Tips to help master mindfulness
It is a well-accepted fact that our physical health impacts our emotional health, but can our mind (our thoughts, feelings, attitudes and beliefs) affect our physical health too? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’ and one of the most effective ways to tap into this is through the practice of mindfulness.
Mindfulness, previously considered an esoteric zen practice to achieve inner peace, is now becoming a mainstream skill. The good news is that you do not need to be a Buddhist Monk or sit in the lotus position to reap the benefits.
According to the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) technique, Jon Kabat-Zinne, mindfulness is defined as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally to the unfolding of experiences moment to moment”. But what does this actually mean? Well, it’s about focusing on something on purpose and just noticing what is happening now without trying to judge it or change it in any way.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Research shows that mindfulness practice over relatively short periods can:
- Enhance planning and decision-making skills
- Improve our immune system
- Reduce stress
- Cope with chronic pain
- Improve how we express our emotions
- Help us develop a more accepting stance toward ourselves and others
How can you practice mindfulness?
You can practice mindfulness in two ways: either opening the mind or focusing the mind.
- Opening the mind is about noticing whatever comes into your awareness, like noticing your thoughts, emotions or physically sensations as they naturally occur.
- Focusing the mind involves attending to a specific internal or external experience, like your breath, a mantra, or focusing on one of your senses.
Ready to practice mindfulness? MIND BODY classes at Goodlife Health Clubs are a great way to combine mindfulness while bringing the body into a state of harmony and balance.
Want to start being more mindful today?
The best way to start is to carve out just a few minutes a day to practice a mindfulness skill. Be practical by incorporating mindfulness into what you are doing already. For instance, we all brush our teeth every morning—now do it mindfully. That means focus only on the experience of brushing your teeth, the smell and taste of the toothpaste, the texture of the bristles against your gums, the sound it makes, the motion of your arm and hand. If you find your mind wandering, just notice this without judging yourself and then bring your mind back to focusing on the experience again.
Try these mindfulness activities:
- Use your sense of sight to observe the clouds in the sky
- Use your sense of smell to notice the fragrance of a scented candle
- Use all of your senses to eat a piece of chocolate
- Use your sense of hearing to listen to the noises that are naturally occurring around you
- Pay attention to your breath as you inhale and exhale
- Use your sense of touch to focus on the texture of a paper towel
- Focus on your body movements and poses in a yoga class (LINK) without judging yourself
- Take note of your thoughts as they move through your mind like leaves flowing down a stream
- Do the dishes mindfully, focusing only on this activity and nothing else (it might even make this banal household chore more interesting!)
As with any new skill, practice makes perfect. Try several mindfulness activities to find the ones that suit you best. Aim for regular, sustainable practice—two minutes per day is better that one hour every two months. It’s time to fit mindfulness in your life for a healthier and happier you.
Written by Dr Lillian Nejad - a Melbourne-based clinical psychologist who specialises in helping people achieve long-term improvements in mental health, quality of life and overall well-being.