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Mindfulness: What is it and How to Start?

Updated: Mar 6

Learn to practice the beauty of mindfulness and find your inner calm to improve your mental health. This guide will teach you what mindfulness is and how to start with easy steps.


Image by pikisuperstar on Freepik
Image by pikisuperstar on Freepik

Being anxious seems to be a daily routine for all of us. Obsessive thoughts make us lose sight of what is in the present and make us spend time daydreaming instead of working it out. It is hard not to get scared of what the future has for us, but isn't it more scary not to do something about it to ease the thought of having a bad life?



What is Mindfulness?


Mindfulness came from the Buddhist concept called “sati” which means “attention” or “awareness”. Mindfulness became popular in the East through religious and spiritual practices and institutions. It is the ability that helps us respond to events in the present less emotionally. It’s a method of connection with every experience.


Remembering is another aspect of mindfulness, but it's not about living in the past. It requires us to keep in mind to shift our focus and awareness to present experiences with openness and receptivity. This calls for the desire to break free from our daydreams and savour every second of them (Germer et al., 2005).



Easy Ways To Start Mindfulness


  • Be conscious 

 Spend some time observing everything in your environment, including your own emotions, ideas, and thoughts. Concentrate on taking it slow and appreciating the moment.


  • Be present

Try to focus only on what is happening in front of you instead of worrying about the past or future. Being mindful and aware of the present moment can be helpful.


  • Make the time

Making time for it will both benefit your physical and mental health from regular mindfulness practice.


Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn developed an eight-week meditation program called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) which you can access in hundreds of mental health facilities. Despite having been created primarily for the management of stress, it is now used to treat a wide range of illnesses. These consist of diabetes, hypertension, anxiety, depression, immunological disorders, skin conditions, and pain. It makes use of mindfulness meditation to lessen the suffering brought on by mental, physical, and psychosomatic illness (Niazi & Niazi, 2011).



Best Mindful Practices To Do Daily


  • Mindful Breathing

A fundamental component of MBSR is mindful breathing. Mindful breathing is deep and calm and is done consciously and with awareness. We frequently don't realize how we breathe, and when we are anxious, we tend to breathe quickly and tensely, which makes the anxiety worse(Bin et al., 2017).


This is the easy step-by-step guide for mindful breathing:

Image by Virginia Helzainka
Image by Virginia Helzainka
  1. Search for a peaceful or calm area - The more silence, the better.

  2. Sit comfortably - Put away any distractions like gadgets. Straighten your back and start to breathe attentively without any force.

  3. Acknowledge your body - Notice how your body works while breathing and feel every part of it.

  4. Tame your thoughts - Be present and gentle with your wandering mind.                      

                                                                                                                 

  • Mindful Eating

To achieve mindful eating, you have to be completely aware of the food by concentrating on sensory experiences like sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. It is not particularly related to fat, protein, carbs, or calories. Although it is quite likely that those who follow this eating style will lose weight. Mindful eating doesn't have the intention of promoting weight loss. The goal is to support people in fully participating in the dining experience and to help them savour the food and the moment (Nelson, 2017).


An example from Joseph Nelson is where he gets to experience mindful eating through his so-called “raisin-eating” experience where he took a raisin (not a handful) and started examining its surface like the size and texture. After that, he put it on his lips, slowly took a bite, and started chewing it. After he swallowed, he took some time to notice what kind of experience he had.


This process encourages you to be aware of your own experience; it doesn't prescribe what you need to go through.


  • Mindful Movement

By developing an adaptable skill of attention, mindful movement practice may enhance the functional quality of practised procedures. Mindful learning of techniques for arranging body movement may have applications in other domains of mental work(Clark et al., 2015).


Yoga flow is a kind of yoga where you get to follow your breath and do transitions seamlessly and continuously between each pose. It is one of the meditations for mindfulness that incorporates body movement and enhances your balance and calmness. 


  • Mindful Walking

Mindful walking has the advantage of physical activity combined with mindfulness, which can help improve your mental and physiological health. During a mindful walk, pay attention to the surroundings rather than rushing to get somewhere(Teut et al., 2013).


Explore different types of walking that you can start with. 


  1. Basic Walking - Noticing how you walk and how your pace is. 

  2. Attentive walking - This type of walking helps you stay in the present by giving attention to how your body is doing the motion. It could be the hips moving or how you swing your both arms while walking

  3. Gratitude walking - Observe the surroundings and practising yourself to be positive. It could be the raindrops in the leaves or how the sun hits your skin


  • Body Scan Meditation

Body scan is a type of meditation where you will be experiencing your body as it is. By connecting to them, you can acknowledge your emotions and create a strong bond between body and mind(De Bruin et al., 2020). 


