The Beginner’s Guide To Mindfulness

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Looking to incorporate Mindfulness into your daily routine? Or are you on the fence? It’s quite simple once you know how.

Best of all? It will help you to enjoy life better.

You don’t have to be a Buddhist or a hippy. You also don’t have to sit and meditate for hours if that isn’t your cup of tea.

The Beginner’s Guide To Mindfulness

“You have a treasure within you that is infinitely greater than anything the world can offer.” – Eckhart Tolle

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a state of awareness. This state is invited by techniques (such as Mindfulness meditation) aimed at focusing the mind on the present moment. Simply put, it’s all about directing our attention to our experiences as they unfold – rather than being stuck in our heads.

For example, we’re usually not consciously controlling our awareness. We usually just leave whatever we focus on up to chance. We’re distracted by so many things in our day-to-day lives that we lose control over our awareness and find ourselves feeling stressed. The reason why Mindfulness is so effective is because we are intentionally, consciously choosing what to focus on. Whatever that is is entirely up to you!

Once you start practicing Mindfulness techniques, you’ll be able to start seeing the negatives in a different light, and pay attention the good things in life.

In the words of James Baraz:

“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).” – James Baraz

Does Mindfulness really “work”?

Yes – Mindfulness is as good as it’s advertised to be.

Practicing Mindfulness has been proven to reduce stress, rumination, emotional reactivity, and lead to improvements in working memory, attention, and cognitive flexibility. In fact, Mindfulness has also been found to predict relationship satisfaction, and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. It really can be this powerful. Click here to see the full list of benefits Mindfulness can bring about.

With this level of research support in mind, Mindfulness is being promoted by GPs and organisations today. This is really great! However, it’s important to point out that to truly see the benefits, you need to practice on a daily basis. Mindfulness is a new kind of awareness – or a very old kind, depending on how we look at it!

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein

Mindfulness benefits the wider world

There’s no doubt about it: Humanity needs to become more mindful of the planet and how we treat it, our consumption, and our treatment of one another. The first step is to create a more harmonious inner world and by doing so, we automatically add to the harmony of the planet.

Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world the way it was meant to be enjoyed. This is why Mindfulness can help us to achieve this; paying attention doesn’t just benefit us, it benefits the world!

The practice of mindfulness and compassion can open our eyes to so much more. So much that we are blind to in our daily lives. By getting out of our own heads we can really see what’s going on outside ourselves, as well as what’s happening on the inside.

As Zen master Thich Naht Hanh has said, "This kind of enlightenment is very crucial to a collective awakening. In Buddhism we talk of meditation as an act of awakening, to be awake to the fact that the earth is in danger and living species are in danger."

Are you ready to wake up?

Beginners tips – how to get started

You can easily implement Mindfulness into your daily routine.

The underlying principle is to gently bring your mind back to whatever you’re focusing on when it wanders.

Here are some different techniques which have the power to bring you the benefits we discussed earlier:

Mindfulness meditation promotes the Mindfulness “state of awareness”. A common misconception here is that Mindfulness IS the same thing as the meditation itself. Mindfulness however, is most commonly referred to as the state these kinds of techniques promote. Thus, mindfulness is the state of awareness rather than the technique being used.

How is Mindfulness meditation different from other types of meditation?

Well, unlike mantra meditation which involves using a particular sound or word to focus on, Mindfulness meditation does not. Instead it aims to achieve a relaxed, non-judgmental state of awareness.

According to Walsh and Shapiro (2006), it involves “self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and development and/or specific capacities such as calmness, clarity and concentration”.

Where did it come from?

For over 2500 years Buddhist monks have been practicing a similar technique. It was only in the 1970’s that it caught on in the west, as Jon Kabbat-Zinn – a medical professor – developed a program called Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction. He used this to successfully treat individuals with chronic pain, until eventually developing Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for depression in 2002.

MBCT has been found to be as effective as anti-depressants - reducing reoccurrence rates by 40-50% for people with multiple episodes (when compared to usual care). It is now available on the NHS.

How to practice Mindfulness meditation

There are many different ways of practicing Mindfulness meditation, but it’s easier to dip your toe in the water first. This is why it’s important to start with simply staying present.

Some tips on staying present

Really staying present is the hardest part of Mindfulness for most of us. If you think about the way we live our lives – the way we focus our attention daily, it’s quite backwards really! It will be hard at first, but with a little practice it gets so much easier.

First thing’s first, focus on your breath.

Here are three different techniques you can try:

1.       Simple 1 minute breathing technique

Sit down in a comfortable chair. Start breathing in and out, deeply and slowly. In through the nose, and out through the mouth. When your attention wanders to something else, let the thought go and return your attention to the breath. Don’t get frustrated when your mind wanders, just let the thought go softly.

