Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness Practice

Now that you know what it is and have a basic guideline for how to do it, it’s time to actually practice some mindfulness. These are some quick and easy exercises that you can do anytime and anywhere to start working your mindfulness muscle. Enjoy!

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Get mindful using your five senses. Our basic senses send information to our brains that help us understand and make sense of the world around us. They inform our experience on every level, so what better place to begin practicing mindfulness.

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Sight/Vision: Quick! Close your eyes and try to describe in as much detail as possible everything that is in front of you from memory. Now open your eyes and contemplate your surroundings. Can you observe something you’ve never noticed before? What emotions do you notice while observing with your eyes? What colors jump out at you? What shapes seem to be repeated? What are your favorite things to gaze upon? Do you have a cherished painting or piece of art? These have been used since the beginning of humanity to tell stories and evoke emotion. Take a moment to notice how what you see impacts you and appreciate that – learn from it or just observe it.

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Sound/Hearing: Even in silence there is sound. Have you ever noticed when it’s super quiet it seems then that you can hear your blood pumping? Try putting on your favorite song and listen to it without doing anything else. Immerse yourself in the music, the sound, the lyrics and let go of everything else. Ask yourself how the music makes you feel, how it impacts you. Are there elements that strike you in a particular way? How hard is it to sit through an entire song one-mindfully? Did you struggle with this exercise? If so, you may want to practice it until it becomes easy. Remember to be gentle with yourself. We are trained to multitask, so unlearning that generally unhelpful habit will take time and practice.

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Smell: Why do you suppose we have such an industry in candles, perfumes and colognes, aromatherapy, etc? Smells are compelling. They are one of the most powerful triggers for memory and can evoke strong emotions for better or for worse. So again, take a mindful moment to appreciate an aroma fully and one-mindfully. You can light a candle, enjoy the fragrance of your shampoo, notice the dish soap while cleaning up. Go outside and breathe deeply. What can you perceive? Is the air fresh or stale? Are there any flowers or trees in bloom? Car fumes, mold, barbecue, animals? Notice what is there, but remember to be nonjudgmental in your observations. Describe what is, but leave your personal opinion out of the equation as to whether it’s good or bad.

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Taste: This is one of my favorites. We have at least five different types of taste receptors in our mouths which makes food a very potent mindfulness activity. You can do this activity with just about anything edible. I often use raisins when I do this exercise in group. Place the food in your mouth and simply notice it. Notice the weight and texture as it sits on your tongue. Notice any initial flavors. Now roll it around your mouth a bit – does the consistency change? How do the flavors change as it comes into contact with different areas of your mouth? Give it a chew now, slowly, and notice any sounds or resistance. Is it crunchy or gooey? You get the idea. Try it sometime with a Hershey’s kiss – can you let the kiss melt completely in your mouth while you one-mindfully observe the experience? It can be harder than you might think, but the payoff is worth the effort.

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Touch/Feeling: Last but not least is our ability to feel sensations with our bodies and skin. Pause and notice what you can feel right now. Are you sitting or standing? Is your seat firm or soft? Can you perceive the ground or floor through the soles of your feet? Feel that connection. Are your clothes restrictive or loose? Soft, silken, cottony, scratchy? Are you feeling warm, chilled, or just right? Is the air humid, dry? You get the point. What all can you sense that is in contact with your body right at this moment? Practice observing it and describing it without using judgmental (good/bad) terminology. That itch on your back?… Observe without reacting (just kidding, you can scratch that itch!).

Once you have a good handle on using the five senses for mindfulness, you can integrate these skills into every moment of every day. Here are some ideas:

  • Take a shower or bath…mindfully
  • Wash the dishes…mindfully
  • Weed the garden…mindfully
  • Drive to work…mindfully
  • Listen to the news…mindfully
  • Read a poem or chapter…mindfully

The options are endless. Keep working your mindfulness muscle and you will begin to notice positive effects throughout your being.

Download a printable version here

More on Mindfulness

Mindfulness in a Nutshell

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Mindfulness – whether you love it or hate it, it is one of those universal things that just about all of could use more of – think of it like a muscle that needs regular exercise and when you take the time to work it out, the payoff is huge!

Whether you are just starting out, or looking for strategies to grow, the following is a brief primer with helpful tips.