Below is a guide on how to start body scan meditation.


Steps of Body Scanning - Image by Virginai Helzainka
Steps of Body Scanning - Image by Virginai Helzainka

  1. Make yourself comfortable - It is best to lie down when you do a body scan meditation right before bed. You can also choose to sit comfortably.

  2. Inhale deeply a few times - Breathe slowly from your belly and allow your abdomen to expand and contract.

  3. Pay attention to your feet - Now gradually direct your focus to your feet and notice how it feels. Breathe to ease discomfort.

  4. Notice your body - Proceed with the exercise by working your way up and ending at your head. 



Benefits of practicing mindfulness


  • Minimizing the risk of rumination 

Rumination includes overthinking unfavourable situations. Additional mediation analyses imply that modification to ruminative thinking is necessary for the therapeutic benefits of mindfulness(Heeren & Philippot, 2010).


  • Lower stress

Engaging in mindfulness can lower your stress and change your way of thinking to be more body-aware. Additionally, mindfulness can help you concentrate better and work more efficiently to finish the task on time(“Mindfulness Meditation: A Research-proven Way to Reduce Stress,” 2019).


  • Enhanced sleep pattern

Recently, the practice of mindfulness meditation has attracted attention as a substitute for sleep therapy disruption. Being mindful entails focusing attention in a specific way –in the here and now, on purpose (Rusch et al., 2018).


  • Increase productivity

The outcomes showed that compared to those in the control group, those in the mindfulness intervention group reported much higher levels of job satisfaction and much less emotional exhaustion. Surface acting acted as a mediator between the causal effect of mindfulness self-training and emotional exhaustion. The discussion concludes with implications for the applications of mindfulness intervention in organizational research and practice(Hülsheger et al., 2013).


Image by studio4art on Freepik
Image by studio4art on Freepik

The benefits of practising mindfulness are endless, whether it could be for physical, physiological, or mental health. You can be very busy with your everyday life, but putting a little amount of time into being grounded can make a positive impact on your awareness. Being fully aware of our surroundings and acknowledging our emotions without any judgment will make us more resilient in any circumstances.


Written by Ethil Besana

Edited by Virginia Helzainka



References: 


Gerner, C., Siegel, R., & Fulton, P. (2005). Mindfulness and Psychotherapy (1st ed.) [Kindle]. The Guilford Press.


Kingston, T., Dooley, B., Bates, A., Lawlor, E., & Malone, K. (2007). Mindfulness‐based cognitive therapy for residual depressive symptoms. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 80(2), 193–203. https://doi.org/10.1348/147608306x116016


Niazi, A. K., & Niazi, S. K. (2011). Mindfulness-based stress reduction: A non-pharmacological approach for chronic illnesses. North American Journal of Medical Sciences, 3(1), 20. https://doi.org/10.4297/najms.2011.320


Bin, Z., Hedman, A., Feng, S., Li, H., & Osika, W. (2017). Designing, prototyping and Evaluating digital mindfulness applications: A case study of Mindful Breathing for stress Reduction. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 19(6), e197. https://doi.org/10.2196/jmir.6955


Nelson, J. B. (2017). Mindful Eating: the art of presence while you eat. Diabetes Spectrum, 30(3), 171–174. https://doi.org/10.2337/ds17-0015


Clark, D., Schumann, F., & Mostofsky, S. H. (2015). Mindful movement and skilled attention. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2015.00297


Teut, M., Roesner, E. J., Ortiz, M., Reese, F., Binting, S., Roll, S., Fischer, F., Michalsen, A., Willich, S., & Brinkhaus, B. (2013). Mindful walking in psychologically distressed individuals: a randomized controlled trial. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013, 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/489856


De Bruin, E. J., Meijer, A. M., & Bögels, S. M. (2020). The contribution of a body scan mindfulness meditation to the effectiveness of Internet-Delivered CBT for insomnia in Adolescents. Mindfulness, 11(4), 872–882. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-019-01290-9


Heeren, A., & Philippot, P. (2010). Changes in ruminative thinking mediate the clinical benefits of mindfulness: preliminary findings. Mindfulness, 2(1), 8–13. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-010-0037-y


Rusch, H. L., Del Rosario, M., Levison, L. M., Olivera, A., Livingston, W. S., Wu, T., & Gill, J. (2018). The effect of mindfulness meditation on sleep quality: a systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1445(1), 5–16. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.13996 


Hülsheger, U. R., Alberts, H. J. E. M., Feinholdt, A., & Lang, J. W. B. (2013). Benefits of mindfulness at work: The role of mindfulness in emotion regulation, emotional exhaustion, and job satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98(2), 310–325. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0031313

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