Jon Kabat-Zinn, an author of several iconic books on mindfulness, defines mindfulness as “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness has many benefits, including the reduction of stress and emotional reactivity. Being mindful is also a key skill in caring for yourself. If you are being mindful, you are not beating yourself up over mistakes you have made, or worrying about what bad things might happen in the future. By grounding yourself in the present, you create a space in your mind that can be free from anxiety.
A Ritual for Waking Up in the Morning
Those moments when you first wake up can go a long way to helping you prepare to have a pleasant day. In the evening, write down your chosen mantra on a piece of paper and place it under your pillow. If you’ve been feeling worried, you might write, “I can handle whatever challenges come my way.” If you have been unkind towards yourself, try writing, “I am someone deserving of love.”
As soon as you wake up, take out the slip of paper and read it. You can do this out loud or in your head. Say it over and over again, meditating on this mantra. After a few minutes, you can think about all the ways in which the mantra is true. By mindfully focusing on the mantra, you are able to start your day off on a positive note.
A Ritual for Mindful Eating
When you are eating a meal or drinking a beverage, bring your focus to the sensations of taste and smell. Looking to your five senses can keep you firmly in the present.
I find this especially helpful to do when sipping a hot beverage like tea or coffee. Start by smelling the aroma of the beans or the leaves. Then take your first sip. If it’s too hot, wait a few moments to let the drink cool down. You can also focus on your breath by softly blowing on the cup to help it cool.
Eating an entire meal mindfully is a greater challenge, since it involves being mindful for a longer period of time. Mindful eating can help you build a better relationship with food. If you are mindful about how you feel while eating, you will be able to notice when you are satisfied. Being mindful of your hunger and satiety will help prevent you from overeating. Noticing each bite of your food will also make the food more pleasurable to eat.
Practice Mindfulness Through Journaling
For this exercise, take out a pen and paper, or a notebook, if you have one. Set a timer for 5 minutes and write anything that you’re thinking at this moment. After you write each thought, let it go and move on to the next one. The idea is not to linger on any one thought in particular.
For example, you might start writing down a worry, but once you finish writing it, you can move on to an entirely different thought. Maybe your next sentence will be a thought about the delicious dinner you had with your friends, or how grateful you are to live where you live. If you are finding trouble letting go of each thought, try writing, “I let this go” after each sentence.
Another way to bring yourself to the present when writing is to focus on the way that you hold your pen and write your words. Think about each letter and how your hand moves across the page. Being aware during the act of writing, as you are writing, is an easy technique to focus on the present and to approach your thoughts without judgment.
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