How to Practice Mindfulness? 6 Practical Ways to be Mindful


How to Practice Mindfulness? 6 Practical Ways to be Mindful

How to Practice Mindfulness? 6 Practical Ways to be Mindful

“The mind is like water. When it’s turbulent, it’s difficult to see. When it’s calm everything becomes clear”- Prasad Mahes. A wandering mind is an unhappy mind with littered thoughts lingering in your head and hindering your concentration, making your focus weak, ultimately leading to a life in which you exist yet don’t exist. It is definitely not a sign of a healthy mind. 

In this article, ‘How to Practice Mindfulness? 6 Practical ways to be Mindful’, we shall look into what mindfulness is, the concept and benefits behind it, why one should develop it, and also, explore ways to cultivate it. 


What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a way of entering into a relationship with the moment you are in without numbing yourself. It's an invitation to identify with what is timeless. It is a choice to live in a simple way without make-believe and covering up the moment with concepts of how it should be.

Mindfulness refers to attention that can be directed inside as well as outside of ourselves. Attention to feelings, body sensations, thoughts, or emotions, for example, are directed inwards. Attention to a conversation with a friend, trees in a forest, sounds, or a book, for instance, are directed outwards.

Mindfulness refers to attention in the ‘here' and ‘now’. Attention to the things that are happening at this very moment. This may sound easy, but how many times is our attention redirected by our thoughts?

Although thinking is undeniably very handy, as it allows us to make plans and solve difficult problems, at the same time, it often triggers many problems.


Why should you practice mindfulness?

The mind can get easily lost in endless thinking (worrying and rumination). Our thoughts create emotions and feelings like fear and sadness. We lie awake at night because we worry about what might happen tomorrow. We cannot stop thinking about that mistake we made last week. In our mind, we are constantly busy with the things that need to be completed.

Busy lives, Social media, technology, unhealthy lifestyle, lack of exercise, consumption of junk food, etc. are deteriorating the quality of our lives making us inane, weak, exhausted, and not-so-productive.

Life, as we know in the 21st century, is not easy. Innumerous studies and research articles illustrate the fact that our attention spans shrunk by almost 50% over the past decade. It is, perhaps, one of the dreadful after-effects of technological advances. Probably, our attention spans might keep dwindling as time progresses.

Let’s self-check. Where is your mind wandering at this moment? Is it focused on the screen right in front of you? Or is it thinking of something else? If you aren’t being able to focus on what’s present on the screen, you too are suffering from attention-related troubles, like many other people.

We, humans, are perhaps, our biggest and most pathetic critics. Insecurity, prejudices, negative self-talk, greed, selfishness, fury, frustration, and other overwhelming emotions take over our minds.

When the mind is baffled with such infuriating thoughts, the brain's learning, and growth centers shut down due to the release of neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and cortisol.

“The multitasking of our life has trained our mind and body to be distinct entities. Mindful stillness retrains your brain. We rush through the now to dwell in the past and future. A practice of mindful stillness reunites our mind and body by noticing our senses, experiencing and feeling moments more thoroughly and completely. With regular practice, we can learn to quiet the automatic endless chatter of thoughts to be more focused and aware of ourselves. By turning that ‘to do’ list into a ‘to be’ list and living with both purpose and intention you will discover increased self-awareness, personal fulfillment, and peace. Ram Das, a well-known American guide, psychologist, and motivational speaker, said, “the quieter we become, the more we hear.'' This increased ability to hear clearly will ultimately allow you to perform at your highest level” said a licensed physician, Dr. Liz Lehman.  

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The Wandering Mind 

The mind wanders, on average, 47% of the time. It means about half of your life span you are distracted!!! Isn't it heart-thudding? If your mind wanders 47% of the time, almost 50% of what you learn never finds its way into your brain. Even if it did, it would evaporate sooner or later due to lack of focus.

Benefits of practicing mindfulness?

Before we get into the topic, ‘how to practice mindfulness?’ let us first take a look at the benefits it has to offer. Practicing mindfulness has its own set of benefits that can take you to another level. Some of the major ones are noted below.

