I’m by no means a mindfulness guru. I read a book and quite a few references about this approach, but the method never really stuck enough with me to develop myself into a steady, spiritual, in-the-now living mindfulness master. Instead I find myself thinking about some easy techniques when I feel I’m slipping into worry, which usually end up helping me out – a lot. That’s why I would like to give a short introduction, followed by some easy mindfulness tips for beginners.
I wouldn’t be surprised if “mindfulness” wasn’t even a word about a decade ago. Yet this technique has gained so much popularity over the years that it has become somewhat of a trend. A way for everyone – not only the spiritually minded – to keep focused and keep their thoughts in the now, rather than dwelling over the past or the future.
So, what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the collective definition of being fully present. By practicing mindfulness you are aware of your feelings, bodily sensations and your surroundings. The trick is not to study your thoughts about these things and form an opinion about them, but to simply accept them for what they are. Rather than becoming happy, annoyed, worried, scared or angry about whatever is happening inside or around you, the key is to let these concerns slide. The desired outcome is to be nonjudgmental – and thus not pushed around by your emotions – and present in its broadest sense.
In short, mindfulness is a way to maintain a constant awareness of our physical and mental sensations, and accepting them rather than reacting to them.
When do you practice mindfulness?
If you’re looking to become somewhat of a zen-guru, you’ll be practicing mindfulness all the time. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll enjoy falling back on some easy mindfulness tips when you’re struggling. For instance:
- When you recently had a fight, and you’re mulling over what has been said, and what you could have said better
- When you’re working out and exhaustion is washing over you
- When you find you’re acting unreasonable, for example being very angry or exceptionally sad
- When you’re working on something difficult, and you really need to focus
These are just a couple of exemplary situations where mindfulness might come in hand.
How to practice mindfulness
Now here is the crux of the story. So far, everything I’ve read about mindfulness is centered around regular practice. There are several techniques, including breathing meditation, concentration exercises, practicing mindfulness by eating food of different textures or even attending weekly classes. But shortly stated, I feel the principle of mindfulness comes down to replacing any thoughts that haunt you, with feelings and sensations that are current. And instead of forcing them into a pattern (expecting meditative bliss or an empty mind), accepting them for what they are.
I feel that when you get the basic principle, you can easily take some shortcuts. To tackle those gnarly situations where a little mindfulness gets you a long way.
Easy mindfulness tips for beginners
Let your thoughts blow away: The cloudy sky visualization technique
Do you catch yourself in a situation where undesired thoughts are clouding your mind? By practicing visualization you might be able to rid yourself from the things that are bothering you sooner than you’d think. Imagine the thoughts and emotions that bother you floating away, like little clouds in the sky. While you do that, practice not judging them and accepting them for what they are. I find it really helps keeping a little order in my mind when thinks get chaotic.
Be a good conversationalist: Remind yourself to stay present when talking
Unless you’re having a very deep conversation about an interesting topic, it’s easy to let your mind wander when you’re talking. A regular conversation is based on two people taking turns speaking their mind and answering questions. But don’t you often catch your mind wandering when you’re supposed to intently listen? Many people are already focusing on what they want to say next, without even really registering what the other is telling you. And it’s not uncommon to let your mind roam free completely during the more routinely conversations, thinking about what you’ll be cooking for dinner, or that file that’s awaiting you at your desk.
This is an excellent time to practice mindfulness. Focus on who you have in front of you, take in your stance, your breathing. This won’t just make you more mindful: It will also make you a better conversation partner as it turns your entire attention to the present, and who ever you’re talking to. A bonus is that they’ll be grateful for your undivided attention.
Remind yourself to stay mindful: Mindfulness cues
Remember the movie Inception? When Leonardo di Caprio playing with that spinning top whenever he needs a reminder he isn’t dreaming? A mindfulness cue pretty much does the opposite: It reminds you to stop dreaming – leaving your thoughts about anything but the present for what they are – and practice a little mindfulness. You can pick your own mindfulness cue based on your daily routines. For instance, you can train yourself to be mindful when you brush your teeth, when you’re having lunch or when you hear a certain piece of music.
I myself rather like being reminded by my mobile phone. I do this by setting a designated mindfulness cue wallpaper as my lock-screen; every time I make a grab for my phone to check an app I’m being reminded to focus on the present for a minute. Of course I do this as soon as I put my phone away.
Finishing with some freebies: Mindfulness phone wallpapers
Are you also interested in using your phone as a mindfulness cue? Allow yourself to be reminded by a gorgeous mobile phone background! I recently curated a bunch just for this purpose. Make sure to check them out!
Do you feel mindfulness can be an addition to your life? Feel free to let me know in the comments!
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