Mindfulness is defined as “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.” Though you may be tempted to dismiss the concept as “woo-woo” or worthless, thousands of studies have demonstrated the physical and mental benefits of mindfulness (source). And although it has roots in Buddhist tradition, mindfulness has entered mainstream culture as a secular practice. Before we dig into how to practice mindfulness, let’s talk about why you might wish to do so.
The Merits of Mindfulness
Even if you only practice mindfulness for a few weeks, you can enjoy a variety of benefits. According to Greater Good Magazine, published by the University of California, Berkeley, studies suggest that practicing mindfulness offers all of the following benefits:
- It boosts the immune system.
- It may improve sleep quality.
- It increases positive emotions and reduces stress.
- It helps us focus.
- It may increase compassion and altruism.
- It enhances relationships.
- It may increase your sense of self.
- It helps you feel resilient.
- It can combat bias.
Mindfulness can help all sorts of people: parents, teenagers, teachers, seniors, veterans, etc. If you’ve never tried it before, why not give it a shot?
How to Practice Mindfulness
Although most people immediately think of meditation when considering how to cultivate mindfulness, it’s not your only option. Meditation can be intimidating or off-putting, so you may prefer simpler methods, like the following:
- Deep Breathing: Practice deep breathing by exaggerating your breaths. Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. Pay attention to the physical sensation of the breath flowing in and out.
- Nature Observation: Observe nature through your window, and focus on the present: the grass moving, the leaves rustling, the breeze, the colors, the shapes, etc. Do not judge what you see – only observe it.
- Body Scan: Do a “Head-to-Toe Body Scan” by focusing your attention on your body. Bring awareness to each part of your body in turn, and if you notice any tension, relax it slowly. Start with your toes, then your feet, your ankles, your calves, your knees, etc. until you reach your head.
- Raisin Exercise: Do the “Raisin Exercise” with a raisin or any other single object. Pay attention to the way the raisin looks, feels, smells, reacts to touch, tastes, etc. Focus on the present and the specific object, not your memories or opinions.
- Gratitude Journal: Begin a gratitude journal in which you write down things you are grateful for each day. This will help you focus on the positive aspects of your life at present.
- General Awareness: Try to notice what you’re sensing in a given moment. Think about the sights, the sounds, the smells, the tactile sensations, etc. Pay attention to your body’s physical sensations.
- Free Yourself from Thoughts and Emotions: Don’t let your thoughts and emotions define you. Instead, recognize that they are fleeting and will pass by, like clouds in the sky. This insight may help you avoid negative thought patterns.
Our minds are constantly pulled in different directions. Once you know how to practice mindfulness and you begin incorporating it into your everyday life, you may find that you’re better able to cope with the difficult thoughts and feelings that would have typically caused you to feel anxious and stressed. Mindfulness may feel a little silly at first, but it can lead to a profound change in your mindset and life.
At Springhouse Village, we know how important it is to enjoy your retirement in a lively and welcoming environment. We make it easy for our residents to be active participants in our community. Whether that means encouraging residents to shop at local farmers markets or assisting them in starting a garden club, we strive to help our residents thrive. To learn more about the amenities and services we offer, contact Springhouse Village today.