Helps ease stress, anxiety, and depression

An open clinical trial conducted on 5 children for 6 weeks studied the feasibility of mindfulness-based practices on children suffering from anxiety. As expected, it was demonstrated that mindfulness helps ease anxiety. “Mindfulness-based therapy is a promising intervention for treating anxiety and mood problems,” says American Psychological Association (APA).

Not only that, it also helps in dealing with social anxiety disorder by establishing self-esteem. Mindfulness-based practices decrease emotional reactivity and enhance emotional regulation. This suggests that you would have greater control over your emotions, which is the cornerstone of dealing with anxiety and related disorders.

A study was conducted on nursing students at KN University College of Nursing, South Korea. The subjects were divided into two groups. The first group was involved with mindfulness-based practices and the second group wasn’t. Astonishingly, the results suggested a significant decrease in symptoms related to depression, anxiety, and stress in the first group compared to the second group.

Makes you optimistic by altering your thinking patterns

As stated earlier, mindfulness enhances emotional regulation by reducing emotional reactivity. Practicing mindfulness alters your emotional responding by modifying your cognitive-affective processes. ‘Cognitive’ refers to knowledge, experience, and thoughts while ‘affective’ refers to emotions, feelings, and mood.

Your cognitive-affective qualities influence your behavior, the way you respond, and make decisions. Mindfulness can actually make you much optimistic by altering your thinking patterns.

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Enhances Emotional Regulation

Mindfulness-based practices like the breath-focused mindfulness task decrease negative emotional experience by reducing the activity of amygdala. The emotional trauma we suffer is sometimes due to the hyperactivity of amygdala, the region of the brain involved with processing information. Reduced activity in the amygdala implicitly suggests relief from mental trauma.

Increase Attention and focus

Perhaps, the most fundamental benefits of practicing mindfulness is that it improves your attention spans and focus. Mindfulness-based practices increase the activity in brain regions implicated in attention and learning. Pre-frontal cortex is the region of the brain involved in concentration and learning. Increased activity in prefrontal cortex suggests improved attention spans, alertness, vigilance, improved memory and focus.

How to practice mindfulness? 6 Practical ways to be mindful

It is important to start a mindfulness practice small and build upon it.  Because our attention is pulled in many directions these days, even 30 seconds of mindfulness can seem like a lot in the beginning. At the same time,  as little as 30 seconds can make a big difference, bringing a sense of calmness to your mind and body. Below are 6 practical ways to be mindful.

1.  Practice Breath awareness

According to Kristina Lopez, Meditation teacher, The simplest way to practice mindfulness begins with our breath. We can use our breath as a tool for mindfulness by using it to train our mind’s capacity to focus. Mindfulness is not about emptying the mind, but about habituating new ways of thinking and being. Try it right now by taking a breath and noticing what it’s like to breathe in this moment. Next, extend the amount of time you focus on your breath. At first this will be difficult. We have all types of distractions that arise from thoughts to feelings to sounds. These distractions are all okay. Mindfulness prepares us to notice things, but not get stuck building stories around them. We can practice mindfulness while walking. Feeling the ground beneath us as we walk. We can start a mindfulness meditation practice for just five minutes a day. Don’t start with an amount of time that is too difficult for you.

2.  Body scanning

(By Anne Emanuelli, Creative Director, Mindfulness frontiers)

Body scan relaxation practice can help you fall asleep and enjoy deep relaxation. Body scans are a quick and effective way to release tension in the body and mind. Body scans use breathing and focus to release energy within the body in a systematic way. 

The head to toe scan: This body scan takes the practitioner’s attention one area at a time starting with the crown of the head and ending with the toes. It should take about 20 minutes and can take even longer if the practitioner wishes. Starting at the top of the head, using breath and focus, attention is placed on the crown and then moved down the body.  With awareness, curiosity and mindfulness feelings or sensations are welcomed. As the body scan progresses, attention is placed one area at a time: the face, forehead, eye area, nose, cheeks, mouth, and chin. The same kind of breathing and focus is placed as attention is moved down the body:  back of head; shoulders; chest; mid back, hips, thighs, knees, calves, ankles and feet, ending with the toes. 


