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Complete Guide to Mindfulness
By Suja Johnkutty
As a busy full-time professional, life can get very hectic. Many days I would come home from work and have the inability to relax due to the continued stress of my day. Thoughts of upcoming projects and looming deadlines always left me feeling on edge.
My home life was starting to suffer as I couldn’t focus; I felt sleep deprived and quickly got frustrated over the smallest conflicts.
Then I learned about mindfulness-based stress reduction.
Practicing mindfulness daily has changed my life. I feel relaxed and more aware of how I am feeling. Additionally, I can express myself better, solve problems that arise with more creativity and be present.
You can change your life too.
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What Is Mindfulness?
Though suggesting that the mind is fully alert to what is going around you, mindfulness is more than that. At the basic root of mindfulness, we can be in the present moment and have a complete awareness of our body, our whereabouts and what is happening around us without being reactive.
Mindfulness comes naturally to us, but some techniques allow us to practice it along with meditation to achieve a fully relaxing state.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is about training your body through various techniques to focus on the present moment. Mediation is a way to help you gain a healthy perspective on what is going on in your life by helping you tune in fully to your thoughts and feelings to understand them.
Wellness With Mindfulness:
Mindfulness is more than just stress reduction. It is the hyper-alert awareness of how you are feeling and what is going on in your life. There are some benefits that are supported through studies and validate the numerous benefits practicing mindfulness provides you.
Practicing mindfulness with meditation provides you with the benefit of reducing rumination. What this means is that you will be less focused on one particular thing and more focused on everything as a whole.
You will be able to boost your memory to help you recall things with more ease. You will no longer be as stressed about where your car keys are or the important deadline you have coming up.
Have improved focus so that you can concentrate without being distracted by other things going on around you. As a busy professional, this helped me to focus on the moment of being home rather than all the stuff from work that was weighing down my mind.
Through mindfulness with meditation, you will experience a boost in those creative juices. Problems that you have had a hard time solving will have a solution as you can come up with more clever ways to solve them.
Getting Started With Mindfulness
When you are just starting, mindfulness with meditation it can be uncomfortable. The reason for the uncomfortable feeling is that you are retraining your brain. The first few days of starting for myself were the hardest. However, it comes more naturally after some time.
You don’t need any special tools or place to practice mindfulness.
- Take a seat. You can either sit in a chair or on the floor. Whichever is most comfortable for you.
- Pay attention to your legs. They are either straight in front of you, crossed under you or casually resting from your seated position.
- You want to straighten out your upper body. Don’t stiffen your back so that you feel uncomfortable. Straighten your upper body into a good posture that feels natural.
- You want your upper arms to be parallel to your upper body.
- Next, drop your chin a little bit. You want your gaze to fall gently down without feeling forced.
- Focus on the moment when you drop your chin. Sit there for a few minutes and be in that moment.
- Breath and feel it when you do. Don’t force your breath or try to change it anyway; feel your breath in its natural state.
- Don’t panic if your mind starts to wander away from your breathing. It is inevitable that your attention will drift from your breath to other places.
- Take a minute before you change any physical position. Even if you shift your legs a little bit, try pausing first.
- Don’t worry about the fact that your mind will wander. Expect that your mind wandering will happen constantly.
- When you feel ready or relaxed, gently lift your eyes. If you were practicing mindfulness with your eyes closes, open them.
The Origins Of Mindfulness
There are many origins of Mindfulness and models that help to cultivate into what it is modern mindfulness. Let’s have a look at a few of them.
Modern mindfulness was founded on Zen, and it involves Sati as one of the seven factors of enlightenment through early Buddhism. Right mindfulness is the seventh of the noble eightfold path. It is a moral precept that has your clear mind replace those fewer moral states such as greed and hatred.
Smrti or Sati is another historical component to modern day mindfulness. It is essentially the state of remembrance in Hinduism. As you remember your experiences and learn from them, it is called Smrti which is directly related to today’s practice of mindfulness.
Other contributing factors to the definition of Mindfulness today:
- Trait, State and Practice is a theory that suggests a heightened mindfulness state that turns into a trait of mindfulness. Through increased trait mindfulness, you can receive several psychological benefits.
- The five aggregate model talks about the five forms that make up oneself. Their forms are the physical form of body and surroundings, feelings or emotions, how you perceive things, volition and your senses.
- There is contemporary Vipassana meditation that was derived in the oldest form of Buddhism and is roughly translated into “insight” meditation.
