What 'Mindfulness' Means — And How To Practice It Daily

Photo: Unsplash: Htet Aung
What Is Mindfulness? How To Practice It With Daily Meditation Techniques & Exercises
Self

While mindfulness seems to be a buzz word these days, many people still disregard it without a second glance. They assume it's a tool meant only for the most dedicated of students or, lets be real, for monks or other spiritually minded people with a lot of extra time on their hands.

Trust me when I tell you that the opposite is true. This common impression of people who practice mindfulness meditation, exercises and techniques is a misunderstanding based on a lack of clear and accessible information.

Mindfulness activities are for everyone. And honestly, the busier your life, the more you could benefit from learning how to practice some mindful meditation.

What is mindfulness?

By definition, mindfulness "is the psychological process of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training."

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Mindfulness is the practice of bringing yourself into the present moment and becoming aware of your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations without becoming attached to or overwhelmed by them.

It's also a useful tool for tapping into your inner wisdom and shifting out of the autopilot mode most of us use to navigate our daily lives.

While the concept is truly straightforward, putting it into practice seems nearly impossible to many at first, because of what is known as the monkey mind.

Originating "from Chinese (xinyuan) and Sino-Japanese (shin'en 心猿 [lit. "heart-/mind-monkey"]), [the monkey mind] is a Buddhist term meaning 'unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable'."

The monkey mind likes to jump all over the place from one thought to another and one feeling to the next, trying to keep up with the fast paced world we live in.

We all have a monkey mind in different stages of training, and mindfulness gifts us with the ability to step outside of the monkey mind as an observer.

As we learn to step back and simply take notice, we can witness all those wild thoughts, feelings and sensations, without being sucked into their drama or feeling a need to be critical of ourselves.

What are the physical and mental health benefits of practicing mindfulness?

When you become present with a calm mind, you lower the levels of stress in your body.

This leads to a variety of health benefits, including but not limited to the following:

  • An increased ability to cope with challenging situations in your daily life
  • A settled nervous system so you can process traumatic experiences without drowning in overwhelm
  • A reduction in anxiety
  • Increased immune function
  • Increased clarity, introspection and focus
  • Lowered heart rate and blood pressure
  • Increased brain function
  • Increased energy
  • More restorative sleep
  • More opportunity to experience peace and joy in your day to day life
  • Overall better physical, emotional and spiritual health

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If any of those benefits sound appealing to you, it's time you learn how to start making mindfulness practices like daily meditation a regular part of your life.

To help you get started, here are 3 simple mindful exercises for you to try.

1. Resetting yourself

Set a timer for a few minutes, then close your eyes and notice your breath. As thoughts, feeling and sensations arise, allow them to float by, bringing your attention back to your breath.

This acts as a simple reset button for your body, mind and spirit!

2. Mental and physical grounding

Slow down and mindfully tap into your daily choices, noticing the sensations in your body and the messages you are getting.

For example, when you wake up pull out two outfits, close your eyes and notice how you feel when you think about wearing each of them. What sensations do you feel in your body? Which outfit feels better to you?

Or, when you are eating, check in with your body a few times and notice when you begin to feel full. What do those sensations feel like? Try to take notice, without being judgmental, of whether you usually honor those sensations or keep eating until the food is gone.

3. Journaling

Start keeping a gratitude journal every night before bed, recording any beautiful moments you experienced during your day.

This is a profound and simple practice of becoming more mindful, because it comes with accountability. If you have a hard time staying accountable to yourself, ask a friend to join you in this practice and make it fun!

I suggest committing to this practice for at least one month at a minimum so it has time to become well ingrained, and so you can track the benefits over a solid amount of time.

Remember that what we feed grows.

The more you practice mindfulness, the easier it is to be mindful of all the beauty in your life!

Once you're ready to get started, it just takes some simple practice tapping into this inner guidance system as a way to navigate your life in a more present and healthy way.

Now close your eyes, take a deep breath and listen to your inner guidance.

What does your body need right now? Start there!

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Sarah Picken, MA, MFT is a marriage and family therapist who supports individuals and couples with issues such as grief, trauma, addiction, anxiety, depression, guilt, shame and anger, with a special focus on the childbearing years. For more information about holistic healing packages and sessions dealing with birth trauma, infertility, conscious conception, pregnancy loss and more, visit her website.