Beginner's Guide to Mindfulness
Today, Monday October 10, marks this year's Canadian Thanksgiving. While Thanksgiving is known for its bountiful feast celebrating the harvest, the holiday is also a lovely time for families to gather together and share in grateful moments. Gratitude involves recognizing and appreciating one's blessings to create balance from life's difficulties (Lebow, 2021). Mindfulness is a helpful tool for practicing gratitude because it helps one handles life's difficulties with grace and acceptance (Lebow, 2021).
What is Mindfulness?Mindfulness refers to a state of mind during which one's focus and attention remains on the present. Thus, mindfulness is a practice that allows one to observe reality from a place of non-judgement. In general, mindfulness involves the following activities:
1. Noticing and accepting your thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions.
2. Being aware of your environment or surroundings.
3. Directing your thoughts away from the past and future.
4. Rooting down into the “here and now.”
For more information, visit Psych Central
There are several simple exercises one can engage in to reach a state of mindfulness. These exercises can be done in a structured manner like scheduled meditation sessions or as simple breaks in one's day. Here's a quick and easy way to get started:
1. Find a comfortable space
2. Sit down and close your eyes
3. Take deep breaths - breathing in slowly for five to ten seconds then slowly letting the breath out over the same amount of time
During each breath, focus on your five senses in the moment. Similar to grounding, try to identify and take in different sounds, scents, tactile feelings [eg. fresh air, warm breeze, birds chirping]. In fact, grounding can help one reach a state of mindfulness.
For more information on grounding, read pages 6 to 8 of the following document:
Yeji Kim (Real Simple)
Benefits of MindfulnessThere are numerous benefits to mindfulness, including but not limited to:
1. Decreased Stress Levels
Mindfulness helps reduce stress levels because it facilitates an adaptive response to stressors; meaning that mindfulness helps one develop healthier coping strategies for stress. It also helps improve emotional regulation which positively impacts one's mood and further helps alleviate stress.
2. Improved Cognition
Several studies show that practicing mindfulness helps improve several cognitive processes including working memory, sustained attention, and problem-solving. Mindfulness helps maintain executive function because it cultivates in-moment awareness of one's self and their environment. Since executive function is the conscious use of cognitive processes, self-awareness is key.
3. Improved General Health
Numerous studies have been conducted on the effects of mindfulness on one's health. Most studies found that mindfulness positively impacts one's health, both physical and mental. Namely, regular practice of mindfulness helps enhance several health-related behaviours such as being physically active, getting regular check-ups, and practicing preparedness.
For more information on the benefits of mindfulness, visit the following:
There are several simple mindfulness exercises one can attempt at home to facilitate the process. Here are 3 popular ones:
1. The Raisin Exercise
Though it is named The Raisin Exercise, it can be done using any food item. This exercise helps one practice mindfulness by having them focus on their five senses. Namely, this exercise encourages one to self-reflect and describe the different sensations they are experiencing in relation to the food item.
a) Describe the food's appearance
EG. Raisin - dark purple/brown, small, shriveled, dry
b) Describe the food's feel
EG. Raisin - wrinkly, dry, tough
c) Describe the food's smell
EG. Raisin - sweet, subtle
d) Describe the food's taste
EG. Raisin - sticky, sweet, grape
e) Describe your overall experience of the food
EG. Is it pleasant, different, neutral, etc?
2. The Body Scan (Adapted)
The traditional Body Scan exercise requires technology and a facilitator. However, one can receive the same positive benefits from combining deep breathing exercises with a body analysis.
To begin, lie on your back with your arms by your sides and your legs slightly apart. Throughout the whole exercise, continue taking deep breaths (5 to 10 seconds). With each new breath, focus on a new part of your body. It is recommended to start at the bottom of your body and move your way up [ie. start at your feet then go up to your legs then your chest then your arms then your neck and finish with your head]
You can also slightly move parts of your body as you move up to remain more aware [eg. wiggling your toes or fingers]
3. The 3-Minute Breathing Space
This exercise involves three distinct sections all lasting one minute.
During the first minute, one is encouraged to answer the following "How are you doing now?" Thus, this first section focuses on one's feelings, thoughts, and sensations while answering the question. [inner reflection]
During the second minute, one is meant to focus on breath awareness; meaning, this second section is devoted to maintaining deep breathing.
During the third and final minute, one is encouraged to recognize the ways in which the deep breathing is affecting the rest of their body. In other words, we expand attention outwards from the breath.
For more mindfulness exercises, visit the following: Positive Psychology
If you feel mindfulness would be a beneficial practice for you and require assistance getting started, consider booking a consultation with Inner Oak Therapy.
Written by Gabrielle Bulman Thomas
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