The word “mindfulness” has been floating around a lot in recent years, but I still come across many individuals who have yet to be introduced to the basics of mindfulness.
Being mindful isn’t necessarily an exercise you can do three sets of 10 a day and expect immediate change — but similar to how I prescribe movement as part of a larger lifestyle- and performance-based change — integrating mindfulness and meditation (or breath work) into our days can drastically change our health, mental and physical performance.
One of the simplest ways to begin your mindfulness integration is to dedicate small periods of time to the breathing process. I often have clients begin with two to five minutes, twice a day. Lay or sit comfortably and place one or both hands on the stomach and simply breathe. Set a timer and/or play some relaxing music and just focus on the breath. You’ll likely notice that almost immediately your mind wanders to any number of things. This is the first step in developing mindfulness — allow those thoughts to exist but resist the urge to focus on them.
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Sounds easy, right? I can guarantee you — this is called a “practice” for a reason. If five minutes seems like too much, start with one to two minutes a few times a day. Try adding this in before you begin your day and after you finish the day. Be open to the thoughts and feelings that arise, but remember to maintain a mindful approach to them, allowing them to pass.
You may be thinking that “this all sounds fine, but I don’t have time and I don’t see how this is going to tangibly improve my life.”
I don’t think that anyone is too busy to find one to two minutes to breathe a few times a day. Also, the good work we do in our days depends on us taking care of ourselves. This practice ensures an ongoing connection to our bodies and minds, the two things we need to get work done!
Being able to still the mind may greatly enhance your memory, help with anxiety and mental performance, decrease pain and injury, and statistically has been shown to be hugely effective in all realms of psychology and performance.
There are many useful apps to utilize to begin your practice, however, I highly recommend the challenge of sitting with yourself and using your own mental discipline. Be open to what comes up, and keep a journal of your experiences — even if you are starting with as little as one to two minutes a few times a day!