Mindfulness for Everyone ~ A basic exercise and some science

by Donna Torney on October 12, 2015 · 0 comments

If you’re new to the idea of mindfulness, this is a good place to begin exploring.  This corner of mindful hub is dedicated to giving you the most basic definitions, and simplest instructions to enable you to start your mindfulness practice right now.  We know you don’t have a lot of  time to read, and we want to encourage you to actually practice mindfulness, not just read about it.  Having said that, here is the most basic information you will need to start a mindfulness practice, right here, right now.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness has been described as intentionally watching the moment-to-moment thought activity of the mind, without judging or attaching to the thought activity.  Many scientific studies have proven that mindfulness calms the mind and body.

How do I practice mindfulness?

1.  Breathe. Focusing on the breath is the easiest way to begin because we always carry our breath with us.  Deep, even breathing has the added benefit of calming the nervous system and engaging higher order brain activity.

2.  Begin Watching your thoughts. Begin to watch your thoughts as though you were watching a movie.  When you watch a movie, you don’t typically jump into the film.  You usually stay somewhat detached from the story line.   This is how you treat your thoughts in mindfulness.

3.  Practice self-compassion.  A non-judgemental attitude is one of the keys to mindfulness.  If you find it hard to sit in the here and now without being judgmental, check out this clip of Dr. Kristen Neff explaining self-compassion.

Your thoughts will wander from topic to topic.  Practice watching them with detached interest.  There will be time after your practice to actually do something about the thoughts if necessary.  For the length of your practice, just continue to breathe deeply and evenly (here are some basic directions), and stay detached from the activity of the mind.

It’s that simple, but sometimes quite difficult!  If you begin to get frustrated with the activity of the mind, remember,  the goal is not to empty your mind, although you may experience some moments of thought-free bliss.  The goal is to come back to the breath and detach from your thoughts over and over again.  This is how we make change in the mind and the body.  This is mindfulness.

Why is everybody talking about mindfulness?

Call it mindfulness, meditation, or self-examination, contemplative practices are a part of almost every culture and every spiritual tradition.   However, these practices have taken a back seat to the high-technology and rapid change our culture has seen over the past two centuries.  Although the benefits of our evolution are many they have also  led to an epidemic of distraction and dissatisfaction.

The Scientifically proven benefits of mindfulness meditation include a resetting of the nervous system, more attuned communication, and an increased ability to regulate emotional states.  For a summary of the latest research, go to the American Mindfulness Research Association homepage.

Great news!  You don’t have to be a monk or even devote hours of your day to gain the benefits of mindfulness!

We are losing our ability to self-regulate our own nervous systems and we are becoming more dependent on a variety of external quick fixes, causing us to lose control of our daily actions, and the trajectory of our lives.

Research conducted by Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin Neuroscience lab has shown that advanced meditators have more activity in the frontal lobe region of the brain.  Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging shows that this part of the brain, associated with positive emotions is incredibly active in the Buddhist monks the researchers used as subjects.  However, even more exciting is the fact that follow-up studies conducted on individuals new to the practice of mindfulness also show more activity in the frontal lobe region compared to pre-tests conducted before a six-week course in meditation. This means that you and I, the overworked, overstimulated masses can benefit from the simplest of mindfulness practices.

Mindful hub is here to support you on your mindfulness journey with our blog community, printable worksheets, and moderated forum.  Well-being is yours, right now.

Here’s a worksheet you can’t print and carry with you to help you build your mindfulness practice.

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!

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