Here are 7 mindfulness choices for people who aren’t naturally mindful.
7 Mindfulness Choices for People Who Aren’t Naturally Mindful
Let’s face it. Most of us aren’t born meditators. We don’t get out of bed in the morning excited to sit still and quiet. Unfortunately, that’s what many folks imagine when they think of mindfulness.
I’ve got good news: Even non-mindful, distracted, busy people can learn mindfulness. Here are some what’s, why’s and how’s.
What is mindfulness?
It is a practice that helps you be calm, aware and criticism-free.
Why is mindfulness important?
Our crazy American lifestyle promotes busyness, multi-tasking and self-criticalness. The outcome of this is a society where many people feel exhausted, anxious, distracted and irritable.
Mindfulness is really GOOD for you. Here are 6 benefits:
*Mindfulness helps you calm down. This calming is not only emotional calming but also biological calming. Mindfulness can help strengthen the parts of the brain that promote *calm down* and reduce the stress hormones that make you feel anxious.
*Mindfulness can help increase positive mood. The more you practice mindfulness, the more you may notice that your general mood is improving. A pleasant mood is way better for you than a grouchy, distracted mood.
*Mindfulness can reduce rumination. When you ruminate, you find yourself thinking over and over about something without solving it. This is often what we do when we are criticizing ourselves. We just criticize but never come to a way of making it better. Mindfulness often helps the brain move past the stuck neural circuits that cause rumination.
*Mindfulness can improve working memory. Have you ever noticed that the more stressed you get, the more you forget all that stuff you need to remember? Stress makes it hard to store and retrieve information. Mindfulness, in contrast, helps your brain to stay sharp (or even improve) the ability to store and retrieve all that important stuff.
*Mindfulness can help you manage your temper. People who practice mindfulness often find that they experience less *emotional reactivity* (angry outbursts, temper, meltdowns).
*Mindfulness can improve your immune system. Some people report fewer sick visits to the doctor because, over time, mindfulness has reduced the stress hormones that suppress the immune system.
With so many benefits, what stops people from adopting some mindfulness practices? Because it sounds boring, they feel too busy or they simply don’t know how.
The good news is that there are ENDLESS ways to practice mindfulness. You can find one or more that actually fit your personality- EVEN if you aren’t a naturally mindful person. Here are 7 mindfulness choices for people who aren’t naturally mindful.
*Deep breathing. Take 2-3 minutes at bedtime to breathe. Stressed people tend to breath shallowly, not good for reducing the daily stress hormones. Oxygen from deep breathing will help you feel calmer and sleep better. Try it nightly for 2 weeks and see if you don’t notice a difference. Here is a freebie download on how to do a mindfulness deep breathing exercise at bedtime.
*Mindful walking. Take a 15 minute or longer walk but leave your headphones and hassles at home. On this walk, don’t do any problem-solving but keep bringing your mind back to noticing three things:
- How your body is feeling
- What you see, hear and smell
- What is beautiful
Mindful walking can be even better if you can walk in the woods. (Korean and Japanese cultures call this *Forest Bathing*.) Did you know that trees produce phytoncides that boost our body’s health. Just looking at trees reduces your stress hormones? If you don’t have woods, but can be near a few trees you’ll have an even better calming response than simple mindful walking.
*Laughter. Relieves stress, releases happy hormone. Find something to laugh about in normal life. (Not sarcasm or self-criticism, just fun.) For mindful laughing:
- Stay in the moment
- Notice the fun
- Notice how laughing makes you feel
*Prayer. There are lots of different kinds of prayer. Some prayer is not meant to be calming. (Intercessory prayer, for instance, often requires lots of big feelings.) However, there are some very cool and calming kinds of being-with-God prayer. Here are a few:
- Noticing prayer. Here is a post about noticing. Here is a freebie on how to practice Ignatian Examen, which is one of my favorite prayer practices.
- Listening prayer. Prayer should not be a one-way conversation from us at God. He has some things to say. Here is a post on listening prayer.
*Coloring. I can’t tell you how many of my clients love mindful coloring! When you color mindfully, pick something to color that requires some focus, but not too much. Then, while you color, calmly keep your mind on:
- How your body is feeling
- What you are enjoying about the activity, stay in the moment
- What is beautiful
- Being judgement free. NO criticism allowed.
(Other forms of art can be mindful, too.)
*Gratitude Lists. Take a few minutes each day to create a written list of things you are thankful for. If you keep it up for a month, I’ll bet you notice the difference! This is my favorite daily mindfulness practice. Here’s a post on how-to.
*Puzzles. Jigsaw, sudoku and other puzzles can be wonderful mindful activities. When you mindfully puzzle:
- Keep your mind on what you doing
- Concentrate on the things you are enjoying about the puzzle
- NO self-criticism about your performance
- Avoid time-pressure
I promised 7 mindfulness choices for people who aren’t naturally mindful. Here’s an 8th choice for a bonus!
*Gardening. People who love gardening will tell you that they feel most calm and happy when they are outside working with their plants.
- Keep your mind on the garden
- Notice the sensory things around you:
- How the soil feels and smells
- The progress of the plants
- The sounds of birds and insects
- Refrain from judgements or predictions (especially avoid *What-ifs*)