by BARBARA LEE
Mindfulness is not just a buzzword created for yogis and hipsters. It is a form of meditation, a practice used for treating anxiety disorders and depression, a daily exercise grounded in breath.
With its foundation in Buddhism, mindfulness focuses on being present in the moment and sitting comfortably with our thoughts, emotions, and being. In doing so, we fill ourselves with awareness and satisfaction that leads to happiness.
The morning is important for setting the tone for the rest of our day, so here are five tips to starting your day mindfully.
If you need an alarm to wake up in the morning, invest in an app or device that allows you to wake up using your normal circadian rhythm. For example, Sleep Cycle lets you set a period of time in the morning that you’d like to be woken up during (say, for example, 30 minutes from 7:00-7:30 AM) and wakes you up gently using a pre-selected sound or song of your choice during the point in your sleep cycle that you are most awake. This app also measures your sleep cycle through the night and lets you rate how you feel in the morning along with making notes about what you did that day (drank alcohol, exercised, ate late, etc.). Many different options are out there, so find the one that works best for you.
SETTING ASIDE SOME YOU TIME
Give yourself a bit of you time in the morning before starting with your day. Contrary to traditional forms of meditation, you can practice mindfulness no matter where you are, so find a space where you can be alone, whether still lying in bed, sitting on your yoga mat, or in the bathroom. Set a timer (start with one minute, then slowly increase the amount of time to as much as you desire for your morning meditation, say 15-30 minutes) and practice grounding yourself in your breath, observing how your body feels, how you feel, and focusing on being in the present.
A very important part of mindfulness is being present, but also learning to let things go. Holding on to memories, painful feelings, and thoughts can be exhausting and a waste of energy. You may experience an increase in energy and happiness as you learn to let things go. One way to practice this during meditation is learning what to do if your mind starts to wander. If you find yourself losing focus or ruminating on thoughts, focus on a scene, like a slow flowing river. Visualizing that there are leaves floating down. When a random thought pops up in your mind, acknowledge it, attach it to a leaf, and allow it to float down the river away from you. Now, practice the same behavior towards other thoughts that pop up during the day that could disrupt you.
DOING THINGS MINDFULLY
Once you master sitting and breathing mindfully, mindfulness can be brought into all your daily activities, including taking a shower, brushing your teeth, and eating your breakfast. To eat mindfully, start with grounding yourself in your breath and being grateful for the meal you’re about to eat. Look at your food and take note of the color, flavor, and texture of your food. Then, begin to eat, chewing slowly. Try to concentrate and appreciate each of the components of taste and texture. It may take a while for you to finish your meal, but you may find that when you sit down and take the time to savor your food, you won’t need to eat as much to feel full and satisfied. If breakfast is a bit complicated, try starting out by practicing eating a piece of chocolate mindfully or drinking your morning cup of coffee.
MAKE USE OF DOWN TIME
Stuck at a red light, missed the train, or have to wait for someone else to get out of the bathroom? Make use of the time when you would usually be frustrated or impatient and practice your mindfulness, checking in with how you feel, where your breath is, and see every pause in your day as an opportunity to ground yourself in the moment. Understand that everything is temporary and it will all pass in due time.
As you begin practicing mindfulness, remember to start slow and be easy on yourself. We are often our own worst critics. Part of mindfulness is not just letting go of things around you, but also learning to observe without judgment. This includes being okay with your mind wandering while you are beginning to meditate and practice mindfulness, not criticizing yourself when you’ve done something differently to what you had planned, and not judging ourselves when something negative happens around us.
Most importantly, make sure to get enough sleep and give yourself a realistic timeframe in which to wake up in the morning and complete your start of the day ritual. With every breath, focus on the positive and let go of the negative.