How To Learn Mindfulness
There are many ways to cultivate mindfulness, but as with learning any skill, it takes practice and commitment.
It's useful to think of mindfulness training as we would fitness training: we only see the benefits if we train regularly and focus our practice on the skills and strengths we wish to develop. We can only become more mindful by engaging in deliberate mindfulness practices, and these can be formal or informal.
Formal Mindfulness Practice
Formal mindfulness practice involves setting aside time for regular mindfulness meditation. Ideally this would be at about the same time, each day in order to create a meditation 'habit' or routine. By training the attention to rest on one thing, daily mindfulness meditation practices can help to focus the scattered mind. They also provide the the space, the backdrop if you like, from which we can begin to see the patterns and habits of our own minds more clearly and how we are relating to our internal and external worlds. Traditionally, formal mindfulness meditation practices start by resting the attention on the sensations of breathing, and the sensations arising in the body. These sensations can be observed through sitting meditation, walking meditation, standing meditation, body scan and gentle movement practices.
There's no need to rush!
It’s best not to be in a hurry ‘to become’ mindful, as mindfulness can’t be got by rushing or forcing the process. It’s the one training where you are encouraged not to strive for results. Changes take time, and people will respond to practices differently, and at different rates. Think of cultivating mindfulness as you would growing a seed. Even with just the right amount of light, warmth, water, and soil, it takes time to germinate and develop into a seedling, and then onto a strong plant.
That being said, a little goes a long way, and setting aside some time each day, can be very beneficial. Many studies seem to conclude that just 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation per day can result in significant mental health benefits. But even shorter sessions are beneficial – especially when you are a beginner and trying to find your groove. The key is to be consistent, choose a time and a place and turn up for yourself.
It is possible to learn mindfulness by yourself, at your own pace, using a reputable mindfulness resource or guidebook. There are some suggestions in our resource pages, but these are not exhaustive. It can also be useful to learn mindfulness with others and under the guidance of a more experienced practitioner. If you would like to know more about the support Just One Thing offers, please follow the link below.
Informal Mindfulness Practice
Informal mindfulness practice involves bringing the awareness we cultivate during formal practice into our daily lives. We gently unhook from automatic pilot and become more aware of what we are doing as we are doing it. We can start by choosing a daily activity that we often carry out automatically and intentionally bring our full attention to it. This could be showering, brushing our teeth, washing our hands, drinking a cup of tea, walking to the car. We do not need to carry out the task any differently, or to try and make ourselves feel any different, we are simply spending a few more moments in our day being 'awake'.
We tune into our senses, and notice any thoughts and emotions that arise as we carry out the activity. So, for example, when we are brushing our teeth, we are fully aware that we are brushing our teeth. We sense the motion of the brush in our mouths and the taste of the toothpaste; we hear the sound of the water running from the tap and perhaps see our reflection in the mirror. We notice if we become distracted by something else, for example, sounds, other body sensations, thinking, emotions and so on, and then we gently return our attention to the task.