Mindfulness: More than a Practice, A Way of Life
Updated: Feb 1
In my work with clients I take a gentle approach of slowing them down. We often times run a race everyday. Checking things off of our endless to-do list. When a person comes into my office, they often don’t know how they got where they wound up. It’s a starting point to understanding the root of the problem. The problem with this that we often don’t even have a clue. That’s why slowing down is pivotal. Through teaching my clients mindfulness practices early in the counseling process, my clients have learned a different approach to this hectic life.
I typically hear the excuse: "I simply don’t have time". I ask the challenging question: if you don’t make time what will it cost you? You can deny that it will cost you nothing, but there is always a cost to our decisions. Some good and others not so good. But every decision has to be worth the cost. So I ask again friends, what is the cost if you don’t slow down enough to get a glimpse of what’s really going on?
Take a mindfulness break today. Slow down. Take a breath. Our breath is linked to our vagus nerve. Science has proven that this very important nerve eases our parasympathetic nervous system (controls heart rate, lungs, and digestive tract) when we are in a heightened state of distress. The stress we experience in our everyday lives can lead us into this heightened distress state. So many people operate in this constant state of distress. It’s their normal. What if you could have a new normal?
Why Mindfulness? Mindfulness is an ancient practice and the psychological process of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment. It’s more than a practice, it’s a way of life. In ancient cultures mindfulness is lived out by being considerate of others, understanding that our actions have a ripple. That ripple can cause peace and harmony in ourselves and those around us or the complete opposite. To choose peace we have to slow down enough to choose a different pathway, be present. We can teach our brains how to change our default mode of distress. It takes 21 days to change a habit so I ask that if you want to give this a try, commit to 21 days of forming a new habit. Here are a few ways to begin incorporating mindfulness habits into your everyday life.
Meditation is about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well. Here a few simple steps to get started:
Get comfortable and prepare to sit still for a few minutes. After you stop reading this, you’re going to simply focus on your own natural inhaling and exhaling of breath.
Focus on your breath. Where do you feel your breath most? In your belly? In your nose? Try to keep your attention on your inhale and exhale.
Follow your breath for two minutes. You can use the breath ball—inhaling as the ball expands, exhaling when the ball contracts.
For more helpful and detailed instructions please visit: https://www.mindful.org/how-to-meditate/ You can also find various guided meditation videos on YouTube.
Contemplative prayer is a form of prayer that is a process of interior transformation. It is a relationship initiated by God and leading, if one consents, to divine union. Contemplative prayer is by no means a modern addition to Christianity. Contemplative Christian prayer has representatives in every age. Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina are closely derived from ancient contemplative Christian practices and are attempts to present these practices in updated formats that appeal to the lay community.
Body scans: You might want to lay down, but you can also do it sitting up, especially if that makes it is easier for you to stay awake.
Closing your eyes can be helpful to allow you to focus or, if you’d rather, you can always lower and half-close your eyes.
Bring awareness to the body breathing in and out, noticing touch and pressure where it makes contact with the seat or floor. Throughout this practice, allow as much time as you need or want to experience and investigate each area of the body.
When you’re ready (no rush), intentionally breathe in, and move your attention to whatever part of the body you want to investigate. You might choose to do a systematic body scan beginning at the head or feet. Or, you might choose to explore sensations randomly.
4-7-8 Breathing technique requires a person to focus on taking a long, deep breath in and out. Rhythmic breathing is a core part of many meditation and yoga practices as it promotes relaxation.
Breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds.
Hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds.
Exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a "whoosh" sound, for 8 seconds.
Notice one thing in your everyday life that you had not noticed before. Commit to one day of entering every room, especially if you enter it almost everyday, and notice one thing you had not noticed before. We often take things for granted around us. Lastly, Gratitude is key. During this exercise express gratitude for the new things you noticed and take that with you.
Imagine if you slow down enough to notice what you’re feeling and others around you. How much differently would your day be? Who would you choose to interact with instead of distracting yourself? Challenge yourself to be more present, see the world around you, see your ripple, and be grateful for your breath of life. I hope you incorporate these mindfulness exercises into your daily routine and find peace throughout your day.
Note: This list is not exhaustive of all mindfulness practices. If you found these exercises helpful, I encourage you to check out other practices such as mindfulness walks, sensory exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, etc. To find a counselor in your area that incorporates mindfulness practices, please visit psychologytoday.com.