Strong woman stands in power pose outside Upstate Studios.

Mindfulness – It doesn’t have to be hard

Often when we think of mindfulness or meditation, we think that we need to be ‘good’ at it, or there is a right and wrong way to approach it. But if we strip it back and take it for what it is, it’s simply trying to bring our focus back to the present moment. The difficulty isn’t in the doing, but in remembering to do it.

Mindfulness is trying to tune your awareness onto everything that’s happening in the present moment. Sensations, sounds, smells, your breath, and heart rate. Anything that is here and now. We do this so that we can reduce our levels of stress, increase our ability to tune back into the body, and start to notice the kinds of thoughts and patterns that happen in the mind. But the hardest thing is being able to keep your focus there, or remember to do it when you really need it. Here are some of our favourite tips on practicing mindfulness, anytime, anywhere.

Set a reminder on your phone. 

One of the best ways to use mindfulness is as a constant practice. Once we can practice mindfulness and awareness consistently, we can use it when we really need it (when we’re stressed and in our heads). Set a reminder in your phone. On the hour, or however often you will find manageable to begin. When the alarm goes off, take a moment or two to sit and focus on what’s happening in that moment. What can you feel, how does your body feel, what kinds of things are happening in the mind. Remember this is a practice; it takes time to be able to focus the mind. So don’t be hard on yourself if it takes a little bit of time and effort. This is simply starting to get you used to doing it regularly.

Use your breathing as a tool 

Our breathing is one of the best things we can use to bring us back to the present moment. Our breath is always current. As it moves in, we can feel the sensations of the body, as it moves out, we can do the same. If we allow ourselves to be completely focused on the breath and how it feels, we can never stray into another moment.

Use sight and sound; don’t try to block it out

Sometimes we think we need to block everything out to be able to be mindful. But the present moment is filled with a whole range of stimulus and information that we can use. Rather than fighting sounds, sights, feelings, textures, use them to your advantage. Especially if you struggle to sit still with your eyes closed, breathing. Try to hear each and every sound that is happening, close and far away. Focus on the things around you. Use those things to keep the mind interested and engaged. What you want to try and avoid is letting the mind go on a tangent from the information. That’s the work involved in this practice.

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