Mindfulness and meditation
What exactly is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment. It can have numerous benefits and research shows that it can help with everything from decreased stress and sadness to increased levels focus and happiness. Mindfulness can be practiced often and is a way of integrating awareness into your everyday life. Meditation is one way to truly experience the current moment but there are also other ways of practicing mindfulness. Below you will find tips and suggestions to get you started.
Two minute mindful breathing technique
- Set a timer on your phone, watch or any other timer for two minutes.
- Sit comfortably in a chair, pause, take a deep breath and place your feet flat on the floor. Notice how you are feeling, how your feet feel in contact with the ground underneath you. Close your eyes.
- Place your hands on your stomach and take 2-3 deep breaths, noticing your stomach rising and falling with each in and out breath.
- Now, breathe in for a count of 5, hold your breath for a count of 5, and breathe out slowly for a count of 5. Keep breathing in for 5, hold for 5, out for 5. Continue with this until your timer sounds.
- Now slowly bring your attention back to the room, noticing the sounds around you and begin to open your eyes.
Select a piece of food or drink that you enjoy.
- Take your time to look at the food or drink. What are you seeing? How is the light affecting the food/drink?
- Now smell the food/drink. What scents did you notice? Where did your mind take you? Did it evoke memories or stories? What happened in your mouth?
- Now just take a small bite or sip. Allow it to stay in your mouth. What are you tasting? Is the flavour changing as it stays in your mouth? Notice what you are thinking about the tastes.
- Now slowly chew and then swallow.
- What is the residual flavor? What did you notice that you may not have noticed before?
- Now look back at your thoughts and memories that were triggered when you were mindfully eating or drinking. Was this experience different to what you normally experienced? Will it change the way you eat in the future?
A mindful walk is an opportunity to connect with the outside space. This is a walk that is slow and deliberate without connection to your phone or any other device. Start your walk. First notice:
- How your feet feel when they hit the ground? What are your arms doing? How are your shoulders feeling? Walk a few steps just noticing how your body moves.
- Now start noticing the sounds around you. Are they man made? What is noises are coming from nature? Can you hear birds, wind or leaves rustling?
- Now start noticing the scents in the air. Can you see where they are originating from? A flower, a car driving past or perhaps other scents?
- Now see your environment. Stop and look at things, really notice what is around you. Maybe it is the gardens, the trees, other people or buildings. Look at the colours, the textures, stop and read the signs and messages that often we don’t notice.
- Keep walking but slowly, with intent and notice our world. Look at the interesting, the beautiful, the unusual and the unattractive. It is all important in our walk.
- Now as you are coming to the end of your walk, once again, notice the movement of your body and the sensations in your feet.
End your walk and take a moment to how you are feeling. Now consider how you could bring this awareness and connection to other areas of your life.
Loving kindness meditation
There are different ways to practice this form of meditation, each based on different Buddhist traditions, but each variation uses the same core psychological operation. During your meditation, you generate kind intentions toward certain targets including yourself and others. The following is a simple and effective loving kindness meditation technique to try. Carve out some quiet time for yourself (even a few minutes will work) and sit comfortably. Close your eyes, relax your muscles, and take a few deep breaths.
Imagine yourself experiencing complete physical and emotional wellness and inner peace. Imagine feeling perfect love for yourself, thanking yourself for all that you are, knowing that you are just right—just as you are. Focus on this feeling of inner peace, and imagine that you are breathing out tension and breathing in feelings of love.
Repeat three or four positive, reassuring phrases to yourself. These messages are examples, but you can also create your own:
- May I be happy
- May I be safe
- May I be healthy, peaceful, and strong
- May I give and receive appreciation today
Bask in feelings of warmth and self-compassion for a few moments. If your attention drifts, gently redirect it back to these feelings of loving kindness. Let these feelings envelop you.
You can choose to either stay with this focus for the duration of your meditation or begin to shift your focus to loved ones in your life. Begin with someone who you are very close to, such as a spouse, a child, a parent, or a best friend. Feel your gratitude and love for them. Stay with that feeling. You may want to repeat the following phrases or similar ones that bring about feelings of loving kindness within you:
- May you be happy
- May you be safe
- May you be healthy, peaceful, and strong
- May you give and receive appreciation today
Once you've held these feelings toward that person, bring other important people from your life into your awareness, one by one, and envision them with perfect wellness and inner peace. Then branch out to other friends, family members, neighbours, and acquaintances. You may even want to include groups of people and other beings around the world. Extend feelings of loving kindness to people around the globe and focus on a feeling of connection and compassion. You may even want to include those with whom you are in conflict to help reach a place of forgiveness or greater peace.
When you feel that your meditation is complete, open your eyes. Remember that you can revisit the wonderful feelings you generated throughout the day. Internalize how loving kindness meditation feels, and return to those feelings by shifting your focus and taking a few deep breaths.
Mindfulness with the family
Mindfulness with a listening or looking walk is a great way to connect with your family and to take time to just let the worries and issues of the day just go. With the better weather starting to occur more often it is a perfect time to head off for a family walk. It might be around the block or in a park or even in your back yard.
If you decide to do a listening walk try listening for certain sounds - it might be a bird chirping, a motorbike passing, leaves rustling or a dog barking. If you are heading for a looking walk make a list of things to see. This could be certain colour flowers, ants or other insects, a cat or a bird or anything that may capture the children’s attention. Below are some tips and suggestions to get you started.
Being mindful of sounds
Here is a list that you may want to listen for. Add some of your own!
- Bird chirping
- Dog barking
- Car noise
- Motor bike noise
- Rustling leaves
- Wind blowing
- Children noise
- Phone ringing
- Cockatoo or galah calling
Being mindful of what we can see
Here is a list that you may want to look for. Add some of your own!
- Interesting leaf
- Colourful flower
- Interesting looking dog
- Cat that looks like a tiger
- Red car
- Bus or truck
- Colourful parrot
- Small birds and large birds
- Piece of rubbish (you may even like to pick this up and put it in the bin!)
- Tall fence
- Pink house (or any other unusual colour)
Please contact the University’s Workplace Wellbeing Specialist (HR Branch), Ronda Bain