Mindfulness 101

Mindfulness––a word that I feel is gradually being brought up more and more in conversation on social media platforms, and, well, everywhere else. Yet even if it is picking up in popularity, I cannot say I fully believe that many people actually know what mindfulness is since it’s still a moderately new concept. So let’s break it down!

What is mindfulness? If you Google “mindfulness,” there are two definitions you will immediately see. Although both are pretty much the same definition, the second one is more in-depth, which is the one we’ll focus on:

“Mindfulness (noun): 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.”

Now, what does this definition mean? Mindfulness is taking a moment to pause. It’s giving yourself a breather from the hectic day, or even the perfectly calm day, you may be having. To stop and give yourself a chance to understand what has caused your day to be hectic or perfectly calm. To allow yourself the opportunity to think and feel. To appreciate yourself.

Mindfulness is reviewing your own thoughts and emotions. In no way, shape, or form are you criticizing or hating yourself for whatever may be racing or calmly strolling through your head. You are, simply, ––as the Google definition said–– acknowledging the thoughts and feelings you’re currently dealing with and learning how to coexist with them. Not acting as though they don’t exist, while also not letting them consume you.

With mindfulness, there is no force. You are not forcing change upon yourself. It is merely training your brain to create a better way to interpret and act upon the information, whether good or bad, it is taking in.

Simply view it as understanding where your thoughts or feelings are coming from and why they keep occurring, especially those negative ones. You may unconsciously have a negative thought pattern, further leading you to act out negative behaviors, triggered by a certain event or a variety of events. Either way, mindfulness helps you recognize these negative thought patterns when they are bubbling up and learn to label them as simply what they are: a thought or feeling. By constantly simplifying these thoughts or emotions to something small and independent of one another, you begin to not be as bothered by them.

In fact, you learn to embrace these thoughts and feelings and grow as a person from them.

I want to add that you can practice mindfulness even when you are having a great, positive day or an average day with nothing special going on. It is important to recognize good thinking habits and positively reinforce them so that your brain will continue doing so. It’s like giving your brain a pat on the back! You want to promote good behavior.

You may be reading this article thinking, “Wow. This sounds super easy and simple enough to do,” well, that’s mindfulness. It sounds like something we all should already be doing on a constant basis, but, unfortunately, that’s not the case whatsoever. In actuality, we aren’t used to practicing mindfulness at all because we are not used to caring for our mental health.

Because of this, we need to use tools in order to help us become more mindful, which will also teach us how to love and appreciate ourselves more. The automatic response for what is the best tool for practicing mindfulness is meditation.

And I know––the moment a good chunk of people hear meditation, they are immediately turned off. And why? “It takes up so much time.” “It’s too boring.” “There are so many other better things I could be doing!”

Let’s debunk these statements!

In regards to meditation taking up “so much time,” in actuality, meditation only needs about five minutes of your day. Five. You can even meditate for longer than five minutes, as I personally do for approximately ten minutes a day. For me, it allows a sufficient amount of time to sort through my thoughts and feelings as there is usually a lot to sort through! However, the minimum should be at least five minutes––and there is absolutely no excuse as to why or how a person cannot spare a mere five minutes of their day to meditate.

Now let’s hit the “it’s too boring” comment. This is where I will like to talk about the difference between guided and unguided (or silent) meditation. It is very easy to be intimidated by unguided meditation, which I believe is the first one people usually think of in regards to doing meditation on your own. When you meditate, the session surprisingly goes faster than you would expect. You are allowing yourself to enter your mind and wander around for a bit––and, trust me, there is a lot you’ll run into up in those seemingly short five minutes.

As a beginner to meditation, I found it difficult to do unguided meditation. It is ultimately you and perhaps a timer (to make sure you do your five minutes, of course). By starting off with unguided meditation, you don’t know any specific meditation techniques like noting, visualization, body scan, and much, much more––all of which guided meditation teaches you how to do, so you can determine which is the best fit for you.

So not only does guided meditation teach you these techniques, but it also keeps you concentrated on your goal at hand, which is meditation and, ultimately, mindfulness. Going back to unguided meditation, let’s be real––sometimes your thoughts enjoy wandering off so much that it is difficult wrangling them back onto the path at hand. Guided helps you remain on track. Eventually, you can switch over to unguided if you feel like that’s your preferred meditation, but it’s all on a person-to-person basis on what their mind can handle and do.

For guided meditation, I enjoy using the app Headspace. However, there are other apps you can use like Calm, Simple Habit, Exhale, and much more to choose from. In addition, we shouldn’t forget about our friend, YouTube!

I want to end this article with a recommendation, which I personally love and am always excited for whenever I meditate. Two words: meditation journal! Immediately after you meditate, it does not hurt to spend a few extra minutes writing (or drawing, for those artists out there) whatever is currently on your mind. Because, as I said earlier, there is a lot up in that brain of yours and it’s screaming to come out.

Meditation for me is like taking a class, one that you are very invested in and love being in, and learning so much new information that you need to do something with all of it. There is nothing better than having a journal where you spill whatever is going on through your head post-meditation, or what did go through your head during meditation. At least in my experience with meditation, you normally end meditation with such a strong sense of clarity that you’ll notice a change in your way of thinking, which is most evident when you meditate a couple times but can occur after your first session.

You can, of course, talk about your experience with others, but there is something so euphoric and relieving about discussing that experience with yourself first, whether it be through words or art. I look at it as finally allowing yourself to be free and show off who you are to not only others but yourself as well.

Something I am extremely excited for about post-meditation journaling is: if you journal consistently after each meditation session, you will be able to track your progress. Tell me, what else is better than being able to look back and witness your own personal growth through a physical medium? I am a sucker for personal growth, so I absolutely love it.

With that, your class on Mindfulness 101 is now dismissed!

I will share more tips and my own experience in regards to my mindfulness journey in later articles. For now, thank you for reading!