How Do I “Do” Mindfulness?
It seems like everywhere we look, there is someone espousing the benefits of mindfulness: studies in the news, green juice drinking yogis on social media accounts, Lululemon-wearing celebrities, even other Lala girls. In theory, this sounds great—it makes you healthier and happier and you literally don’t have to do anything. But as much as everyone talks about this magical mindful state of being, there’s not much information on how to actually achieve this trendy nirvana. Behold, the (stressed-out) dummy’s guide to mindfulness, just in time for finals.
According to mindfulness.com, mindfulness is defined as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” They say “basic human ability,” but if you’re anything like me, and literally overthink overthinking, it’s probably not quite so basic.
But, like my piano teacher told me repeatedly during my brief stint as a child musician, practice makes perfect and mindfulness, just like anything else, has to be practiced.
The general goal is to just to be aware of what you’re experiencing. In the long run, this will make you less stressed, able to focus better, and all around happier. But, how do you just become aware?
One common way is to focus on your breathing. Just think “breathe in” as you breathe in and “breathe out” as you breathe out. If you notice yourself getting distracted, just return your thoughts to your breathing. You can also try counting as you breathe in and out. Once you get to ten, start over at 1. For me, this was a really good way to fall asleep when I was stressed and couldn’t stop thinking about everything I had to do the next day.
Psychology Today lists 6 ways you can easily incorporate mindfulness into your life. Each one only takes about a minute, so you can :
- Take two mindful bites at the beginning of every meal, paying attention to the texture, taste, and smell of your food.
- Pay attention to what a single breath feels like.
- Give your brain a mini-break. Next time you are about to go on social media or check your email, just look out the window, at people around you, or even just close your eyes.
- Pay attention to the air on exposed skin. This helps you practice being in processing mode, as opposed to our default judging mode.
- Scan your body and attempt to soften or release tension.
- Pick one activity that you do every day and do that action mindfully.
If you want something more structured, try using an app, like Headspace, iMindfulness, or Calm, all of which offer free trials.