What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a meditation technique focused on being fully present. We tend to let our minds wander back and forth between the past and the future. Often we’re thinking about what’s coming next, or find ourselves dwelling on the past, and these patterns can easily lend themselves to anxiety. There are many benefits to embracing the present moment, even if just for short periods of time, and that is the basis of mindfulness.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Some of the notable benefits of mindfulness are stress-reduction, self-acceptance, and emotional regulation. Adolescence can be a challenging time, both socially and academically, and mindfulness is one of the most useful ways to deal with those challenges! Research has shown mindfulness to be particularly effective for those who struggle with mental disorders such as ADHD, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
How is mindfulness practiced?
The best place to start with mindfulness is breathing. When we give as much attention as possible to each inhale and exhale, we often find a sense of calmness. Of course, we still have thoughts and feelings when we focus on our breathing, and that’s okay – that's a part of mindfulness too! Rather than reacting immediately to those thoughts and feelings, however, we try first to notice them, and then choose how we want to respond. While mindfulness starts with us paying attention to the here and now, the ultimate goal is to give ourselves the mental distance we need from our disturbing thoughts and emotions, and train ourselves to thoughtfully respond to them rather than reacting immediately.
5 minute guided mindfulness exercise:
Begin to breathe. Air should fill your abdomen so that your belly begins to protrude. As you take the air in, feel it rise up into your chest and broaden your ribs. Hold the breath for a second and exhale in reverse fashion, with your chest and then your abdomen releasing air. Wait a few seconds and then repeat. Try this a few times, breathing slowly and consciously.
Start by sitting or lying down. Making sure your breath is still slow and steady, try to relax the muscles in your forehead and face. This sounds strange, but we often have a lot of tension built up in these muscles. Next, progress down to the muscles in your neck and shoulders. You may gently roll your neck and circle your shoulders if you’d like. Now, try to relax your arms and release any tension you might have in your hands and fingers. Gradually shift your focus to your abdomen and back. Progress down to the hips, thighs, knees, and feet. Lastly, try to notice any points of tension you’re still feeling. Take a few deep breaths, and try once more to relax those muscles as best as you can, while remaining focused on your breathing.