How to begin practising mindfulness
So you might be asking yourself, what can I do if I want to start practising mindfulness? A good place to start is to find a platform that provides instructions for beginners. There are a number of smartphone apps offering introductory meditation programs that are free or low cost.
Choosing a program that matches your specific needs is also important. For example, in our study people could choose to practise one of four courses, focused on kindness, managing anxiety, letting go of stress or concentration. After choosing a program, find a time to practice regularly for a few weeks and see if you start to notice a difference in your day-to-day mood or how you respond to stress.
For new practitioners to mindfulness, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, there can be a tendency for minds to become judgemental, especially when they begin learning a new skill like mindfulness. For example, you may judge yourself for not being able to focus consistently. Remember that mindfulness is about focusing on the here and now in a non-judgmental way. So learning not to judge yourself is a crucial part of the practice.
In other words, it is not simply about being able to focus on your breath but is instead about noticing what is happening in the present moment, and then choosing to respond in a way that lines up with your values. So, if you find that you lose focus on your breath 100 times during a meditation practice, and yet you try again, you are doing it exactly right!
Second, this has been a tough year full of unprecedented challenges. We have found for ourselves and our clients that practising self-compassion in addition to developing mindfulness can help to soften the blow of repeated stressors. Remember that whatever you are going through, if it is emotionally or physically painful, you deserve compassion for that experience.
Finally, humans are social creatures. Although we found that practising mindfulness on your own improved well-being, having group support can be really helpful to keep your practice going. So look into local resources for online or in-person options to practise meditation with other like-minded individuals.
Whether you practise mindfulness by yourself or in a group, in the morning or evening, daily or every few days, it’s most important you find an approach that works best for you.