How to Practice Mindfulness for Health

How to Practice Mindfulness

How to Practice Mindfulness for Health – written by Alan Anderson

Many people ask me why I consider mindfulness practice my personal super power.  I use simple mindfulness exercises during the day to quickly re-vitalize my mind during stressful periods.  However, more formal mindfulness meditation is the power behind the widely researched health benefits of regular mindfulness practice. For me, these benefits have been wide ranging. With regular mindfulness practice my level of frustration, fear and stress have reduced dramatically. Mindfulness  practice also allows your mind to reach peak performance states which includes improved ability to focus without strain. Other benefits include improved brain function which has led to increased creativity, compassion and an understanding of how the mind works. With these benefits comes the ability to create positive habits and release those that don’t serve us well.

A Word of Caution!

Overall, mindfulness allows you to understand and observe your mind at work and to bring self-awareness to harnessing the immense power  and potential within our mind. So, the benefits of mindfulness practice can become your super power, but the journey is not easy because the human mind is extremely complex. In fact, mindfulness practice can leave you feeling like you are dealing with an unruly child. Everyone has to cope with this reality until finally the unruly child begins to respond as you would expect.

Like achieving most things of real value in life, it takes time, commitment and effort to reap the benefits of mindfulness practice. Mindfulness practice has helped me improve my mental health and  physical well-being. It has helped me live a life with less fear and greatly improved relationships. That’s why I felt compelled to share this remarkable technique with as many people as possible. Below, I have written a simple ten step process for mindfulness practice which I encourage you to use.

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How to Practice Mindfulness – Step #1 – Understanding

One of the biggest challenges to starting mindfulness practice is understanding what it is. You can google mindfulness and you’ll find a confusing array of information. These vary from very deep eastern spiritual views of mindfulness to extremely complex and scientific therapy based views of the same topic. I take a very pragmatic view of mindfulness. I am neither a buddhist mystic nor a therapist and yet I have been able to find a simple view of harnessing the health benefits of mindfulness practice.  If you are confused about mindfulness, I suggest you start by reading my previous post Understanding Mindfulness in Plain English

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How to Practice Mindfulness – Step #2 – The Marathon

Like any new habit, mindfulness meditation requires a commitment to practice each day. If you can achieve regular practice for a month or more you are more likely to create a positive habit that will become part of your health routine. Taking up mindfulness practice is no different to taking on the New York marathon. This would require a real commitment to practice every day in order to build your fitness, strength and endurance. Practicing mindfulness meditation needs a similar level of commitment to succeed.

When you commit to practicing for a month or more, you are also likely to see a glimpse of some of the health benefits forming. During this period you may also overcome some of the challenges of your unruly mind. This frustration is the single biggest cause that stops most people from practicing  before they achieve the accumulating health benefits. So, start off slow by practicing for just two or three minutes a day. As your ability to focus becomes stronger, steadily increase your practice time.

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How to Practice Mindfulness – Step #3 – The Power of Routine

Set up a daily practice routine. Find a time and a quiet space where you know you won’t be disturbed. Make sure the space you use is as comfortable as possible. You want to be able to sit in meditation for around two to three minutes and increase over time to around twenty minutes or longer. So, being able to sit in one position comfortably is key. Sitting on a cushion can be helpful for comfort. There is one myth with meditation that you must sit cross-legged on the floor.

Because of an old sports injury to my knee I have never been able to achieve a cross legged posture. However, I have now meditated for over twelve years quite successfully. In fact, my preference is to use a comfortable chair with a straight back or now back. The vital element is to be able to sit with a relaxed yet straight spine. So, don’t let the idea of sitting cross-legged be a barrier to successful practice.

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How to Practice Mindfulness – Step #4 – Why Mindful Breathing?

Breath watching meditation is one of the simplest and oldest forms of mindfulness meditation. This method works because we shift our focus onto our breath as it enters and leaves our body. By doing this our mind lets go of thinking about the past or dwelling on a future that is not here yet. Our breath happens in the here and now which makes it the perfect focus for mindfulness meditation practice.

Start by sitting comfortably with your spine straight. Take a few deep breaths and shift your focus onto your body. As you ‘check-in’, notice whats going on in your body. Notice any areas where you feel  tension or discomfort. On each out breath, feel these areas softening and becoming less tense.

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How to Practice Mindfulness – Step #5 – Mindfulness Meditation

Now that you have released any areas of tension or discomfort, it’s time to begin you mindfulness meditation. Shift your focus to your breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils. Notice how the air feels on your body as it slowly enters your body and then as it gently leaves your body. This is about becoming the observer. You are not trying to achieve anything. Every breath should feel natural, gentle and unforced. As a beginner, practice for just a few minutes at a time. Don’t panic if other thoughts keep popping into  your mind and you lose focus on your breathing. This happens to everyone. when they start mindfulness meditation.