If you’d like to do this for longer, you can count up to ten – one count with each breath in (or out), and then go back to one once you hit ten. This is a really great way to get better.

2.       Diaphragmatic breathing

This three-part breathing technique enables you to focus completely on the movement of air throughout the body. No room for mind-wandering here.

With one hand on your belly, and one hand on your upper chest, inhale air into your belly first. Your belly will expand against your hand if you’ve done this correctly. As you keep breathing in, inhale the air into your diaphragm, followed by your chest. Reverse this 3-step process when you exhale, releasing the air from your chest first, then the diaphragm and finally your belly.

3.       Alternate nostril breathing

This is really simple too - a quick stress-reliever you can utilise anywhere.

Block off your left nostril. Take a deep, slow breath in through your right nostril for 4 seconds. Then hold your nose to block both nostrils. Hold your breath to the count of 16 and then exhale through your left nostril for 8. Then you simply reverse the process – breathe in through the left instead this time.

Easy and you can do this anywhere!

You can see change with these simple breathing exercises alone, but if you wish to practice strict Mindfulness meditation practice and witness the true benefits, you can find guidance here and here.

Bonus tip - Grounding

Grounding is another great method for returning to the present moment. Simply keep a “grounding” item with you. This can be anything, a piece of jewellery perhaps that can bring you back to the present moment when anxieties rise or things get hectic.

Centre yourself by taking a few moments to focus on the item, to really feel it in your hands. Using different senses is a key aspect of Mindfulness. Simple yet effective!

The Beginner’s Guide To Mindfulness

Alternative Mindfulness techniques

Aside from meditation and the basic Mindfulness concepts we’ve discussed, here’s some other methods you might like to consider:

Yoga, tai chi and qigong also promote Mindfulness.

Yoga

Yoga and Mindfulness are a match made in heaven – or Mindful Yoga as it is known by some.

Naturally, these practices complement each other as Yoga is a mindful practice in itself. After all, the meaning of Yoga is to Yoke - to unite the body and mind. This is why Yoga can be a great avenue for those looking to practice Mindfulness.

Yoga Journal has a great guide to Mindfulness Practice in Yoga.

Tai Chi and Qigong

As with the other techniques we’ve discussed, Tai Chi and Qigong also involve the practitioner focusing on one thing. As we know, when the mind is focusing on a single task, the body rejects stress!

Tai Chi and Qigong give us the chance to listen to the breath, to bring awareness to all the bodily processes that occur naturally. The realisation that you don’t have to be in control of everything all the time can be life-changing. We’re given the chance to simply think about what we’re looking at in the present. To simply let things be.

These practices have existed for thousands of years, and there’s a good reason why.

Try one for yourself – it will be difficult to think of anything else!

The Beginner’s Guide To Mindfulness

This really is just the beginning, if you are serious and want to commit yourself to mindfulness, we promise that it can change your life. Maybe it will help you to do your bit for the planet too.

 

Recommended authors/books:

Thích Nhất Hạnh - a global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist:

The Miracle Of Mindfulness: The Classic Guide to Meditation by the World's Most Revered Master (Classic Edition)

Jon Kabat-Zinn – leading researcher on Mindfulness:

Full Catastrophe Living: How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation

Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness meditation for everyday life

Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment and Your Life

Coming To Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness

Mark Williams:

“Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world”

“The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness”

Dr Danny Penman:

“The art of breathing”

 “Mindfulness for Creativity: Adapt, create and thrive in a frantic world

Mindfulness for Health: A practical guide to relieving pain, reducing stress and restoring wellbeing

Andy Puddicomb:

Get Some Headspace: 10 Minutes Can Make All the Difference

Pema Chodron:

Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change

Christophe Andre:

Mindfulness: 25 Ways to Live in the Moment through Art

Hal Elrod:

The Miracle Morning: The 6 Habits That Will Transform Your Life Before 8AM

Ruth A. Baer:

Practising Happiness: How Mindfulness Can Free You From Psychological Traps and Help You Build the Life You Want

Tiddy Rowan:

The Little Book of Mindfulness

Eckhart Tolle:

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

The Mindfulness Project:

I Am Here Now: A creative mindfulness guide and journal

About us

The Hope Street Centre is an independent centre located in the attractive rural market town of Sandbach in South Cheshire, with easy access to the M6 motorway and the railway network at Crewe.  The centre is readily accessible from the neighbouring towns of Congleton, Alsager, Middlewich, Holmes Chapel, Knutsford, Crewe, Kidsgrove, Winsford, Northwich, Warrington and Stoke on Trent.

To contact one of our therapists click this link
Our Address: 10 Hope Street, SANDBACH, Cheshire, CW11 1BA
Telephone:      01270 764003 (weekday afternoons only)

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