute’s up. Otherwise, you’re likely to find yourself thinking about how much longer you should sit there, rather than on your breathing.And remember why you want to be more mindful in the first place. That way, meditating won’t become just another task on your ‘should do’ list. Instead, it can be something you look forward to on your ‘get to do’ list, and it can really help you create a calmer and more fulfilling life.