Beginners guide to mindfulness and meditation

Updated: Mar 14, 2019

‘Sometimes mindfulness means that you should take a moment for yourself during busy times’

What is it?

People often refer to it as ‘being in the moment’ or ‘awareness of now’ and although it sounds simple, putting it into practice isn’t always easy! Life is fast paced, and we race along from one day to the next and barely come up to catch our breath or clear our minds. Our mind is full of memories, dreams or thoughts and we can lose time pondering over why two colleagues were whispering as we walked past them and why we acted in a certain way in a situation. If your mind was a computer then is would need a disk clean up because all these thoughts are cluttering your mind and leaving no space to be present in the now, whether that be walking the dog, or baking bread. Roeland Schaddelee, a Dutch psychologist, describes mindfulness as ‘a way to pay attention in a curious, open-minded and non-judgmental way’.

‘Mindfulness boosts creativity, strengthens our immune system and lowers blood pressure’

What are the benefits to practicing mindfulness?

Some people claim that mindfulness brings them an inner peace, a calm and improved self-confidence. Regular practice can lead to worrying less, improved concentration not to mention more resilience and self-awareness. Mindfulness is promoted as an effective way to cope with fear, stress and mental health workers are recommending it as a strategy for those who experience depression. It is important to heed a note of caution in that people do not see the benefits in every aspect of their lives. You may not reach the ‘aha’ moment until years later.

‘Surrender to what is, let go of what was, have faith in what will be’

How do I begin?

Start small

Allowing your mind to rest allows you to gain perspective and enjoy things more. Just take five minutes a day to observe your breathing which should be enough to help you feel calmer. Meditation shouldn’t be a chore that adds to your stress!

Just sit

No special equipment required! Sit up straight at your desk, on a chair or the sofa with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Choose a quiet environment and turn off your phone. Close your eyes or keep them open – you decide what works for you.

Focus on the breath

Breathing is the tool you use to bring the focus to the present moment. As you breathe in, your chest should lightly expand and feel how the breath comes in through the nose. As you exhale, as the air leaves your body, notice how the chest goes down. Counting along to your breathes helps you to remain focussed too.

Let your thoughts come and go

We talk about ‘clearing the mind’ but your thoughts will want to invade your mind as you meditate and that that is OK. Let them come and go. It is not necessary to completely clear your mind. Whenever you become aware that your mind is wandering bring it back to the focus on the breath.

Focus on your feet in everyday situations

A tip from Ruby Wax who finds paying attention to the feet is helpful as focussing on an experience, rather than a thought is mindful and ‘everything goes quiet inside’.

Try an app

There are loads out there and some are free to download but I personally love the ‘Headspace’ app that is probably one of the most used mindfulness apps in the UK today. As mentioned above, practicing mindfulness isn’t always easy and using an app helps one to find peace through guided meditation. There are programmes for stressed out moments, whilst commuting, before bed and emergency ‘SOS’ meditations.

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