The benefits of meditation are well-known; but calming the mind and concentrating on breathing patterns can be harder than it sounds. Especially when beginning, even two minutes of mindful stillness can seem like an eternity and cause restlessness — the opposite effect that meditation works to achieve. So how does one practice mindfulness?
Why not ease into a mindful practice with activities that promote peacefulness while still engaging the senses? Eventually over time, incorporating two to three minutes of breathing exercises and traditional meditation techniques may seem easier. Or, make one or more of these activities your permanent meditation ritual.
Easy Ways to Practice Mindfulness
Knitting isn’t just for grandmothers; it’s a trend that has gained a lot of traction with younger generations, turning into an art form and creative outlet, in addition to a calming mechanism. How does it work? Instead of focusing on breathing techniques, concentrate on the repetitive knit and purl stitches. More intricate patterns require increased focus, and the desire to prevent a mistake will keep your mind on its task.
Connecting with nature helps to also reconnect with yourself; and those with a green thumb (or not) find many benefits from playing in the dirt. From the scent of the flowers and soil to the feel of the sun’s warmth, gardening is yet another way to direct and narrow our attentions. Whether you’re pulling weeds or planting groups of bulbs, the effects are similar.
Our bodies were built to move, and walking is a wonderful cardiovascular exercise that also benefits the mind and soul by allowing you to practice mindfulness. Walking meditation isn’t the time to get your heart rate up and work up a sweat; it’s a relaxing stroll where each sense takes its turn to tap into the world around you. What does that mean?
While walking, listen to each sound, one at a time, whether it is the birds, laughing voices, the wind, or car engines. Then turn your attention to scents (this is better in a downtown area busy with bakeries and restaurants). After a while, pay attention to the rhythmic movement of your arms and then legs, or bring your focus to your head and how it feels on your neck. In some cases, walking has proven to be as beneficial as other body-mind-soul practices, like Tai Chi.
Even cleaning is made up of mechanical and rhythmic motions that center the brain on one task at a time. Open the windows to allow in fresh air and then focus on one room, task, or corner. Before you know it, an hour or two may have passed and not only will you feel relaxed, but enjoying a clean home is a stress-reducer itself.
Coloring and Play Therapy
Take a breather from adult life and tap into your inner child with a coloring book and some crayons (or colored pencils). The Huntington Post addresses several other ways coloring can boost mental and emotional health, and the New Yorker expanded their focus from the sophistication of adult coloring books to the benefits of other forms of youth-inspired “play” therapy as a stress-reducer, like adult summer camps.
When you tune into a good book, you also tune out the world, making it a great activity to practice mindfulness. Reading is one of the best things we can do for ourselves, and it is a habit among successful people; but it’s also a meditative practice. Try running a hot bath, pouring a glass of something delicious (whether it’s wine or juice), and losing yourself to fiction.