- Zazen is also derived from ancient Buddhism, and though it is a state of mindfulness, it is not to be confused with meditation. What is gaining insight into the nature of existence rather than what is a part of that existence?
- Developed in the late 1820 and early 1830's, Transcendentalism also contributes to modern mindfulness as it focuses on the inherent goodness of people.
Each of these aspects contributed to the development of Mindfulness as we know it today. Though they are all from different times, with different perspectives, each has helped to shape and mold modern mindfulness.
How To Practice Mindfulness And Meditation
As you turn your mind away from the everyday things that clutter your mind and focus on what your body is doing, you are practicing mindfulness and meditation. However, that is easier said than done. There are a few ways you can practice mindfulness and meditation in a truly effective way.
Have a look at this video to help you achieve mindfulness and Meditation.
Mindfulness In Everyday Life
There are ways you can practice mindfulness-based stress reduction while going about your day to day activities.
You can focus on what your body is doing while you go for a walk. You focus on what you're doing as you are doing. Bring purpose for your activity. Tie your shoes with purpose, focus on what you are doing as you are doing it.
Practice meditation and mindfulness before you go to sleep. An hour before shut-eye, dim the lights outside your bedroom. Turn off any electronic devices, such as your phone or television. Ten minutes before bedtime, begin a mindfulness exercise. If your mind starts to wander away from your activity, recognize that it is wandering and bring your mind back to what you are doing. As you get in bed, focus on your natural breathing.
Be nice to yourself and use mindfulness to practice loving yourself. Focus on the things you have done that are good. Recite phrases that reflect the things you wish for yourself. Phrases such as May I live in Happiness or safety. Repeat these phrases.
Focus on the act of doing dishes. Be aware of the suds from the soap, the way it feels against your hands, the way your hands move in the dishwater.
Mindfully brush your teeth. Focus on how the bristles feel in your mouth and against your teeth. Keep your mind on each stroke and the taste of the toothpaste.
As you drive down the street, see how the steering wheel feels. Keep your mind trained to the motion of the car, the way it feels as it travels over the roads and the colors of the scenery.
Exercise with mindfulness. Be aware of how your body feels as you challenge it. Feel the sweat drip down your neck and what the burn feels like as you push your body to its limits.
There are many different ways you can practice mindfulness as you go about your day and the various activities you tackle.
Important Things To Know About Mindfulness
As the mindfulness definition goes, you are focusing and being aware of your presence. Mindfulness isn’t a foreign practice or something exotic; it’s a way of living day to day. Mindfulness isn’t specialized in any way; it is simply being aware of what your body is doing, what you are feeling and what is happening around you in each moment.
A few things you should know about mindfulness are:
- You don’t need to change who you are or what you enjoy doing to practice mindfulness.
- Mindfulness can be done by anyone in any situation.
- You may need to truly focus on what you are doing as you get started with mindfulness, but soon it will become a way of life.
- There is plenty of evidence that proves the healthful mental and physical benefits of practicing mindfulness.
- You will be able to come up with new ideas and solve more problems by practicing mindfulness. It sparks innovation.
Why Practice Mindfulness?
There is a lot of research you can find that encourage you to practice mindfulness and how it benefits you. There is no denying that practicing mindfulness and meditation every day will be a good thing for your overall well being.
Mindfulness is good for your body as it will help to boost your immune system. A healthy immune system will help combat common illnesses so that you get sick less often and recover faster when you do. Additionally, since sleep is vital to your daily life, your body will thank you for practicing mindfulness daily when you get a better nights sleep.
Practicing mindfulness is also good for your mental acuity and clarity. Additionally, mindfulness helps reduce negative emotions and mental health issues. There are studies that suggest that practicing mindfulness in day to day life can help you to negate negative feelings and experience more positive ones.
There are numerous studies also suggest that mindfulness can also positively impact your brain. What it does is in as little as eight weeks, your grey matter density can increase in the areas of your brain responsible for empathy, memory, and emotion.
Enhance your relationships through the regular practice of mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness can boost your personal and professional relationships. By achieving a state of awareness, you will be able to focus on your relationships more and realize where the satisfaction comes from. You will have the ability to express yourself more clearly and how to deal with stress that arises with relationship conflicts.
Develop a stronger sense of self. You will be able to focus on the things that make you happy, sad or angry. You will know what your triggers are and what you need to avoid. Practicing mindfulness will help you have a better understanding of yourself and help you to handle disappointment better because of the more positive mind frame.
When faced with life-altering events or situations, it can be difficult to cope with many individuals. Regularly practicing mindfulness can help you to become stronger and cope better when life throws you in a difficult situation. Mindfulness and neuroplasticity go together nicely. Together, they can help you recover from severe trauma faster.
