Beginner’s Guide: Kick-Start Your Mindfulness Practice

Beginner’s Guide: Kick-Start Your Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness training has recently exploded in popularity — and with good reason. And with good reason. In the past 15 years, a laundry list of health benefits has been shown to stem from a regular mindfulness practice. From reducing chronic pain, to easing mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, to calming symptoms of ADHD in kids and maybe even staving off the brain changes that come with aging (source), the evidence is mounting in favor of mindfulness.

Starting a mindfulness practice of your own, then, could be a real game-changer for your health. As Thich Nhat Hanh writes for mindful.org, “Mindfulness is the energy that helps us recognize the conditions of happiness that are already present in our lives. You don’t have to wait ten years to experience this happiness. It is present in every moment of your daily life.

With this lofty — yet attainable — goal in mind, here’s what you need to know to get started.

Create Your Own Mindfulness Practice

Set goals.

Write down where, when and for how long you plan to meditate — and then what you want to get out of it, suggests mindfulness expert Charles Francis on HuffingtonPost.com. Failing to plan is planning to fail, after all.

mindfulness_practice_planning_positive_thinking

Start small.

As with any kind of exercise, breaking off the smallest piece you can chew will help get you going. ABC News reporter and mindfulness expert Dan Harris suggests in his best-selling book “10% Happier” to start meditating (sitting still and breathing deeply, trying to focus on your thoughts) for just five minutes at a time.

If the cushion-with-your-eyes-closed method sounds like too much, start by just breathing deeply and noticing your surroundings. Feeling the phone in your hand, hearing the sound of the air vents, noting the sights and smells around you — this is a great place to begin.

Try an activity.

Writing meditations, walking meditation and free drawing or coloring are all examples of activity-based mindfulness. You may find that some kind of encompassing task helps you stay engaged.

Seek training.

Mindful meditation meet-ups groups have sprung up across the world with some cities even home to dedicated mindfulness studios, such as MNDFL in New York. It’s often helpful to start with a trained teacher present who can guide you, just as you’d start an exercise routine with input and guidance from a trained fitness professional.

Mindfulness can have great benefits, but it’s not an easy path to get there. Let us know in the comments below how you’ve started your mindfulness practice — or how you’ve struggled with it.

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