Mindfulness is a mental state that we can achieve by focusing our awareness on what's occurring in the present. This can be done by learning how to, in a calm and collected way, acknowledge our feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It can help us become more conscious of our mind, become more familiar with our intentions, and be more in tune with our surrounding. This can be therapeutic.
Below are some techniques you can use to practice mindfulness, if you do these daily in a consistent manner, you may see changes in your mental state in a few weeks.
1. Mental focus: Whether it is an object or an article you're reading, make a conscious effort to fully focus. Try this for 20 seconds at a time and increase the time gradually. The longer you stay focused, the more mindful you become, e.g., sitting with a lit candle and focusing on the flame, all the while listening to every word your partner says, etc.
2. Gratitude exercise: Every morning, list three things you are thankful for. These could be simple things you may take for granted and don't notice, e.g., health, food, good friends, safety, security, etc.
3. The full sensory experience: Make a mental note of how you interact with your five senses, e.g., do you pay attention to the taste of food when you're eating it? During the day, how many times do you feel over stimulated, how many times you do feel anxious, why is that?
4. Relaxation exercise: Spend 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the middle of the day and 10 minutes in the evening to calm your mind. Calming you mind is not something you need to learn, it is something you already have but requires practice to be discovered, e.g., take a deep breath and focus on the breath, calm yourself by using words like "calm," "peace," "serenity," "gratitude," etc.
5. Practice quietness: Spend an hour or two in complete silence during a week and just sit with your surroundings. In a world where it sometimes feels like hyperactivity is encouraged, this time can be priceless, e.g., going for a quiet walk.
6. "I" statements: Make a mental note of every time you use the word "I' in a sentence. This can help you become more aware of your self centered tendencies and how to have a balance, e.g., are you using more "I" than "we" or "them," are you putting yourself in someone else's shoe to create fairness in a situation with compassion? Are you stepping on someone else's toe to get your own needs met?
7. Challenge your beliefs: Monitor your beliefs, check their accuracy, check where they came from, check their value and be ready to modify them if needed. A belief that may have been functional at one time may be counterproductive to your core self as time moves on. While some core beliefs stay the same and are more stable and absolute, others are more relative and changeable. So, know the difference between the two and be ready to make changes when necessary.
Remember, practice makes greatness. Don't give up, be patient with the process and be consistent and see the rewarding experience you will have as you become more mindful.
Michelle Roya Rad, MA, PsyD