The toe to head scan: This body scan is the same as the previous one, except for the direction of the focus. Starting with toes, attention and breath is directed upward through the legs, abdomen, chest, shoulders, back of head, face, crown. 


Tensing and releasing body scan: This body scan can be effective at helping a person fall asleep as the body parts being focused on are tensed as breath is held and then released as the breath is expelled. The act of alternately tensing and releasing muscles is an effective way to encourage relaxation. 

With all of these body scans, the key is to go slow and to keep the focus on using breath as an anchor of attention. The mind directs its attention to the body parts while the breath connects with these parts and encourages release of tension and relaxation. The reason body scans can release and relax is because in meditation, we use the breath as our anchor of attention. As our focus is directed, so does the breath and between attention and breath, the formula leads to relaxation through mindfulness of intention.

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3.  Pay Attention to things

Pay attention to what's happening around you. Be receptive. Don't try to do multiple tasks at a time. Instead, focus one at a time. When you are eating, let your taste buds bloom and be delighted with the flavor of food. 

When you jog or exercise, feel the pump of your heart, the warmth of your skin, and the sweat, of course. According to Amy Zellmer, Wellness coach, The easiest way to practice mindfulness in any situation, is to simply bring your awareness to your breath. Allowing yourself to feel your chest rise on the inhale, and fall on the exhale. Begin to look around you and notice the colors and shapes around you. Do this simple exercise whenever you feel stressed and overwhelmed.

4.  Meditation

It's most definitely, the best way. By meditating, you let yourself focus more and increase your concentration rather than letting your mind wander. According to the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, meditation may change brain and immune function in positive ways. It is quite simple to begin with. Find a comfy spot and attire in something snug. Sit down, close your eyes, rest your hands gently on your thighs, keep your spine erect, and focus on your breathing. As you breathe in, feel the air filling your lungs. As you exhale release the tension and stress. Make sure that the exhaling period should be longer than the inhaling period.

5.  Cut down on Social Media

Depending on what you use it for, social media can be both beneficial and malignant. But a major bummer with social media is that it feeds you with unnecessary, junky information. The AI glues your nose to the screen of your device. It keeps displaying the relevant info based on your queries and searches. Undoubtedly, social media can be claimed, the birthplace of innumerous gossips and rumors.

Keep your distance from social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. For, they drain you off your energy and get you stuck in the rut by making you over think and damaging your self-esteem.

6.  Cultivate healthy habits

By strengthening the pre-existing connection of the mind, body, and the soul, you can become a holistically healthy person. To achieve such a state of mind, one must inculcate a few health habits and renounce the unhealthy ones.

Eat healthy and nutritious food.  Follow a proper diet, one that suits you. Try to cut down on junk food as much as possible.  No matter what, take some time for yourself, and get into proper shape. Because an unhealthy body makes for an unhealthy mind. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs which taint your mind, making you numb and lose focus. Wake up early and sleep early to curb bad habits and maintain your emotional well-being.

Engage yourself with a hobby like playing chess, sudoku, carroms, etc. They improve your concentration and sharpen your mind.

When you wake up, early in the morning practice this simple yet effective exercise. Feel five things that touch you. Feel four things you see, three things you hear, two things you smell, and one thing you taste. By doing this, you are just giving a morning boost to your senses and are being receptive.

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Concluding: ‘How to Practice Mindfulness?’

According to Carrie Jeroslow, Author, Consistency is key.  Making a commitment to doing it every day is the best gift you could give to yourself. 

Nothing is easy. Nothing is impossible either. Every one of us has powers that we don't know. Hidden and locked within our minds. Once you start controlling your mind, bit by bit, your life will become easier.  All you need to do is stay calm and do the needful.

I hope my article, ‘How to Practice Mindfulness? 6 Practical ways to be Mindful’ is of assistance. Subscribe to my newsletter and get all updates delivered straight into your inbox.


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