Exercise in Mindfulness
Mindfulness can be seen as a state of nonjudgmental awareness. What’s happening in the present moment is the main focus. The practice heightens one’s awareness of their perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and senses.
Mindfulness can be considered a psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment. One can develop an ability to better control their thoughts through the practice of meditation and through various other trainings, such as Qigong, meditation, yoga, and simply walks in nature and wilderness. Focusing our minds on the present moment and the environment’s calming and relaxing familiarities brings our bodies to ease. We feel comfortable in our surroundings.
Components of Mindfulness
Awareness. During a state of mindfulness, you will notice your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations as they happen. The goal is to become aware of your thoughts and feelings, rather than getting lost in them. Acknowledge an emotion or sensation for what it is and then lend your attention to something else if the sensation or emotion is unpleasant. By doing this, you can take your focus off of the unpleasantness and find something more pleasant to think about. This is attention shifting and can be used productively to live in a state of mind that you are more comfortable with.
Acceptance. Thoughts, feelings, and sensations that you notice should be observed in a nonjudgmental manner. For example, if you notice a feeling of nervousness, simply state to yourself: “I notice that I am feeling nervous”. There’s no need to further judge or change the feeling. It is okay to feel nervous, it is completely natural. However, you don’t have to remain in a state of nervousness. Once you have accepted it, you can identify what it is that made you nervous and either work toward the resolution or simply accept and move onto focusing your attention on something better suited for your nerves, like a calming and relaxing sound or image, i.e., birds chirping or water flowing.
Nature is a great place to practice mindfulness as it is such a relaxing feeling to observe nature in its being. It also helps us to understand that we are all flowing with the nature of things and just as the sun rises and sets to bring a new day, the emotions will come and go with the passing winds of time. We are always changing with our surroundings and so we can always expect change. We don’t have to force it, just let it flow. But we can choose what we focus on and not dwell on the negative nerves or stress. Draw your attention to the positive more relaxing elements of nature. Just staring at a fire and watching the flames dance while listening to the crackles and whistles of the wood can set a person at ease. Nature is an amazing thing that shows us there is constant change and change can be a beautiful thing.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness has many benefits aside from just shifting our focus form stress and nervousness. It also helps with staying focused and nurturing the things we find most valuable. It helps us to live the lives we want to live with cognitive awareness.
Here is a list of benefits that we gain when we practice mindfulness:
- Reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Improved memory, focus, and mental processing speed
- Improved ability to adapt to stressful situations
- Greater satisfaction within relationships
- Reduced rumination (repetitively going over a thought or problem)
- Improved ability to manage emotions
Let’s start with a simple meditation practice. Sit in a comfortable place. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and your arms are resting to your sides or on your knees if you are sitting Indian style. Drop your chin to the point you can fit an apple between it and your chest. Legs should also be in a comfortable position to avoid distraction. Once you are in your comfortable position, lift the sides of your mouth just enough to have a slight grin. Do not over smile so that your face muscles remain relaxed. Begin paying attention to your breathing. Slowly take in breath through your nose until you lungs feel about full. Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth and hold for 3-4 seconds. Then, drop your tongue to release the air out of your mouth slowly until all of the air is gone. Repeat the breathes slowly until you have obtained a rhythm that you are comfortable with. Notice the physical sensation of air filling your lungs, and then slowly leaving. As your mind wanders with each breath, simply notice your thoughts, and then turn your attention back to breathing. Do not ponder the thoughts too deep at this point. Just remain in the calm relaxed position and focus on breathing. It should come natural overtime through repetition. Continue with this practice daily and you will begin to find mindfulness is built into your body and mind with ease.
Again, nature is a great place to practice mindfulness walking. While walking, make a point to practice mindfulness. If you live in the city, you probably have a park nearby that gives you some of the scenery and sounds of nature. If not, take a stroll through the neighborhood or down the street if that is all there is near you and just listen to the wind, the birds, the cars are even a common sound we are familiar with so just let your surrounding be as they are and notice them. You will also notice how your body moves and feels with each step. One foot forward the other arm swaying to maintain balance. It is all about balance. Your body is balanced with each step. Your hips are the center of all the motion. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Then, expand your awareness back to your surroundings with your body in tune. Notice the scenery, the smells, the temperature. You are focusing on your body in motion along with your breaths. Your mind is aware of its surroundings and everything is fine the way it is. You are being mindful. This technique can be used in everyday activities as well. When you go to the grocery store, on your way to work, when doing daily chores. Let your mind be one with your surroundings and pay attention to your body in those surroundings.
Your body is made up of many parts. Your head, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, chest, stomach, hips, legs all the way down to your feet. Pay close attention to the physical sensations throughout your body. In a standing or laying position, start with your feet, and move up through your legs, groin, abdomen, chest, back, shoulders, arms, hands, neck, and face. Just focus on each body part, giving attention to each as you think of them. You are recognizing your body and noticing it is there. Do not become self conscious of certain areas. That is not part of the exercise. Merely acknowledge that you have these body parts and focus on each as you scan them to provide awareness to your body and in turn, you are also using your mind. Using your mind to recognize and acknowledge the body brings them together. This can be a quick scan or you can take your time. Spend anywhere from 15 seconds to 1 minute on each body part and let the body know you are thinking about it. Again, mindfulness is a nonjudgmental thought process so just be aware of each body part and your body will feel recognized. You are now one with mind and body.
Finally, make a conscious effort to notice the present moment through each of your senses. Think about the sights you are seeing, touch and feel. Listen to the sounds of your environment and notice what you hear. Taste the air and smell the aromas. Drawing attention to your senses allows you to become more aware and mindful of your surroundings and strengthens your senses in relation to your cognitive thinking. Here is a number list of things to focus on when practicing the five senses awareness.
- 5 things you see
- 4 things you feel
- 3 things you hear
- 1 thing you taste
- 1 thing you smell
Sitting and Walking with Awareness & Acceptance in Nature
What do all of these things have in common? What can we learn and takeaway from this exercise and reading. Whether in a sitting, lying, or standing and walking position, we can be aware of our surroundings and accept the emotions that come with the environment. There may be times that we feel things are out of our control and that is okay. We do not have to control everything. We can just let it go and let it flow and be aware. Accept and make changes as necessary to adapt to our environment. Shifting focus and attention to the environment allows us to decipher our predicament, find the things that make us feel more wholesome and be aware of the things that are in conflict. Regardless, maintain the focus and practice this exercise in your daily life and in its accompanying surroundings.