As part of my practice as an action-based psychologist, I teach skills for emotional health and well-being. All of these skills start with the foundation of MINDFULNESS – purposeful awareness in the present moment.
My full definition of mindfulness is: The PRACTICE of adopting a curious, nonjudgmental, and gentle stance while cultivating awareness in the present moment by bringing one’s attention to an intended focus in an effective way.
That’s a dense definition. Let’s just concentrate on the PRACTICE part of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice. No one, no matter how much they have meditated or read or talked about mindfulness, can ever make the declarative statement, “I am now mindful.” Mindfulness is a practice, and we slip in and out of this state. When practiced on a regular basis, we build the skill of mindfulness, a first and crucial step to peace, happiness and emotional freedom. When we strengthen our mindfulness skills, we can be more aware and awake in our lives and make conscious choices more often.
Intentionally bringing awareness to yourself and your environment is the first step to building your mindfulness muscle. One way to practice is through a simple daily meditation. Meditation does not have to be complicated. Placing your attention on three breaths as you inhale and exhale can reap benefits.
Even when your mind is very busy this practice is effective. You can attempt, as best you can, to notice yourself breathing for three inhalations and exhalations. When your mind wanders, as minds do, gently bring your attention back to your breath. Do this as many times as is needed during those three inhalations and exhalations. When you bring your mind back after it wanders, it is like doing a rep with your mindfulness muscle. Think of your mind wandering as something that is supposed to happen, and the act of bringing your mind back to your breath, even if only for a second, is like lifting a heavy weight with perfect form and building this focused muscle.
The more you practice (even if it is three breaths once a day), you will start to notice more about your experiences sooner and sooner. For example, you may observe that you are somewhat stressed earlier in the day before it turns into being overwhelmed. Knowing and recognizing what is going on is a powerful tool to allow you to begin making changes. See video below to practice.
As with anything, reading this article will not change your life. What will? TAKING ACTION! Here are two options for something you can do today:
- Pause, right now, in this moment and notice where you feel your breath in your body. You do not have to change or alter your breath, simply become aware of what your breath is doing right now. Attempt to place your attention on feeling your breath in your body for the next 3 breaths, and when your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath. Notice the effect this has on you in the moment and the rest of your day.
- PRACTICE with my short, guided introduction to mindfulness.
LIFE IS TOO SHORT JUST TO SURVIVE. THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE!
Amanda Gale-Bando, Ph.D.
Questions or comments? Email them to email@example.com. While Dr. Bando will not answer personally, she may address your question(s) or comment(s) in a future newsletter.