Mindfulness for Non-Meditators
Updated: Nov 18, 2022
You have probably heard about the benefits of mindfulness - how it helps to make us more resilient to stressors, improves focus, increases our capacity for empathy, reduces anxiety, and strengthens relationship satisfaction. You might have enthusiastically tried a guided meditation, only to find yourself not turning to it again. In this blog post, I will share ways you can practice the skill of mindfulness outside of the practice of meditating.
Mindfulness is "awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally"(1). It is about becoming present to your life unfolding in the here and now. So much of our time is spent thinking about the future (anxiety) or thinking back on our past (depression) that we risk missing out on what happens in the present. I always like to remind clients that though mindfulness practices are simple, they are not easy.
This is why it is so important to remember to be self-compassionate and to embody the quality of non-judgement as you begin to practice mindfulness. It is normal for your mind to wander, to be pulled into the future, and back to the past. This does not mean you are "doing mindfulness wrong". The choice and intention to notice when your mind and attention has wandered, and to choose to come back to the present moment is what mindfulness is all about (and not about emptying your mind).
1. Do Activities You Enjoy Doing One Mindfully
This involves doing something very unnatural to most of us - to do one thing at a time. Our busy lives demand us to multitask, and our attention is pulled in multiple directions at any given moment. This might involve reading our favourite book without our phones being within reach. It may also mean putting our phones away as we enjoy catching up with a friend over coffee.
2. Observe Your External Environment with Curiosity
Sometimes meditating can feel overwhelming for some because it asks us to tune into our internal experience. For those who experience anxiety, tuning into internal sensations in the body can feel far too overwhelming. Mindfulness involves noticing what is happening both inside of us and to our external environment (2). A great way to get started in your mindfulness practice is to observe your external environment with curiosity (2). This can involve taking time to eat your meals mindfully, noticing its taste and texture. For some, it may involve getting out into green spaces nearby and noticing what you see and hear. It can even involve listening to your favourite music and paying attention to aspects of the song you may not have previously noticed. Lastly, it can even involve people watching on the street, or in a busy mall.
3. Throwing Yourself Fully into An Activity
Have you ever experienced a feeling of becoming one with an activity? It is a feeling where you feel you become deeply immersed in the moment, whether it be playing a sport, dancing, or sharing a laugh with friends and family. Some might call it "flow state" but there is an exhilarating feeling of energy and vitality. A feeling that we are exactly where we want to be. It involves directing your complete attention to the activity, and noticing thoughts that may arise and gently returning our focus to what we are doing. Focusing on your senses can also be very helpful (notice what you see, hear, and feel).
DBT Skills Training Manual by Marsha Linehan
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