A guide to mindfulness for beginners
Whether you are into wellness or not, it's likely you've heard the term 'mindfulness' in the recent past. A fairly new trend, the mindfulness concept is one that is popular in health and wellness communities due to the benefits it can have on both physical and mental health.
In such a turbulent time, it's never been more important to learn to take care of ourselves properly. And, as well as enjoying relaxing spa breaks in Yorkshire, there are methods to use that can keep you feeling your best on an average day, and mindfulness is one of them.
If you’ve been wondering what mindfulness is, what its benefits are or how you can bring it into your life, then read on to find out more.
What is mindfulness?
In a nutshell, mindfulness is taking the time to properly appreciate our everyday lives. It's training ourselves to be fully present, to pay attention to the world around us and our daily routines and to live in the moment.
Jon Kabat-Zinn is the founder of the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and developer of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR, program. He once said that "mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience."
Oftentimes, we get caught up in the inferior and forget what's important. We spend our time talking about what we watched on TV last night or worrying about the future or just trying to get through the day. However, mindfulness encourages you to not only acknowledge, but appreciate the period of time we are currently in: the present.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
The benefits of mindfulness can be massive. Although such a simple-sounding practice, when done right it can really enhance a person's life and its benefits are different for each person. With mindfulness, you really get out what you put in.
When talking to the NHS, Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, explains that: "Mindfulness allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience, and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful.
"This lets us stand back from our thoughts and start to see their patterns. Gradually, we can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over and realise that thoughts are simply 'mental events' that do not have to control us."
Research suggests that mindfulness can do everything from helping lower blood pressure levels to assisting with mental health problems. As it’s a wonderful stress-reliever, the benefits it can bring to someone’s physical and mental health are massive. The weight that stress can put on us is enormous and learning to properly deal with it and our negative emotions can really take a load off.
But it's not that mindfulness eliminates stress from our lives or negative thoughts, it just allows you to see them for what they really are, and allows you to bring your attention to more positive things. By both giving someone control over their negative thoughts, and the ability to better consider the positive, mindfulness can really benefit someone’s mental space, which in turn can have physical effects.
It can also be a great help to those who are looking to continue their lockdown fitness habits or other healthy habits. By utilising mindfulness, we are able to appreciate the benefit of positive habits even more and as such, will feel more reason to pursue them.
How to practice mindfulness
For those who are looking to cultivate mindfulness, there are a series of practices which can help. From specific mindfulness training, to how body scans can help you learn more about your body, read about some of them below.
As mindfulness has boomed in the past few years, there have been many start-ups dedicating themselves to helping teach mindfulness exercises. In the form of apps, websites, videos and more, there is a wealth of information online that can assist with learning mindfulness.
Mindfulness training is a great route for beginner’s who want to not only learn more about the practice but also learn various ways to tap into mindfulness. By being guided through a programme, we can learn what works for us and what doesn’t, and it also doesn’t take more effort.
Mindfulness and meditating really do go hand-in-hand. In fact, many people see them as one and the same. As meditation allows you to take time out of your day to just sit with yourself and relax within your body, it can be a significant part of a mindfulness routine.
For those who haven't meditated before, following along with a guided meditation practice can be great for helping you learn meditation techniques and practices. People find that it can feel unusual at first as the mind wanders, but you'll soon learn to sit in the present moment and clear your mind.
Being able to focus on your breathing is one of the key pillars of mindfulness. The simplest and sometimes hardest thing to do when we are stressed is learning to take a second, take some deep breathes and analyse what's going on. By practising mindful breathing, we can do this easier and really become in tune with our bodies and the emotional and physical sensations we are experiencing.
A larger thing to do, but something people have reported positives from is getting a body scan. For many, seeing something can make it easier to understand and utilising body scanning data can allow you to truly understand how your body reacts to not only mindfulness but stress, anxiety and more.
Often, an emotional reaction can be hard to quantify and we find ourselves asking, is this normal, do others feel like this? Although we cannot measure that, we can measure chemicals and internal reactions and by getting a body scan we can see how our body literally reacts to things.
How to practice mindfulness:
- Mindfulness Training
- Breathing Exercises
- Body Scans
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