It seems we’re all aiming to be more mindful these days, and with good reason! Mindfulness can improve your ability to regulate emotions and cope with stress, anxiety, and depression. Through mindfulness, you can learn how to focus your attention and observe your thoughts and feelings without judgment.
Sounds like something everyone can benefit from in the new year, right?
Luckily, mindfulness is a skill that, like any skill, you can improve with practice. Keep reading for simple ways to cultivate mindfulness in your life.
What Is Mindfulness?
Although mindfulness is often promoted with meditation, it’s important to understand that they are not the same thing. The American Psychological Association defines mindfulness as “a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment,” and meditation as a way to achieve that state.
So, what do you have to gain from being more mindful? Research on the subject consistently reveals the same benefits of mindfulness, which include but are not limited to:
- Stress reduction
- Improved focus
- Improved memory
- Less emotional reactivity
- Enhanced intuition
5 Mindfulness Tips for Beginners
As you embark on your mindfulness journey, don’t lose sight of why you’re on this journey in the first place. Something that is supposed to help you feel greater satisfaction shouldn’t feel like an overwhelming, impossible feat. These tips are designed to help you ease into a mindful state.
1. Go outside.
Getting outside benefits mind, body, and spirit. It’s a great way to ground yourself and exist in the present moment. Better yet, you don’t have to run into the woods or go off the grid to really take advantage of the mindfulness benefits of nature.
Spending any time outside can deepen your connection with yourself, other people, and the world at large. Why not go for a walk on your lunch break or plan a hike on your next day off? Even having a view of nature at your desk can lead to greater life satisfaction.
Movement is a great way to practice mindfulness by exercising awareness of bodily sensations. How does your body feel as you walk around your neighborhood, stretch out at your desk, or hang out in a forward fold? Allow yourself to fully experience these sensations with every step, twist, or bend.
Ever sit at the airport, in a café, or on a park bench and simply watch the world go by? There’s something oddly pleasant and relaxing about watching other people go about their everyday lives. It feels rather mindless, but if you think about it, people-watching is rooted in mindfulness. It allows you to detach, observe, and be in the present moment.
As you silently observe other people and their behaviors, you may be surprised by how many observations you make based on their clothing, facial expressions, body language, and other nonverbal cues. These observations could give you greater insight into yourself and how you move about the world.
4. Rethink meditation.
For meditation to really work its magic, you have to find methods that resonate with you. Sitting cross-legged in silence may work for some, but it’s not the only way to meditate!
One of the biggest obstacles those new to mindfulness and meditation must overcome is learning how to feel comfortable in silence and solitude. Fortunately, there are meditative practices that can help you achieve a mindful state that don’t require you to sit in silence.
Try incorporating one of these meditative practices into your routine:
- It’s hard to be mindful when you’ve got thoughts racing through your head at a million miles a minute. Writing everything down on paper is a powerful way to clarify your thoughts and feelings, reduce stress, and challenge your perspective. Journaling offers a space where you can check in with yourself and track your inner dialogue over time, so you can see what habits serve you—and what doesn’t.
- It’s not just for kids! Coloring is a great way to check out and focus on what’s in front of you. Research has found that coloring mandalas, in particular, can help lower anxiety. Another study suggests that mindfulness art therapy reduced symptoms of physical and emotional distress among female breast cancer patients during treatment.
- Finding a recipe, buying fresh ingredients, and preparing a delicious meal forces you to focus on the present moment. Additionally, being aware of your cravings and the foods you put into your body can help you cultivate mindfulness, and cooking for yourself or others is an act of love.
- Yoga and meditation go hand-in-hand. Familiarizing yourself with the principles of yoga—things like breathwork, visualization, finding your drishti (your focused gaze)—is an excellent introduction to mindfulness.
Incorporating one of these activities into your routine will help you become familiar with what it feels like to be in a mindful state. Over time, you can work toward meditation, if that’s something you desire.
5. Forgive yourself.
It takes time to establish a habit and stick to it long enough for it to become a part of your lifestyle, so have a little compassion for yourself as you begin your new mindfulness practice. There will be times when you forget, are inconsistent, or get caught up in the chaos of everyday life. But punishing yourself for your slip-ups is the opposite of self-care, and it ultimately doesn’t serve you or your practice. Be gentle, and learn how to forgive yourself.
Have a Merry, Mindful New Year!
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