Five Steps to Basic Mindfulness


 Mindfulness is bringing one's non-judgmental awareness into the present moment. Through a heightened awareness of thoughts, senses and emotions, you'll make better decisions in the present, decisions you will less likely regret in the future. While origins of Mindfulness are rooted in Buddhism, most current Mindfulness techniques are not religiously focused. Mindfulness is used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) as well as Yoga and other therapeutic methods.

Try these five simple exercises to get a feel for what Mindfulness is all about:

  1. Sixty Second Breathing - This can be done anywhere. Simply become aware of your breathing. Don't change anything, just breathe in, and then out. As you do this though, say to yourself (not out loud), "I'm breathing in," and then on the breath out say, "I'm breathing out." You don't speak out loud, just breathe in and then out.
  2. Muscle Relaxing - If combined with the breathing exercise above, this can become a very short meditation exercise and can help you understand how easily you can take control of your mind. After experiencing the breathing exercise for a minute, begin at the top of your head and simply let go of any muscular tension in your forehead, eyes and face. Release the energy through your face and into your jaw. Move through to your shoulders letting go of your muscles. Work your way through your upper body, lower back and feel yourself sink into whatever you're sitting or lying on. Continue releasing muscles in your forearms, wrists, hands and fingers. Relax your legs, ankles and let go of the muscles in your feet. Just let go. Go back to the breathing exercise and enjoy the momentary escape and relaxation.
  3. Four-Sight - Make a mental note to choose four things throughout your day and feel and observe them fully. Anything will do. When using an ATM machine for instance, what do the buttons feel like? If you're slicing vegetables, what's their texture and shape like? When getting into your car, is the seat hot or cold, firm or soft? Are the keys on your keyboard curved or flat? Really become aware of what you see and touch in each moment.
  4. Emotional Attention - Take note of something in your day that brings out an emotion and really pay attention to your feelings. It doesn't matter what it is. If the line at the grocery store is slow and you're agitated, be aware of it - don't judge it. Just be aware. If someone's paid you a compliment, how are you feeling? If you're lonely or sad, what's that like for you? When talking with someone, really listen to them and experience your reactions. If you feel happy about something, pay extra attention to that feeling. Again, don't judge the feelings, just ask yourself what they're like for you in that moment.
  5. Observation - Look at any object around you. Plants, pets, machines, clothing or even clouds in the sky - anything will do. Observe what it is for at least a full minute. What do you see? Look closely at the shapes, colors, materials or movements. What's in the flower pot? It's not just a plant. The container has shape and form and the plant has leaves or flowers and those have colors and textures. Look more closely at everything.

Mindfulness exercises like these can help you make better decisions, increase your feelings of fulfillment and prevent you from making choices you may regret later.

© Joshua Kates, 2019