How to Cultivate Mindfulness
There are various ways to cultivate mindfulness. The goal is to achieve a state of awareness and focused relaxation. Mindfulness can be integrated throughout the day. It can be as simple as focusing on your breath and notice what you feel in the body. Try a body scan where you observe what you feel in every part of your body from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet without the need to control or change it. Take time to meditate and focus only on the heart. Don’t think you can sit still? Walking meditation is a great way to get out without your phone or ipad. Remember to notice what is taking place around you.
Here are some mindfulness techniques
Breathing is something we all do. We’ve been doing it since birth. Yet when we feel stressful situations breathing patterns change. We breathe more shallowly, which disrupts the balance of gases in the body. Shallow breathing can prolong anxious feelings by dragging out the physical symptoms of stress. Mindful breathing calms the nervous system, reduces stress hormones in the blood, and balance levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. The purpose of a mindful breathing exercise is to shift from upper chest breathing to the abdominal breathing.
Often we discount or suppress emotions as we feel them. Instead of stuffing them down, practice observing what you feel in the moment. Allow them to be present without judgement. Accept what you feel at the moment without attaching your mind to it. Use a couple of deep breaths to acknowledge and work through emotions such as anger, frustration, guilt, or other emotions. Let them go. Replace with other emotions such as joy, love, or compassion.
Focus on your five senses. What do you see when you focus on your sight? What do you hear? What do you smell? What are you touching and how does it feel? What do you taste? When we focus on each sense your awareness heightens it.
Coping with Cravings
We can overcome self-sabotaging behaviors by using mindfulness. As craving comes up notice how it feels in your body. Use a breath or two to focus your attention. Ask yourself, What is missing in my life that I want to replace with the substance or behavior? As you feel the craving in your body, envision it being encircled by your breath. It easily lifts the craving away as you exhale.
What is the best mindful practice?
People often ask me, “What is the best mindfulness or meditative practice?” I tell them, “Which ever one you will actually do.” We are all different. What works for one won’t work for someone else. Practice different versions to see what feels good to you. Maybe you pick a couple of different exercises to develop your mindful practice. Like anything new it takes conscious effort to get started. But once you’re regularly practicing you will be amazed at how your life changes.