Mindfulness for Beginners: 4 Videos to Get You Started
If you’re completely new to mindfulness, the whole subject can seem confusing and even intimidating. But just what is mindfulness, exactly? Is it meditation? Is it a belief? Do you have to be a flexible yogi?
To answer all these questions, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to starting a mindfulness habit, which contains examples of mindfulness exercises and a breakdown of all things mindfulness for beginners. However, one of the true beauties of practicing mindfulness is that it is really quite straightforward. You don’t need to sit cross-legged on the floor surrounded by candles and incense or be at a silent retreat in the countryside. Mindfulness is simply about being fully present in the current moment, being able to sit with yourself and your thoughts peacefully. If even that sounds a bit much, here are four meditation-free mindfulness tips for beginners — each with a short video showing how it works.
Mindfulness for Beginners: Tip 1 — Observe Your Thoughts
The most important thing to remember about mindfulness is that the aim is not to rid yourself of all thoughts. It’s not about dispelling, banishing or fretting over things that may pop into your head. The goal is to acknowledge and accept those thoughts, and let them pass on by without dragging you away from your place of peace and stillness.
In our day to day lives, we spend a lot of time worrying about the future or mulling over the past. Time spent brooding over things we can’t control or change is time wasted, as it means we aren’t living and enjoying life as it happens. Often, we allow these worries to dominate us and we become overwhelmed by them, unable to see the wood for the trees.
Mindfulness for Beginners: Tip 2 — Let Yourself Experience Discomfort
Unfortunately for us, it is almost impossible to go through life entirely avoiding pain. That being said, there are ways to deal with pain that can lessen the suffering we experience as a result of it. In the same way we discussed how to deal with thoughts and emotions, we can also separate the sensation of pain itself, and our reaction to it.
Pain can hit us in two ways, as Rick Hanson describes in his book, Buddha’s Brain. The first wave is the initial physical sensation, the pain of a burned hand or stubbed toe. What causes the second wave of pain is our reaction to it, anger or frustration, directed either at ourselves or another, which only doubles the suffering.
- 16 min reading time
- audio version available
Huh? How? Allow us to get scientific for a moment. Pain and suffering kickstarts the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) into hyperdrive, flooding your body with adrenaline and pushing the heart rate up. The second wave of pain — the reaction — increases SNS activity again, meaning that the body is in a state of fight, flight or freeze for much longer than necessary, which both elongates our suffering and is unhealthy.
Practicing mindfulness can help you control this. Mindfulness exercises stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which reduces the heart rate and makes us feel calm. It is the yin to the SNS’ yang. So instead of beating yourself up about accidentally burning your hand on the stove, or shouting angrily at whoever moved the chair you stubbed your toe on, try to simply feel the pain, experience the physicality of it, and accept that it will pass. This will save you from the second wave of suffering that stems from your reaction.
Mindfulness for Beginners: Tip 3 — Listen to Your Breath
Throughout the day, there are a million things that can distract us from the present moment. From big stressors like pressure at work or relationship problems, right down to simple things like what we’ll make for dinner that night, these thoughts can bombard us and weigh us down, dragging us into states of worry or anxiety.
One very simple way to re-centre and let go of those nagging thoughts is to take some time to focus on your breath. Concentrating on breathing is a fundamental part of practicing mindfulness. It is one of the most powerful anti-stress techniques and, luckily, is also pretty easy.
The Mindful Athlete
The Mindful Athlete
- 12 min reading time
- audio version available
In his book The Mindful Athlete, George Mumford explains how focusing on and controlling your breath activates your parasympathetic system, which we’ve already learned counters and calms the sympathetic system, allowing you to enter a state of relaxation.
Even a few moments of deep, slow breathing, focusing on each inhale and exhale can slow down your heart and help you feel calmer, more present and anchored in the moment, alleviating stress immediately.
Mindfulness for Beginners: Tip 4 — Focus on Your Food
It may not seem like the two go hand-in-hand but believe it or not, mindfulness can also be an incredibly influential factor in weight loss. As we’ve already seen we can be very easily distracted and in today’s society, eating a meal doesn’t always mean sitting down at a table. Whether it’s scrolling through our phones or watching the latest true crime documentary on Netflix, we often eat while doing something else, forking our food into our mouths without care or attention.
Savor by Thích Nhất Hạnh and Dr. Lilian Cheung explores the way in which mindfulness can help in tackling weight problems. By combining the approach of Buddhism with nutritional science they explore how it creates an effective, holistic approach to weight loss. The book details the specific Buddhist teachings involved, reflecting on all the problems that cause us to become unhealthy, but what it really boils down to is about applying simple mindfulness practice when eating.
- 16 min reading time
Try concentrating solely on the taste, smell and texture of your food as you eat. By being aware of what you are ingesting, eating slowly and mindfully appreciating every bite, you’ll be able to enjoy it more. Not only that but you will more than likely find you won’t need to eat as much because you’ll notice when you feel full.
Hopefully now you’re in a better position to answer our first question: what is mindfulness? Breaking it down into small manageable explanations and exercises allows us to see just how simple and accessible it is as a practice, especially for beginners. You don’t need any fancy equipment, or lots of time, or silence, or anything else except yourself. Though if you do need a little guidance our mindfulness exploration is expanding too, with new articles helping you to learn how to live life in the present and enjoy every moment.