How to Practice Mindfulness this Winter

Mindfulness has become a buzzword nowadays. You hear about it all the time—whether it’s being taught in high school classrooms or advised by yoga instructors. Because of its growing popularity in the last few years, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly:

  • What mindfulness means
  • How to become mindful
  • The benefits of practicing

But studies continue to show that those who practice mindfulness achieve better physical health and more rewarding relationships. Read on to find out what all the hype is about.

Man outside with eyes closed
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to your thoughts without trying to change them.

What is Mindfulness?

Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn streamlined some Buddhist thinking into what is called the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program.

Kabat-Zinn explains that mindfulness is a means of paying attention to what you’re thinking about. Not necessarily working to change negative thoughts and emotions, but instead recognizing that negativity and letting your mind and body process it as it is. It’s a way of becoming in tune with your mind and body in a non-judgemental way and—as cliche as it sounds—living in the now, while being curious and accepting of yourself and your environment.

Mindfulness isn't rocket science—but knowing what you're doing can definitely make the process go more smoothly.

How do I use Mindfulness?

Your mental image of being mindful probably includes focused meditation, but it can be and often is more than that. Kabat-Zinn offers some ways you can be mindful daily:

  • Focus on your breath and pay attention solely to you breathing in and out. This can be difficult at first, but it gets easier with practice.
  • Notice the rest of your body, especially places where you hold stress, and try scanning from head to toe.
  • Remember that thoughts are temporary.
  • Pay attention to what you normally wouldn’t, especially using your five senses: what does the room smell like? How do my feet feel against the floor?

If you’re interested in something more organized and focused, you can try what’s called the raisin exercise. This means holding a raisin in your hand, and using your five senses to notice its presence. How does it feel when you rub the raisin between your thumb and forefinger? What does it smell like? Try eating it, and noticing how the raising goes down your throat.

Colorful canoes on lake in forest
Starting something new can be very frustrating. Mindfulness practice will be noticeably beneficial soon enough—so it's worth it to try.

Why Bother Trying Mindfulness?

Studies have proven mindfulness benefits the mind and body in many ways, including but not limited to:

  • Less Stress. Study participants self-reported having less stress after practicing mindfulness compared to those who didn’t. These participants also had decreased levels of anxiety and depression after practicing.
  • More focus. Those who go through mindfulness training are better at paying attention, with higher performance on tests that measured it.
  • More empathy and compassion. Medical students in these studies reported feeling more empathetic and compassionate for patients. By understanding perspective through mindfulness, participants were better able to help others do the same.
  • Better relationships. Mindfulness participants were better at understanding their partne, and demonstrated better communication in a relationship.

Woman smiling with eyes closed and tongue out
GRW counselors can help you better understand mindfulness.

By becoming more mindful throughout the day, you can become more aware of your own feelings as well as the feelings of those you care about. GRW’s certified counselors can guide you in your mindfulness practice, as well as better your mental health in other ways.

How do you practice mindfulness? How has it helped your mental health? Let us know in the comments below!

For questions, partnerships, or to get covered on the GRW blog, click here.

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