Mindfulness is all over the news these days, with people touting research-backed benefits like stress reduction, better grades, improved emotional regulation and even boosting you towards your weight loss goals. Here at Promega we have offered yoga classes and meditation sessions for years, and we just finished an 8 week internally developed mindfulness training program.
The approach was to present mindfulness techniques in a “profoundly lighthearted” way. As participants, we were encouraged to be our own test subjects and experiment. In the 30-minute Friday group sessions we learned about a new aspect of mindfulness through teachings, stories and practice and were then encouraged to practice throughout the week. The results were nothing less than life-changing for some participants. Here are a few techniques you can experiment with incorporating into your life.
This is a simple practice that, from my experience, can benefit almost anyone. To practice focused awareness, first find a comfortable place to sit. Close your eyes and start to focus on your breath. I tend to feel my breath most prominently in my chest but you may also feel it in your nose or in your belly. Feel each inhale and exhale and keep your attention on that. Know that it is natural for your mind to wander. Each time your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath gently and non-judgmentally. Think of it like an exercise routine—each time you bring your attention back to your breath, you are doing an exercise. Like a bicep curl, and the more you do it, the easier it will get. Research has shown that doing this for just 10 minutes a day can change neural pathways in the brain.
Three Minute Pause
The three minute pause can be used anywhere and is great for allowing you to get some perspective in a stressful or tense situation. To do this, you may want to excuse yourself from the room for a few minutes and find a place where you can sit alone. Here are the three components of the three minute pause.
- Noticing: Pause for a moment to notice how the situation you are in is affecting your body, thoughts and emotions. Do you have sweaty palms or an increased heart rate? Are your thoughts a negative story about yourself or the others in the room? Are you feeling stressed, angry or nervous? Just take inventory of how you are doing.
- Grounded centeredness: Just take a few breaths focusing on the inhale and exhale. Do your best to just experience this moment. This is just like what we did above with focused awareness.
- Expanding: Expand those few centering breaths to a body scan. Start with your feet and breathe relaxation into them, then move on to your legs, torso, chest, arms, etc. until you reach the top of your head. Next count on your ten fingers, ten things that you are grateful for and that support your life. This could be as small as the chair you are sitting on or the banana you ate for breakfast. When you have finished that, set an intention for how you’d like to re-enter the situation. You could have an intention to remain centered, to not let anger get the best of you or to listen better.
Think back to an emotionally charged situation where you acted in a way you later regretted. Do you think the three minute pause could have helped that situation?
There are a few things that are helpful to keep in mind, especially when beginning mindfulness practices. First, you must be kind to yourself and try to be non-judgmental. Second, know that your mind will wander. That constantly thinking mind is the mind that got you to where you are today. The purpose of mindfulness is not to turn off the mind, but to notice how your mind likes to work and present yourself with opportunities to remain in the present moment.
Start experimenting with these techniques or other mindfulness techniques and let us know how it goes in the comments below!