Tips for Learning Mindfulness Meditation

By: Nicole Lippman

Mindfulness has exploded in its popularity over the past decade both in psychological research and in the media. It seems that everyone is talking about how mindfulness can be useful in our every day lives to help us decrease anxiety and stress and increase mental flexibility and happiness.

The term mindfulness is defined as a “moment by moment awareness”; a state of psychological freedom that allows you to pay attention to each moment without judgment and attachment. In other words, it’s experiencing something directly, without judgment. By noticing more of what is happening right now, we disengage from what happened in the past, and what might happen in the future. As a result, our experiences are more enriched and have more meaning. Mindfulness has been shown to improve reactivity to stress, improve relationships by enhancing the quality of communication, help decrease chronic pain or stress-related disorders, and help prevent a relapse of depression for those in remittance. Studies have shown that people who practice mindfulness even on an irregular basis report having higher levels of happiness. So, have I convinced you to practice mindfulness yet?

Here are some mindfulness exercises that are simple and convenient, and can lead you to a deeper experience of mindfulness in your daily life.

Deep breathing: One of the most simple ways to experience mindfulness is to focus on your breathing. Breathe from your belly rather than your chest and try to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus on the expansion of your chest, the rhythm of your breathing, the sensation of the airflow going into your nostrils and out through your mouth. This simple technique can have a calming effect and help you stay grounded in the present moment.

Listening to music: While listening to your choice of music, focus on the sound and vibration of each note, the feelings that the music elicits from you, and any other sensations that are happening right now as you listen.

Observing your thoughts: This exercise involves taking a pause from the hustle and bustle of daily living and sitting in silence to notice the stream of thoughts that are happening at that moment. The goal is to not become involved in them or judge yourself for having them, rather to observe them happening and watch them disappear.

Mindful eating: Pay attention to all the sensations that are associated with eating. Be aware of the smell, sight, touch, taste, and sound as you eat each bite.

Mindful walking: Focus on the sights, smells and sensations that you experience while you are walking. You can even focus on how your feet are placed on the ground as you are walking. The idea is to become involved in the experience of walking and what is happening around you.

It doesn’t matter what exercise you chose, the idea of mindfulness is to keep returning to the present moment and to be aware of what is happening right now. If other thoughts creep into your head while you are practicing, simply notice them and bring your attention back to the current moment. By practicing mindfulness, you are learning to shift from a habit of predicting the future or ruminating about the past, to a habit of being aware of what is happening right now. Training the attention to stay in the moment supports the mind’s ability to see more objectively and learn. We can start to see what is truly present, not what we wish or fear is present; we begin to interact with our experience as it is, and give ourselves space to act with intention and meaning.