By Elle Balchin, Rehabilitation Consultant – OT
Look, we’ve all heard of mindfulness, but who really knows wat it means to be mindful? Or where to start?
Basically, mindfulness is the practice of focussing your attention on the current moment and accepting it without judgement. But anyone who’s tried it will know that’s much easier said than done.
Try starting with these simple steps:
Take a seat and make yourself comfortable. The last thing you want to be distracted by is a squeaky armrest or a seat that’s too hard. Set a time limit for how long you want to spend being mindful – whether this is minutes or 10, commit yourself to the practice until the timer goes off.
Once you’re comfy, close your eyes and begin by noticing the way you are sitting. Take a moment to feel your bottom on the chair/ floor, where your legs or feet touch the ground, and what it feels like. Spend some time here simply noticing how you’re sitting. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring your attention back to the way your body feels in the chair, and sit with these thoughts for a few moments.
Next, bring your attention to your breath. Focus on the sensation of your inhale and exhale, notice how it fills your lungs and passes your lips. Each time your mind wanders, notice your thoughts, accept them, and gently bring your attention back to your breath.
Inevitably your mind with wander, especially if you are particularly busy that day or you’re new to the practice. If you start to think “I’m too busy for this” or your mind is racing with things to do – don’t automatically assume you’ve failed! You’re probably someone who would benefit most from persisting with the practice.
The key to remember with mindfulness is to simply notice your thoughts, and allow them to pass in and out of your mind without judgement, without trying to resist them, or without dwelling on them. For example, you might notice you’re feeling frustrated that you can’t focus on your breath – instead of thinking “Why am I so bad at mindfulness?!”, instead reframe to consider “Hm, I am feeling frustrated right now, and that is okay. I will continue trying to focus on my breath.”.
In theory, mindfulness couldn’t be easier – just focus on your thoughts, right? That’s like saying playing tennis is easy – you just have to hit the ball. Just like any other skill, mindfulness takes practice to improve and become good – over time, you’ll get the hang of that volley.