Written By: DiveThru Team
Reviewed By: Dr. Justin Puder B.A, M.A, Ph.D.
Written By: DiveThru Team
Reviewed By: Dr. Justin Puder B.A, M.A, Ph.D.
It’s no secret that we’re all feeling like our world is turned entirely upside down right now. There’s the daily stuff keeping us busy — school, work, family, and friends — and the scarier/bigger stuff like inflation, cost of living, war, the ongoing climate crisis, you name it. It’s hard to escape those constant feelings of fear and anxiety about everything that’s going on. So how do we unwind and rest?? Well, with a practice that has actually been around for years and years! This article is a little intro to mindfulness for beginners — for anyone who just wants to feel better, really.
You may have seen the term mindfulness trending on Instagram and TikTok. It has become an increasingly popular approach for many individuals to alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression! It is so beneficial for mental health and it’s an approach included in various current psychotherapies.
So if you’re wondering,
What exactly is mindfulness, and how do I practice it?
How do I know when it’s “working”?
And what are its benefits??
We’re about to answer all of those! Let’s break down everything you need to know to get started on your mindfulness journey and incorporate it into your busy busy life.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that engages you in the present moment by tuning in to your mind, sensations, and physical emotions. It is a process of becoming aware of your thoughts and emotions without labeling them as “positive” or “negative” and instead allowing them to flow freely. This can help you self-regulate your emotions when dealing with stress and worry, allowing you to be less consumed by them.
Mindfulness is not a new practice. It has been practiced for literally thousands of years, and derives from Buddhist meditative techniques. It was only approximately 50 years ago that it was brought into Western medicine, mainly owing to the work of molecular scientist Jon Kabat-Zinn.
The best part about mindfulness is that we all have the ability to practice it! But it is something that you must tune into and learn how to access, a skill which takes a little bit of time and effort to develop.
Throughout his study, Kabat-Zinn found mindfulness to be so beneficial that he tested the techniques on people with chronic pain, with incredible results. By practicing mindfulness, they lowered their levels of pain, improved their quality of sleep, and felt greater life satisfaction.
Short answer? It helps you lead a mentally healthier and more fulfilling life. The practice comes with a lot of benefits to your health, both physical and mental. We mention better sleep and lower levels of chronic pain but the list goes on!
These are just a few of the other advantages of practicing mindfulness:
Mindfulness helps you pay attention to and examine your thoughts and feelings. When you focus your attention in this way, it actually helps you understand those thoughts and feelings that are racing through your head. Cool, right??
Same goes for when you’re stuck in autopilot mode (literally the opposite of racing). If you find yourself driving to work and completing zoning out the entire way there, or going through your work day in a daze, mindfulness could do the trick to get your sweet little brain engaged again.
Beginning a new practice can be hella intimidating, we know! First things first. Mindfulness is not actually about having an “empty” mind without any intruding thoughts. Your thoughts will always be there and if they happen to pop in while you’re practicing mindfulness, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed.
What you wanna strive for is what Dr. Justin Puder describes as “moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness of the present” in his course on an Intro to Mindfulness. Let’s break that down!
“Moment-to-moment” means being aware of moments as they’re happening instead of focusing on the past or the future.
“Non-judgmental” means not labelling your thoughts as good or bad, positive or negative and just letting them be.
“Awareness of the present” means paying attention to what you’re experiencing in the present and taking in those experiences to the fullest.
Sounds easy, right? Well, there’s a bit more to learn!
One of the first things Dr. Justin Puder teaches us is that your breath is such a powerful tool and it can be used to regulate your body. Did you know the average human breathes more than 20,000 times each day?? Did you know that how you breathe can actually impact what happens in your brain?
Our breath is a direct communicator between our body and mind that may be used at any moment to ground ourselves. That’s why the breath is called an anchor in the practice of mindfulness! It’s pretty dang important — just like a ship’s anchor.
If life’s got you feeling like you’re rocking up and down in the waves, your breath can keep you steady. Cheesy, maybe, but also true. Don’t sleep on your mindfulness breathing exercises.
Let’s do a basic one together! Get comfy and sit or lay down in a position that can allow your lungs to expand.
Now, activate mindful breathing by deepening, slowing down, and observing your breath.
Breathe in for a count of 4, hold it for a count of 4, then breathe out for a count of 4. That’s all there is to it — just repeat those counts as many times as you need.
As you’re breathing, if you notice your thoughts trying to pop in to remind you that you haven’t finished studying for your midterm or finalized your quarterly report yet, bring your attention back to your breath moving through your lungs. Always try to bring your attention back to your breath.
There are also tons more breathing exercises in Dr. J’s Intro to Mindfulness course in the DiveThru app if you wanna learn a few other techniques!
Could we ever pass up the opportunity to tell you about journaling?? Nope. We’re journaling stans.
Journaling is a practice that lets you take the messy tangled thoughts and feelings in your head and dump them all onto a crisp piece of paper (or in your crisp Notes app).
If breathing exercises aren’t your thing (totally forgiven) then you can use journaling to bring some awareness into your every day. Here are a few mindfulness journal prompts that might get you started on your moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness of the present:
How am I feeling in this moment?
If I was to pause in this moment and take a look at my surroundings, what do I notice?
How can I accept today without judgment?
What can I do right now to feel more grounded in the present moment?
What am I dwelling on in this moment and what do I want to dedicate my focus to?
Alright alright, maybe journaling isn’t your thing either (honestly though, so good for mental health). But as you can tell already, there are so many ways to practice mindfulness. Maybe you’re a person who prefers movement and activity to release tension and work through stress! That’s cool too!
You can totally use movement to practice mindfulness — and still get all of the benefits. Heavy duty exercise, also defined as whatever makes you sweat, is really great at keeping your mind focused on how hard you’re breathing/sweating/working in that moment.
But you can get the same reverie through a walk or any type of movement, really! Bring your attention to the way the ground feels beneath your feet, the way the sun feels on your face or the number of dogs in the park! People-watching is pretty great for keeping you in the present too…just saying.
You can also focus on observing your body in movement. Pay attention to the sensations in your body and observe how it feels as you’re walking or doing yoga. Always remember a key part of practicing mindfulness is being present without judgment.
We explored only a few tips to practice mindfulness for beginners! To really dig into it, take Dr. Justin Puder’s Introduction to Mindfulness course or check out the 14 Day Mindfulness Practice in the DiveThru app. It’ll give you a ton of mindfulness exercises and day-by-day guidance on how to start your practice.
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