Getting Started with Mindfulness

Relaxation

If you are interested in getting started with Mindfulness, these exercises all share the same principles:

  • An acceptance of distractions (they are inevitable);
  • A goal of sustaining pure awareness in our present experience;
  • Try to keep an open, curious and non-judging attitude – each experience is different!
  • It’s helpful to think about this in terms of two parts of our minds:

The observing self  that we connect with when we experience pure awareness and engagement in the present moment, the part of us that simply notices the world.
The judging self  which we experiences when we are caught up in thoughts and emotions regarding the past, future, some internal sensation or external distraction from what we are doing.

Obviously our thoughts and emotions and memories are important, but connecting with the observing self through mindfulness activities allows us to interact with our thoughts and emotions and memories in a new and helpful way.

1: One Minute Observing

Use any object, and spend one minute observing it with all your senses, just noticing it in the present moment, non-judgmentally and curiously with ‘pure awareness’.

This is very difficult to sustain without thoughts or sensations taking some of your attention resources. Instead of fighting with these urges, thoughts and feelings, that seem to pull your mind away from the simple activity, gently label them “that’s boredom” or “that’s a memory” or “that’s a noise outside”, and return your awareness to the object. Don’t try to block, change or control distractions, just gently label them and return to the object.

Once you improve at this label and relocate technique, it becomes easy to allow distractions to play on in the background like a radio on low volume. This is a new kind of relationship with thoughts (they are words and pictures that come and go in my mind). This can then be used to deal with intrusive thoughts and worries and self-criticism, or thoughts and emotions that keep you from doing important things.

2: Body and Senses Scan – Take a Walk

Take a walk and try to keep your awareness in different parts of your body as you move. This is called a body scan.

peace addictionsSimilar to the last exercise, try to take an attitude of open curious non-judging awareness, and just notice with all your attention. Move your awareness around your body.

Then apply all your awareness outside your body through all your senses: focus on smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing the world around you without judgment. Accept everything that comes and simply notice how it constantly changes as you move, notice all the complexity in the sensory experiences when you fully tune in. Close your eyes to listen, and cover your ears to see, and notice the present moment experience with the curiosity of a child.

This activity of body scan and sensory scan while walking outdoors can also be done in everyday activities such as doing the dishes, eating a meal, having a shower, etc. You will begin to notice a sense of calm and centering when you get practice at this. It will help you to experience the flow state and connect to the present moment in a rich way. A new appreciation for the noticing self arises and you will recognise the relaxation effect as the mental clutter of the day decays into a more meditative state.

In sport and performance this is the ideal state of present moment sensory awareness that facilitates peak performance, and helps athletes cope with extreme pressure. In stressful situations the focus on breathing or a body scan or sensory scan can act as a sanctuary to regain a calm focused mind, the best state for problem solving.

3: Breathing Band-Aid

Take ten slow controlled breaths with the same focus and attitude as the previous activities.

Take a short comfortable pause between each breath in and out, and try to let your out breath extend twice as long as your in breath. This is tricky at first but if you give it a chance you can get in a rhythm comfortably within a few breaths. Try to keep your awareness squarely focused on your body taking ten controlled slow breaths and the relaxation response that comes with this.

This can be seen as a psychological band-aid. In times of stress or sadness or feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, taking ten focused controlled breathes can help dramatically in connecting to the present moment and reducing physiological arousal. If it helps you to focus, you can whisper each number out very slowly with your long outbreath to keep your mind focused.

Abra GarfieldAuthor: Abra Garfield, Sport and Performance Psychologist BSc (Hon), MPsych (sport and exercise).

To make an appointment with Abra Garfield try Online Booking – Loganholme or call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129.