Become more objective when faced with situations that make your partial. Daily practice of mindfulness can help you become less biased when faced with situations that require you to make a judgment call. There is empirical evidence that mindfulness can help combat bias on various levels.
Furthermore, there are additional studies that suggest that mindfulness is also good for your attention. Through the regular practice of mindfulness, you will be able to tune out distractions and focus more on what is before you. As a result, you will be able to problem solve more and make better-educated decisions.
Finally, through the regular practice of mindfulness and meditation, it will foster the natural compassion in you and altruism. This video will help you to understand how the regular practice of mindfulness cultivates the goodness in humanity.
Who Is Mindfulness Good For?
You don’t have to be a yoga enthusiast or someone who practices Zen to participate in mindfulness. Mindfulness is great for just about anyone who wants to have better control of their emotions and behaviors. I wanted to release the pressure of work from my life and come home to peace.
Regular mindfulness practice helps business professionals to multitask, problem solve and deal with stress better than ever before. I am a living testament to this fact.
Parents can benefit from mindfulness as it will help them to understand their children better and calmly handle stress.Practicing mindfulness can help teenagers to focus better and to be more self-aware. Additionally, they can handle the stresses of teenage life better and with more compassion.
Practicing mindfulness in the classroom can help students. There is scientific evidence that can prove that teaching mindfulness in the classroom is highly beneficial to teachers and students.
Furthermore, mindfulness is great for inmates in prisons, military veterans, and healthcare professionals.
What Is Mindfulness At The Heart?
Have a look at this video by Jon Kabat-Zinn as he discusses what mindfulness and meditation are about at the very essence of it.
Easy Meditation And Mindfulness Quick Start Strategies
There are some simple ways you can get started with mindfulness. There is mindful breathing which is an essential part of practicing mindfulness. Another common practice is the body scan. You focus on each part of your body one at a time.
Furthermore, there are raisin exercises where you use all of your senses one after the other. There is also meditation while you are walking. Finally, there is also the practice of loving-kindness meditation.
Check out this video on ten easy ways to practice mindfulness:
Here are a few Ted Talks you can have a look at will teach you more about you being mindful and meditation.
This Ted Talk is about how practicing mindfulness only takes 10 minutes per day.
Be on the path to self-transformation by Dr. David Vago
Listen to Regina Chow Trammel talk about how mindfulness helps with everyday pressures.
Learn More About Mindfulness
Practice Mindfulness Everyday With These Three Steps:
- Mindful Body – Listen, Breathing, Observation. Take the time to observe, listen and breath your way to a more peaceful union between your body and your mind.
- Mindful Mind – Awareness, Immersion. Take control of your mind and become more aware of what is happening in your life and immersing yourself in it.
- Mindful Spirit – Appreciation. Learn how to appreciate everything good and bad that happens in your life and stay calm.
Practicing acceptance in mindfulness is probably one of the most important aspects. Acceptance means perceiving your experiences and simply acknowledging them. Through acceptance you don’t judge experiences as either bad or good, you acknowledge that they exist. Acceptance takes practice. You will have to try again and again, but you can achieve it.
Shortcomings Of Mindfulness:
Though the benefits of Mindfulness are insurmountable, there are a few shortcomings that can arise when you practice mindfulness. These shortcomings are rare, and the benefits outweigh them by far. These potential shortcomings are as follows:
- Practicing mindfulness can lead to forming false memories when you focus too much on something and then fill in blanks with made up information.
- Some who practice mindfulness focus on the negative thoughts and emotions rather than the positive and this can lead to a fragile mental state.
- Avoidance of difficult situations can arise because you are trying to achieve mindfulness and you misinterpret that to mean staying away from challenging issues.
Practicing mindfulness in everyday life is a great way to gain perspective and become in tune with your surroundings, body, mind, and spirit. Through careful practice, you can be the recipient of numerous benefits. However, be sure to follow mindfulness and meditation with care and as it should be practiced.
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Suja is the recharge coach for busy to burned out professionals helping them multiply their better relaxation time . She is trained in both neurology and psychiatry and is a high-performance coach. Her specialty is helping professionals overcome burnout, apathy and income stagnation. Her clients benefit from powerful mindset techniques, wellness practices and tactical guidance , so they go from feeling empty and broke to creating happiness in their lives. This means showing up more fully for themselves, their patients or clients and their families, while working well-paying, fulfilling, REASONABLE hours. She’s living proof.