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How to Practice Mindfulness – Step #6 – Zero Judgement Zone

Zero judgement is a critical success factor for successful mindfulness meditation. Everyone that starts meditation finds that their mind wanders away onto random thoughts or feelings of discomfort in our body. So, the key hear is to accept these as quite normal and to not react to them. Mindfulness meditation practice will strengthen your ability to focus over time. This practice is a bout letting go of distractions, not trying to fight them with your will. If you become distracted, simply notice it and without self-judgement, gently bring your focus back to your breathing.

This process of self-distraction can be very frustrating. If it continues, simply drop out of watching your breath for a moment to observe the distracting thought or body discomfort. The is at the absolute core of mindfulness practice. You are observing your mind and body without any judgement. There is neither good nor bad. There just is. Even if you spend a whole session as the neutral observer of your random thoughts or body discomfort you are still in a mindful state.

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How to Practice Mindfulness – Step #7 – Power of Repetition

With practice over time you will find that the distractions and frustrations slowly reduce. Steadily, random thoughts and body discomfort have less impact on your ability to maintain focus. Your mind becomes stronger and stronger in it’s ability to stay focused for a period of time. Just like a marathon runner who has practiced well, your endurance allows you to stay on track.

It’s  at this stage that the wonderful benefits of mindfulness meditation begin to strengthen both mind and body. Fearful thoughts about the future are replaced by an ability to focus on what’s happening now. You are no longer trapped by hurts from the past as you smile and enjoy life right now! You become aware of thought patterns that create negative emotional responses. With mindfulness practice we are able to break the cycle of negative mental patterns. In fact, with mindfulness practice we can learn to bring mindfulness into our everyday life which is covered in the next three steps.

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How to Practice Mindfulness – Step #8 – Mindfulness Exercises

As well as formal mindfulness meditation practice, it’s possible to bring the power of mindfulness into the way we live each day. Mindful living is where you can truly unleash the powerful you. Mindfulness is achieved when we bring our mind to focus on one point of focus in the here and now. Mindfulness practice allows us to reduce the impact of dwelling on negative or destructive thoughts.

As soon as we allow mind stress to jumble our thinking, harmful thought patterns can take over our mind. When I feel any mental stress during the day I use some simple mindfulness exercises to gently shift my mind back into focus. This can be a powerful way to re-energize your mind at any time during the day. You can do these mindfulness exercises any time, any where and people won’t even know that your are practicing mindfulness. If you would like to try out some of these powerful mindfulness exercises, check out my previous post 3 Simple Mindfulness Exercises.

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How to Practice Mindfulness – Step #9 – Mindful Living

I love using my mindfulness exercises to reduce mental stress during the work day. However, there are many other activities we can introduce to your mindful living toolkit. Here a are just a few of my favorites.

Anyone that reads more than a few of my regular posts will notice that I rave about using my personal writing journal. The act of writing in a journal is a great mindfulness practice. I use my journal for mind mapping, affirmations, gratitude lists, inspirational quotes and much more. Also, the act of reviewing and reflecting on your journal becomes a great mindfulness activity. When you become immersed in writing and positive reflection, it becomes nearly impossible for the mind to dwell on negative thoughts from the past or worry about the future.

The act of engaged reading can also be an effective mindfulness activity. Make the reading inspirational and you add the power of positive messages and emotions to the mix. Powerful stuff.

Explore Mindful Activities

In order to live mindfully, you can use any activity that makes your brain focus in the moment on one activity. You can even introduce mindful eating which can be beneficial to the digestion. Simply notice the color of your food and the texture and taste of each bite. How does it feel in your mouth as you continue to chew your food? What flavors can you pick up? Focus totally on each mouthful as you chew carefully and monitor the taste, feeling, sound and other sensations.

There are many activities that can be considered mindful. Here are a few you may like to try. Board games, crossword and other puzzles, gardening, meditation, mindfulness exercises and planning to name only a few. Mindful living is about finding activities that focus and engage your mind on one specific activity in the now. By doing this we can overcome the tyranny of dwelling on hurts from the past and worry about the future. So, find activities you enjoy that keep your mind focused and engaged in the now and feel the power of mindful living take hold.

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How to Practice Mindfulness – Step #10 – Powerful Habit

I’d like to challenge you to practice mindfulness for the next thirty days. That’s because it takes at least thirty days of daily repetition to form any new habit. For mindfulness practice, this means doing breath watching meditation for a few minutes each day.

Also, explore how to use mindfulness exercises and other mindfulness activities each day. If you do this for at least thirty days, you will give yourself the gift of the most powerful new habit you may ever form. You have nothing to loose except stress, frustration, fear and negative self talk.

To help you on your thirty day challenge, you may enjoy these other posts about mindfulness.

3 Simple Mindfulness Exercises

Understanding Mindfulness in Plain English

If you would like step by step meditation instruction,  you may like to check out my book on Amazon – How to Meditate for Beginners




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