If your new year resolution is to have a healthier body and mind, or the past year has been mentally challenging, whatever your reason to work toward better mental health, mindfulness is for you.
When can you start your mindfulness journey?
Before you decide to dive in head first, there are things you may need to consider.
As you would consult your doctor before taking up running or weight training if you suffered with a bad back or knee, so should you ensure readiness to practice mindfulness.
The first thing to consider is your current state of mental health; whether you been suffering anxiety, depression, or other mental difficulties in recent months. If so, consult with your mental health doctor, and confirm whether now is the right time for you to start mindfulness practice.
If you are asked to wait don’t worry! There are other things you can do start your mindfulness journey. So, read on…
What does it involve?
Mindfulness involves learning skills that are transferable to other aspects of your life. A mindfulness program helps you to understand the Doing Vs Being mode of the mind.
In the doing mode least mental processing takes place to perform a task; the “autopilot mode”. Examples include, multitasking or brushing your teeth. It could also include your reaction when your boss points out an error in your spreadsheet. Your instant reaction could be to either blame yourself and apologise. Or curse, and blame the other person.
The being mode is where you take the time to “be” in the moment. It means while brushing your teeth you may not only smell and taste the flavour of the paste, you may notice whether you are exerting too much or too little pressure on the teeth. To your bosses observation you may choose to stay calm, make a note of the error, and take time to investigate the reason for the error.
This skill helps you to grow your knowledge base, innovate, become resilient and adapt to new challenges, rather than follow the old routine of blame, shame and anger.
Most of all, mindfulness involves being kind, compassionate and non-judgmental to yourself.
The duration of a mindfulness program is usually 8 weeks, with sessions ranging between 90mins to 2hrs, depending on the setting. It also involves daily commitment to practice the tools.
Where do you start?
So, if you are ready to understand the Doing Vs Being mode and put in the time and effort to learn a new skill, there are some good mindfulness self-help books and apps. If not, don’t worry.
Another option is to start your journey with a mindfulness teacher. The knowledge and guidance you receive during a session can be therapeutic. Individual sessions give you the personalized attention you need, teaching mindfulness tools that you are comfortable with.
Mindfulness sessions are also carried out in group settings. Group sessions help build a sense of community and knowing that you are not alone in the way you feel.
If understanding the Doing Vs Being is overwhelming, then you can start with this simple breathing awareness tool (as an exercise. If your doctor suggests you wait awhile before you undertake a mindfulness session, follow his/ her advice. Once you are ready, start out with simple activities that you enjoy doing. It could be playing an instrument, paddle boarding, swimming, yoga, walking or running for instance.
On a walk, notice the pace at which you are walking; do you walk with your toes landing first or sole? How is the texture of the surface you are walking on? What do you think of the air temperature around you, and how the air feels against your skin? How do the smells and sights around you affect you? Do you notice the movement of your arms, legs, and the rhythm of your breath etc.
The emphasis is on observation, without labelling or judging. In the adjacent video, watch the shapes, the colours and the way the light falls on the object, as it unfolds. If thoughts pop up in your mind that is okay just bring your attention back to the object.