09 Mar March into Mindfulness
Mindfulness. We’re hearing that word a lot lately. Unfortunately, most of us don’t even really know what it means and why it is important. We also often associate it with new age practices, which, for many of us, may cause us to rule it out before even exploring it as a concept.
This March, we’re encouraging you to learn what it is and begin to engage in this incredibly helpful practice.
So what does it mean to be mindful? Basically, mindfulness is a life skill we all need. It means giving your full attention to something. As you do that, you slow down and really notice what you’re doing, how you’re feeling, and what you’re thinking. It is the opposite of multitasking. It is doing just what is needed—no more, no less.
There are significant health benefits to practicing mindfulness. Most importantly, perhaps, is that it helps to reduce stress. Mindfulness allows us to be more present and engaged in our own lives and the lives of others. It helps us be less judgmental and more open. Additionally, a mindful practice helps with our physical health. By reducing stress, we can improve heart and digestive health and create better sleep patterns.
Where to start?
There are many ways to be mindful. It doesn’t require long periods of meditation, sitting in the lotus position or chanting. You can merge mindfulness into your daily life in many ways:
- Take short pauses throughout the day where you check in with yourself and focus on your breath.
- Walking, standing or seated meditations—these can be as short as 5 minutes, or longer should you choose.
- Engage in a daily activity fully. You can build your mindfulness practice into your daily activities—eat mindfully, listen to music mindfully, or watch tv mindfully. The key is to do one thing at a time and engage in it all the way.
You may be thinking that this all sounds great, but it’s too lofty a goal. You just can’t do it. It’s impossible. You don’t have the ability. You don’t have the time. The good news? Everyone has the ability to be mindful. It’s just not a muscle you use often. As with any training, you have to practice and build up the ability to be mindful more consistently in your life.
To get started, try this exercise:
- Find a quiet space to sit, where you can be comfortable and have some privacy.
- Start breathing normally and focus on each inhale and exhale as they occur.
- Begin to count slowly with each inhale and exhale.
- Count to five on your inhale and then six on your exhale.
- Add one number to each round of inhalations and exhalations (5/6, 6/7, and so on).
- If you get distracted, and you will get distracted, just notice the distraction and bring your attention back to the breath.
- Do this for 2-3 minutes. Notice how you felt prior to trying and then notice how you feel after.
Mindfulness is a practice. March into it and see if you can increase the presence in your own life. The benefits can be endless.
Authored by: Dr. Jennifer Hartstein