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Mindfulness 101

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Mindfulness this, meditation that; everywhere we turn we're being told to still our thoughts. But what exactly is mindfulness?

What exactly is mindfulness?

The simplest definition of mindfulness is ‘present awareness’ – that is, being fully aware of your surroundings, how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking.

Doing so can help you better appreciate the simple pleasures in life (such as the taste of food) and help you take control of negative feelings. It’s common to think that sitting in meditation will provide a moment of enlightenment and, once you get to that point, everything will be better.

But the truth is, practising mindfulness is less about what happens ‘on the cushion’ and more about the profound effect it can have on your life.

How do you practice mindfulness?

Practising mindfulness is easy – all you have to do is focus on one thing at a time.

To begin, find a quiet space. It can be at your desk, at home before anyone else is awake, or in bed just before you go to sleep.

You can try yoga poses for mindfulness or one of the meditations below.

Mindfulness meditation #1

  • Sit comfortably in a chair or cross-legged on the floor
  • Draw your attention to your breath while you inhale and exhale three times
  • Now, bring your attention to the sounds around you
  • Notice the sounds in front of you, behind you, above and below you
  • Notice the background of silence or the slight silence between the sounds.

Mindfulness meditation #2

  • Choose a time of day when you can spend 5-10 minutes alone. You can be walking, sitting or standing
  • Bring your attention to your feet – become aware of the sensations, or absence of sensations. What are you noticing?
  • Bring your attention to your hands – what sensations are you noticing?
  • Whenever a thought arises, let it pass and bring your awareness back to your feet or hands

The benefits of mindfulness

Ever wondered, what the purpose is of mindfulness meditation? Research has detailed a host of benefits, including increased self-control, greater objectivity, improved concentration and mental clarity. It also has been shown to help reduce chronic pain and improve sleep.

Mindfulness teaches us to let go of judgement. By paying attention to the present moment – whether that be through focusing on our breath, listening to sounds or eating mindfully – we become aware of our thought patterns.

  • When you meditate, do you immediately judge yourself and think you can't do it?
  • When you eat mindfully are you irritated by the sound of chewing?
  • When you meditate do you feel there’s always something more important you should be doing?
These observations are what mindfulness is all about. It teaches us to notice our patterns. We might discover we get frustrated at the slightest thing, or that we feel irritation with certain noises, or that we doubt ourselves.

When we become aware of our thoughts , we create the ability to change them. Every moment becomes an opportunity to see if there’s another way of looking at things. You might begin to ask yourself, “How can I be gentler in this situation?”

How long should I meditate?

The good news is, your practice doesn’t need to be long. The Gawler Foundation recommends a two- to five-minute meditation – like the ones above – as many times as you can, throughout the week.