3 Simple Mindfulness Practices for the Ones that Find it Difficult to Meditate
It is well established by scientists, psychologists, coaches, teachers and meditators that practicing mindfulness is good for you. Studies of mindfulness identified that practicing mindfulness leads to improvement in well- being and a major reduction in psychological distress. Research shows also that the grey matter in a region of the brain known for its role in stress becomes smaller. Among many of the benefits, mindfulness affects our ability to focus attention and it helps in finalizing tasks. People that are practicing mindfulness are calmer, they are more satisfied with themselves and their life circumstances, they are more appreciative and happier.
Most people finding these benefits start to meditate believing that through meditation they will learn mindfulness. As this is the correct approach it may sometimes lead to disappointment and lack of success. Not everyone feels comfortable with meditation – sitting still, quietly, focusing on calming the mind that is filled with thoughts doesn’t always work for everyone, at least not straight away. Although, I believe that everyone has ability to meditate I do realize that sometimes it takes time for the person to get used to the meditative state, sometimes it takes longer to adjust to the stillness that meditation requires. However, this should not stop anyone from practicing mindfulness. Sometimes the small steps are the ones that get us through the longest distances. If you struggle with making meditation a part of your daily practice, or perhaps it isn’t something that you have an interest in, there are many other mindfulness practices that can still be incorporated into your daily routine.
Let’s say this – every moment of our life presents an opportunity to be mindful. The beauty of mindfulness is that your entire life is a place where you can step into mindfulness practice, it does not necessarily have to be in a temple, ashram, or on a meditation cushion or mat. It does not require any religious or ritual involvement. Hence, what is the mindfulness of daily life? Mindfulness is a practice of directing our attention to what is happening right here and right now, with an attitude of kindness towards ourselves, our experience and our environment. However, it is essential to note that mindfulness is not a practice of positive thinking and it is not about having only positive feelings. Mindfulness isn’t going to remove negative experiences and stressful situations. Naturally our reaction towards them is to push them away however, by practicing mindfulness we learn to turn towards these situations with an attitude of kindness. Through this practice we are learning to see ourselves just as we are, we accept our flaws, we accept the challenges life imposes, we cease judging and expecting, we learn to discover our strengths. This approach when gently applied to ourselves with time expands into many fields of our life, our environment, our family and relationships. This is a gentle process, and it requires time, it happens gradually but it builds resilience and inner strength. As said by Jon Kabat-Zinn – “The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little”.
How to start the mindfulness practice? With small steps, apply some simple practices into your day:
1. Mindful Walking – if sitting during meditation isn’t your thing, try walking mediation, this is very often practiced during mindfulness retreats but could be practiced every day. If you are not an active person or perhaps you have a very busy schedule and you don’t get to go on walks too often you still can practice mindful walking. When you get up from your desk even going to the bathroom, rather than being occupied by some thoughts, bring your attention to a physical aspect of your movement. Notice your feet on the floor, the weight of your body, the shift moving from one leg to the other and your arms swinging. Notice the temperature in the room, pay attention to your surroundings. Pay attention to as many details as you can observe. Do not expect any results, just do it.
2. Mindful Eating – how often do you sit down to eat being distracted? Checking your phone, social media, watching a program or even being completely absorbed by some thoughts? Change it – when you eat, just eat. No distractions, pay attention to what you are eating, its consistency, taste, smell, notice the colour of your food. Ask yourself if this food is good for you. Think about the impact this food will have on your body, imagine how it is going to nourish your system, how your body’s cells are going to absorb the best out of your meal. If you have more time, spend it thinking about the ingredients that consist of your meal. Where did they come from, think about the hand that seeded and then picked the vegetables that you are having. Appreciate fact that what forms the part of your meal went through many processes to get onto your table in the shape and fashion you especially like. Be grateful for it. Enjoy every bit of it.
3. Mindful speaking & listening – it often happens that we speak only to keep up with the conversation and to avoid silence. We do it to present ourselves as more friendly, funny and liked. Mindfulness teaches us to accept ourselves just the way we are, it teaches us to accept others the same way. Challenge yourself to only speak when you have something to say. Challenge yourself to use the correct, respectful and gentle language. Be conscious of the words you use, think them through before you say them. Be aware of the tone in which you say it. Challenge yourself to listen. Don’t ask if you are not really interested in an answer. Respect the person that talks to you. Listening is perhaps one of the most valuable gifts we can offer to others and to ourselves. When listening, bring your best intention, especially during the difficult conversations. The right attitude leaves the outcome of any conversation or even dispute less stressful and calmer. Listen without judgment, criticism and interruption. Do not filter the words you hear with your feelings, accept them the way they are. Do not try to guess the teller’s intentions, it is up to them, what they choose to say; you can only be responsible for your own words. Be mindful of what you are saying. Be impartial.
Always remember – “Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it” - Sharon Salzberg