As a refresher, remember that:

Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally…It’s about knowing what is on your mind.” – Jon KabatZinn

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Google mindfulness and you will find literally thousands of how-to guides, but the version that I still prefer and use in my own sessions comes from Marsha Linehan, PhD, developer of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. She breaks the process of mindfulness down into 6 concrete, but interrelated skills – the “What” skills (as in what you are doing) and the “How” skills (how to perform each action).

“What” Skills “How” Skills
1. Observe 4. Non-judgmentally
2. Describe 5. One-mindfully
3. Participate 6. Effectively

Seems pretty straightforward so far, right? Here are the details:

  1. Observe– this involves noticing your experience and what is happening around and within you. Many people find it helpful to start with the five senses – what can you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste right now in this moment? Build from there – what thoughts are you having? What are you saying to yourself? What emotions are occurring? What situation do you find yourself in? What’s happening around you?
  2. Describe– put words to the things you noticed while observing. Label your experiences in order to make sense of them. Remember words are powerful though – be as accurate and objective as possible.
  3. Participate– jump into your moment with both feet. Observing is an action word – don’t stop living or stop an experience in order to observe it. Actively practice your new skills in day-to-day life. Participate in life. As Linehan wrote, “become one with your experience, completely forgetting yourself.” Don’t be a wallflower and don’t worry too much about what others may be thinking about you – odds are they are struggling with their own insecurities anyways.
  4. Non-judgment– Practice observing, describing, and participating without evaluating the experience as either positive or negative. Accept things without judging them. It can be harder than you might expect, but it has tremendous impact on mental health. And in those situations where you find yourself unable to be non-judgmental, just notice what is occurring, call it what it is, and remember not to judge yourself for judging.
  5. One-mindful– this is often the hardest thing for people these days. In a culture that encourages and celebrates mindless multitasking, I am asking you to slow yourself down. Complete one activity at a time, with mindful and conscious attention. Concentrate and focus on that one experience, noticing every minute detail and appreciating that moment fully. Let go of distractions. Give each action your full attention.
  6. Effectiveness– do what works for you. Avoid judgments, avoid the shoulds and musts, avoid comparing or competing. Focus on your experience and finding ways to augment it based on what works for YOU. Act skillfully and from that place of mindfulness that you are now learning to tap into. 

Ready to practice? Try some of these suggestions from Mayo Clinic here.

**Adapted from Marsha Linehan’s Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder which can be bought on Amazon here.

Download a printable copy of this worksheet here: CCWS Mindfulness

What the Heck is Mindfulness??

What the Heck IS Mindfulness??

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Mindfulness is one of those universal things that we all need more of and something which can always be improved. I like to think of mindfulness as a muscle that needs to be regularly exercised and developed. If you are new to mindfulness and still working to build your understanding of the general concept, the following is a collection of definitions from various sources to get you started. Next week, we will get into the nuts and bolts, so stay tuned!

  1. ActMindfully.com starts us off with the overview that “Mindfulness is about waking up, connecting with ourselves, and appreciating the fullness of each moment of life.”(https://www.actmindfully.com.au/about-mindfulness/)
  2. According to Oxford Living Dictionaries, mindfulness is 1) The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something, and 2) A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.(https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/mindfulness)
  3. Per Greater Good Magazine, “Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.” (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition)
  4. On www.mrsmindfulness.com, the discussion emphasizes that, “Mindfulness also involves non-judgment, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings with the attitude of an impartial witness — without believing them or taking them personally.” (https://mrsmindfulness.com/what-is-mindfulness/)
  5. As written in a client handout by Cindy Sanderson, Ph.D., “Mindfulness is “awareness without judgment of what is, via direct and immediate experience”. (http://stiftelsen-hvasser.no/documents/Mindfulness_for_clients_and_famil_members.pdf)

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  6. And finally, from one of our leading minds on the subject, we have Jon Kabat-Zinn who says that “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally…It’s about knowing what is on your mind.”(https://www.mindful.org/jon-kabat-zinn-defining-mindfulness/)

As you can see, the running themes include awareness of situation and personal experience, without judgment or expectation, and without reaction. Mindfulness means noticing your thoughts and emotions, without trying to either fuel them or terminate them. Simply seeing, naming, and accepting…without judging. And that also includes not judging yourself when you notice yourself judging. Especially because judging is a normal part of being a human being, we just want to notice when we are doing it. Mindfulness gets a little complicated. Check in next week for more information and strategies for getting started!

For a printable version of this post, click CCWS Mindfulness Definitions!