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My personal mindfulness journey

“If I can practice and master mindfulness, cynical and skeptical as I am, then absolutely anyone can do the same.”

The words of the founder of the Brainisphere, and just a short excerpt of his mindfulness story is below. Read it, think about it, then try it for yourself.

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Getting Started With Mindfulness

There are many, many ways to practice mindfulness, and it can be as simple as just acknowledging and appreciating the everyday things around you. The clouds, the sunset, trees blowing in the wind, the sounds of birds singing, the food in front of you Рyou name it,  you can be mindful about anything.

When I first heard about mindfulness and the dozens of different ways it can help in life, I was very skeptical. Which is why I put off trying it for years. But finally, when my mental illnesses and my chronic stress got too bad and I finally decided I needed to get more serious about managing them, I tried mindfulness for the first time.

I had been told to give it at least 15 to 20 minutes at the first attempt but be prepared for uncomfortable with failing. And boy did I fail.

My ADD made it so difficult to sit still, to concentrate, to focus on, well, not really focusing on anything, to stop all the intrusive thoughts, the wind tunnel of ideas and lists and things to do and so on.

Anyway, while I set out to try 20 minutes, I only managed five. But it was enough. I would tell people later that that 5 minutes gave me such a euphoric sense of calm and peace that I felt like I was floating out of the room.

I believed the feeling was a fluke tough, that just 5 minutes of sitting calmly and breathing correctly could have such a calming effect. So I tried it again and again and again, and each time I got the same kind of feeling.

And that convinced me that first of all, the science is right about mindfulness. And second, that I should be practicing this every day. And so now I do.

I practice mindfulness every day for 15 to 20 minutes. Some people will do it more, sometimes three times a day for 20 minutes. But even doing it for just 5 minutes will give you lots of great benefits.

And after lots of different experiments, here’s the system that I found works best for me.

  • First and most important, I don’t beat myself up if I can’t sit still, if I can’t relax, if I can’t clear my mind of all the junk, if my mind keeps wandering. It doesn’t matter if that happens, and over time you’ll get greater control over it.
  • I do mine sitting in a comfortable chair, hands relaxed on my lap, and usually wearing an eye mask. The reason I use the eye mask is because my ADD is constantly tempting me to open my eyes and see what’s going on around me. The eye mask shuts out the light and the distraction.
  • Speaking of distraction, I usually play or stream some meditation or mindfulness music. Usually just calm soft repetitive music not just to keep me in that mode but also to block out external sounds.
  • Next, I focus on my breathing. For the first three to five minutes, that’s all I focus on. There are nearly a dozen different types of breathing techniques you can choose from, some very basic, some very complicated.

I prefer basic, and I usually use what’s known as box breathing. I inhale slowly through my nose for a count of five seconds, hold it at the top of the inhale for another five, exhale slowly through my nose for five seconds, and then hold at the bottom of the exhale for five.

It takes a little getting used to, a little practice, but the easiest way to start is to simply breathe in slowly through your mouth for five seconds, and then out slowly for five seconds. It can be that simple.

Just make sure that you’re as relaxed as possible and that you’re breathing through your belly and not your chest. Meaning relax your belly and fill it full of air as you breathe in, and then empty the air out of your belly as you breathe out. Which is why it’s often to as just belly breathing.

To help me concentrate, to just focus on what I’m doing there and now and ward off intrusive thoughts, I also incorporate something called complete body scanning.

This is just reminding myself to relax each part of the body, a few seconds at a time, from the top of my head to my toes.

As I work my way down every part of my body, telling myself inside my head to relax my head, my mind, my face, my jaw and so on, and make sure that I don’t forget about my breathing.

And any time my mind does start to wander away either from my focus on relaxation or my breathing, I quickly dismiss it and bring my mind back to relaxation.

It’s never perfect, it never will be, but it absolutely works for me. And that’s the thing. Most people i know develop their own unique and personal way to practice mindfulness. Some people don’t focus on breathing at all, some people like silence with no music, others simply like to do it walking in nature.

They all work. So the only challenge is to put the time in to find out which one will work best for you. My advice? Start with just 5 minutes of relaxed breathing, thinking about relaxing every part of your body, and forcing yourself to stop worrying and stressing about everything else in life for just 5 minutes.

The most important benefit for me is that practicing mindfulness has almost completely eliminated my chronic stress. Stress that I had lived with for more than 30 years. And because proper breathing has now become such second nature for me, anytime I do start to feel stressed, my brain, body, and breathing automatically kick in to take care of it.