08 Jul #BeMindful – Being in the Now
In the last three posts we’ve covered a basic overview of what mindfulness is and how the brain can get “trapped” in the past and the future, and discussed the origin and benefits to mindfulness. You can find the first (link) and second (link) posts here. In this blog post I’ll be sharing the difference between formal and informal mindfulness and will cover a handful of different exercises you can try on your own.
Formal vs. Informal Mindfulness
Formal mindfulness, also known as a mindfulness meditation, is the process of spending time focusing one’s attention on what is happening in the now. This may include awareness of the breath, sounds, sensations in the body, and a nonjudgmental observation of your thoughts. These exercises are commonly useful at times of distress to help refocus the awareness. Formal mindfulness practices tend to support the growth of an informal mindfulness mindset.
Informal mindfulness brings a similar gentle appreciation to whatever it is you are facing in your daily living. It’s actually quite simple and does not take any extra time or effort. This could include awareness of, for example, the sensations on your fingers while typing on the keyboard, hands on the steering wheel, or your back against your desk chair. From this perspective, you can begin to use mindfulness anytime and anywhere.
5 Minutes of MIndfulness
Interested in giving a go at a formal mindfulness meditation? Below you will find a guided script for a 5-minute body scan. If you enjoy this, I’ve linked to a handful of other guided mindfulness practices.
In the body scan exercises, read each sentence at a pace that feels comfortable. If you find yourself rushing, pause, acknowledge that this is happening, and without judgement you can bring yourself back to the sentence (or part of the body) that you were observing previously. There will be periodic (pause) cues so be sure to honor those that you move through the experience.
Before you begin, try and find a quiet place and situate yourself in a position that feels comfortable. Take a few moments to become aware of your breath, maybe noticing the sensation of breathing as your belly gently rises and falls…or possibly the sensations you feel around your nostrils with each inbreath and outbreath. (pause) Direct your awareness now to the bottoms of your feet and notice what it feels like to have your feet come in contact with the floor. (pause) Observe from a place of subtle curiosity what you may feel in your toes (pause), the balls of your feet (pause), and your heel (pause). Now expand your awareness into the rest of your foot. (pause) Into the ankle, (pause), the shins (pause), calf (pause), and knee (pause).
Continue to expand this gentle, yet inquisitive awareness into the rest of the body, moving at a place that feels right for you – to the thighs, hamstrings, buttox, lower back, middle back, upper back, stomach, chest, shoulders, biceps and triceps, forearms, hands, and out into the fingers. Move into the neck, the back of the head, the top of the head, and the face. After you have scanned each part of your body, take a moment to notice the entire body as a whole. (pause) Once you have done so, notice how you feel. That will conclude this 5-minute body scan mindfulness exercise.
Want More Mindfulness?
As a reminder, I will be hosting a “50-Minute Monthly Mindfulness Class” on the 1st Wednesday of every month at the Crossover Health Shoreline Health Center. If you would like to read more about mindfulness, I would recommend “Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World” by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. If you want to check out a few apps that have guided mindfulness meditations, download Headspace or Calm in the app stores. For some great video content, you can watch this 60 Minutes special or this TedTalk. Lastly, mindful coloring books have also become quite popular in recent years.
Of course, you can always schedule an appointment with me to find out how to #BeMindful. And talk to me on Twitter. I’m @RossNelsonPsyD.