Are you trying to inject more mindfulness into your life? Good for you!
Practicing mindfulness can feel like a complicated endeavor that’s rife with opportunities for discouragement or concerns that you’re doing it “wrong.” Instead of sinking into the frustration, keep trying–mindfulness practice helps you feel more serene and can improve your emotional health.
If you’re feeling stuck, read the following mindfulness tips that will hopefully make practicing mindfulness—while meditating and in the rest of your life—a bit easier for you.
1. Remember that mindfulness meditation isn’t a relaxation exercise, it’s an attention exercise. It’s OK if you don’t feel more relaxed after a session of mindfulness meditation. Relaxation is sometimes a byproduct of meditation, but it is not the goal.
2. When practicing mindfulness, try to maintain a nonjudgmental attitude toward whatever comes up in your mind. Your job is simply to observe what you’re experiencing—not to control or shape it.
3. If you don’t have a big chunk of time available for daily meditation, you can still be mindful throughout your day. Consider practicing mindfulness for part of a walk down the street or take a brief mindfulness break when you’re at your desk at work. The three-minute breathing space exercise is a simple way to include more moments of mindfulness during your day.
4. If you’ve tried practicing mindfulness before and felt like it didn’t “work,” that doesn’t mean it’s not for you. Instead, it’s possible that you were expecting to see results too quickly. Mindfulness is a practice that has its effect over time—often over weeks, months, and years.
5. If you meditate and feel like you can’t get control of your thoughts—welcome to the club! This experience is common and normal, and does not mean you aren’t good at meditating. “Successful” meditation does not involve eliminating thoughts. It’s more about cultivating an increased awareness and familiarity with our minds and the thoughts that endlessly present themselves. Human minds have an inherent tendency to wander; becoming more aware of that tendency is one of the goals of practicing mindfulness.
6. Throughout your efforts to practice mindfulness, try to be gentle with yourself at all times. You won’t get anywhere with the process if you don’t.
7. Don’t believe everything you think! In your mindfulness practice, notice the difference between having a thought and believing that thought.
8. Remember that the present moment is reality; it’s good to have a healthy relationship with that reality. Mindfulness practice helps us take this important step.
9. In mindfulness meditation, we regard emotions and thoughts in essentially the same way: both are passing phenomena to be observed as they come and go. And make no mistake — they all come and go. Consider thoughts and emotions as if they’re twigs or leaves floating down a stream as we sit safely nearby. Try to simply notice them without passing judgement.
If you’re looking for more substantial guidance on this topic, consider seeking out a mindfulness or meditation group near you or check out this page that discusses mindfulness in more depth.
The author would like to acknowledge the contributions of meditation instructor Jane Stevens to the material presented here.