You’ve heard it from yoga lessons and self-care guru blogs to Sam Harris podcasts, but what is mindfulness? Simply put, mindfulness is the awareness that can be obtained through paying attention in the present moment, non-judgmentally, in the service of greater self-understanding. Essentially mindfulness is a form of meditation that allows you to pay attention to you—your physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions (Wong, 2018).
Jon Kabat-Zinn is the founder of MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction), and he explains that the process of meditating is much more simple than it can be made out to be (2015). Most people take themselves too seriously. We go through life on autopilot, assuming we know who we are and what makes us tick. For Jon, mindfulness meditation involves simply asking yourself: “Who am I?”
Am I my name? My age? Zodiac sign? My thoughts? Actions? Ultimately, the answers do not matter — it’s the constant questioning and reflecting that are important for mindfulness (Kabat-Zinn, 2015). The practice of meditating every day can treat anxiety, depression, stress, pain, insomnia, and other health conditions. It is recommended by professionals to aim for 10 minutes of reflection per day, but even a couple minutes a day can have a huge impact (Wong, 2018). Kate Hanley, author of A Year of Daily Calm, suggests meditating while you are doing other activities that are already a part of your daily schedule. For example, while you’re doing the dishes, brushing your teeth, exercising, or trying to sleep (2015).
Here is ORA’s first Meditation Guide to get you started with mindfulness meditation, broken up into three points you can try to focus on while you’re seated, lying down, or doing the dishes:
Meditation Guide Part 1: PHYSICAL SENSATIONS
Focusing on your physical sensations grounds you when you begin to meditate. It is also a great way to focus yourself if you are having a panic attack or experiencing increased anxiety (Smith, 2018).
A simple exercise for grounding goes as follows:
- Focus on 5 things you can see
- Focus on 4 things you can touch
- Focus on 3 things you can hear
- Focus on 2 things you can smell
- Focus on 1 thing you can taste
This will get you in touch with your body in the present moment, and out of any thought clutter you have. It may also help to borrow a common method from yoga — imagine you are growing roots into the ground (or sofa, or chair). Get a sense of where each part of your body is touching the things around you and feel where your hands are lying naturally. Being conscious of your body’s position in space will also ground you for the meditation for which you are about to embark. Finally, focus on your breathing. Focus on how it feels for breath to enter and exit your body. Here, you should also focus on your posture. Create the straightest possible airway for fresh oxygen to come in through your nose, into your lungs, and out through your mouth. Breathe deeply and with purpose, and feel the natural rhythm of being alive in the now.
Meditation Guide Part 2: THOUGHTS
As you focus on your physical sensations, you may begin to notice your mind wandering. Don’t be hard on yourself or try to suppress or ignore unwelcome thoughts. Instead, take note of where your thoughts went. Experience each thought come and go, all the while tethering yourself to your breaths and physical sensations. Observe your thoughts as if you were an outsider looking in.
Meditation Guide Part 3: EMOTIONS
Once your mind begins to quiet down, begin to introspect by asking yourself some questions.
- How do I feel right now?
- How did I feel when I woke up this morning?
- How did I feel when I went to bed last night?
It may also help, when you finish meditating, to write any of your findings in a mood journal. Studies have found that mood journals can help with anxiety and depression because putting things on a page can help you to analyze patterns over time in relation to your triggers and where strong emotions are likely to occur (Garone, 2018).
If you struggle with meditating — if you can’t stay still, or have trouble calming your mind—journaling can help get you into the habit of reflection. You can try a one-minute meditation session and then write a short paragraph about how it felt. For your next time, try it for a little longer, both in length of session and length of reflection. Eventually, you can form a habit that will help you tackle life’s difficulties.
Whether you’re finding solace from a hard day at work or a tough Mercury retrograde, you got this.
- Garone, S. (2018). Mood Journal 101: How to Get Started on Controlling Your Emotions. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-keep-mood-journal#1.
- Hanley, K. (2015). A Year of Daily Calm. Canada: Random House.
- Kabat-Zinn, J. (2015, May 28). Jon Kabat Zinn Me Me Me. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULJSacYFzzQ.
- Smith, S. (2018). 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique for Anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/behavioral-health-partners/bhp-blog/april-2018/5-4-3-2-1-coping-technique-for-anxiety.aspx.
- Wong, C. (2018). Mindfulness Meditation. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/mindfulness-meditation-88369.