Carrying out mindfulness exercises at home is simple and requires only frequent practice in both children and adults. This psychological concept based on Buddhist meditation has spread throughout the West and its practice can be carried by children and adults, being an ideal method to cure anxiety and an effective relaxation technique.
Mindfulness is translated into Spanish as “Full Attention” and is defined as the human capacity to be able to be in the present and to remember to be in the present, that is, to constantly return to the here and now, to recognize what is happening while it is happening.
It is based on the so-called four noble truths:
- Suffering is inherent in the human condition.
- The source of suffering is the dissatisfaction of desire.
- The elimination of suffering lies in the elimination of desire.
- The path for the elimination of suffering is the eight fold path consisting of: understanding, thinking, word, action, occupation, effort, attention and concentration.
The main instruction for practicing mindfulness is to show what appears in the mind, just watch it. It is accepting without judging, criticizing or reacting. You have to keep a beginner’s mind, as if everything was new, have mental openness and not sticking. Have an attitude of compassion, kindness and affection towards one’s own experience, as presented in the present moment.
Mindfulness exercises to practice at home
Although it may be difficult to practice mindfulness in the beginning, it will become easier for us in time. As in everything, the usual practice will help us get more skill until we can do it almost automatically.
Here are a series of exercises that you can practice easily and simply to get started in mindfulness.
1- Conscious breathing
This is one of the most used exercises in mindfulness. With a little practice you can get to control in a short time and carry it out in any place or situation. The benefits it has are numerous, including almost immediate reduction of levels of anxiety and stress .
Normally we perform a superficial breathing, called the thoracic. For conscious and deep breathing (also called diaphragmatic breathing) we can follow the following steps:
- Find a comfortable place where you can lie down and rest easy. The background music relaxing or nature sounds can be of help.
- First locate the diaphragm by placing your hands on the abdomen, just where the ribs end.
- Slowly inhale and note as your hands rise upward, without the chest area moving, only swelling the area where you have your hands in.
- Now breathe out and feel your hands go down again, as if your abdomen is a balloon that is deflating until all the air comes out. Do not force your breath, adjust yourself to the rhythm your body requires.
- Once you control your breathing you can do it anywhere and in any position. Pay attention to inhalation and exhalation. Concentrate only on that and the sound you make in carrying them out. If thoughts appear outside the breath let them flow, do not try to reject them, just watch them and concentrate on your breathing again.
2- Watch a candle
Another way to focus your attention in a simple way is to adopt a comfortable posture, in a room without noises or with relaxing background music and watch the flame of a candle for a few minutes. Concentrate on the shape, the color, the variations that you have, etc.
Same as in the previous case, if during practice appear thoughts, do not try them or try to avoid them, just watch them, let them be and then resume concentration on the candle and its movement.
3- Watch a movie, read a book, listen to music
In short, it is about choosing an activity that you like, that makes you feel good and dedicate yourself solely and fully to it. That is, turn off the mobile, the computer, etc. and concentrate on seeing, hearing, feeling … in a conscious way, leaving aside for a few minutes everything else and consciously enjoying that moment.
4- Color, draw, write
The creativity is one of the most suitable ways of living the present. Develop it in the way that best suits your way of being, that you like or that you report more well-being . The time you spend creating is fully aware of what you are doing and away from the day-to-day thoughts and concerns.
It is not a matter of making a great creation, or of being perfect. The benefit of this practice is to achieve a state of relaxation and full awareness of what you are doing.
5- Eat consciously
By the daily rush we forget that eating can become a very rewarding experience, and not only when we go to a restaurant or on some special occasion.
Enjoy the smells, the colors, the texture and the flavors that the food offers you every day. Do it slowly, without haste, identifying each hue and enjoying the experience fully.
6- Know yourself
This is the most appropriate way to be self-conscious. Knowing our defects, our virtues, the motivations or aspirations we have. Perform an internal reflection and list all of the above. You can perform reflection weekly and go adding or removing things from the list.
In this way, in addition to knowing ourselves, we will understand our thoughts, feelings and ways of acting. Accept yourself as you are, from understanding and caring for yourself. Understand the defects as an aspect that is part of you, but that can be modified if you wish.
7- Learn to guide your focus of attention
Most of the time we are focused on the past, on what has already happened, or on the future, on what is to come and how we are going to face it. To live the present moment, it is crucial to focus your attention on what you are doing at the moment, whatever the task: take a shower, prepare food, drive, work, be with your partner, doing homework with your children, etc.
It is about living fully in the here and now and anchoring our attention in the present moment. Every time you see your focus drift back to the task you are doing right now.
8- Practice gratitude
Being grateful is one of the attitudes that we are most concerned about. They make you feel good, value your surroundings and enjoy a new day. You can do it in the morning when you wake up or just at bedtime. Be grateful to have had the opportunity to enjoy a new day, to spend time with your loved ones or to have enjoyed some good times.
Every day we live pleasant experiences but if we do not stop to think about them in a conscious way, to pay attention to them, we go completely unnoticed.
9- Accept everything
Accepting does not mean resigning oneself, but assuming things as they come. Both good and bad things, positive as well as negative experiences. The first step in dealing with the negative things that happen to us in life is to accept them, to feel the pain or the sadness it produces.
By denying them we can not solve them or channel the emotions that cause us correctly. Likewise, try to accept others, with their virtues and their flaws, even with that that bothers you so much of other people.
Each individual has their own thoughts, emotions, concerns, etc. and it is essential to understand that each person has the right to act as he sees fit, regardless of whether it seems to us right or wrong.
Understanding this can profoundly improve our relationship with others, because we will no longer require them to behave as we would like them to behave and feel free to act as they will or can.
10- Dedicate yourself more time
Turn time spent with you into a routine. Think about what you like to do, how you feel good, and make it a habit. Reading, writing, sports, watching a movie, meditating, etc. Take advantage of these moments to connect with you, to know how you feel and what you think, at what point you are and where you want to go.
Take advantage of these moments to thank for everything that makes you happy, to recreate what makes you feel good (family, friends, hobbies, work, occupations, experiences, moments, etc.) and that makes you enjoy life fully.
Benefits of mindfulness
In recent years, many studies have been done around the practice of mindfulness and these have yielded conclusive data on the benefits it reports in people. Some of the most outstanding are:
- Practicing mindfulness contributes to reducing physical pain and emotional reaction to it. Some research indicates that physical pain is reduced in some cases to 93%.
- It improves the person’s mood and quality of life. When we are well and live in a positive way, we feel a greater well-being with ourselves, with those around us and with life in general.
- It improves concentration ability and creativity and therefore improves academic performance and in the workplace.
- Protects against mental illness . A study carried out at the University of Oregon in the United States, concludes that the practice of mindfulness can generate physical changes in the brain, increasing the connections between the cells and the growth of myelin , which can prevent the onset of mental illness .
- It serves as a remedy against depression , anxiety and stress . Studies in this field indicate that people who practice mindfulness have lower levels of cortisol , the stress hormone.
- Helps sleep better . A study conducted at the University of Utah concluded that people who have high levels of mindfulness have better control over their emotions and less activation at bedtime, which has benefits in sleep quality .
- Practice strengthens the immune system .
- Improves heart and circulatory health by lowering blood pressure.
On many occasions we confuse mindfulness with other practices or theories. That is why it is important to know what is not mindfulness:
- It is not about trying to relax.
- It is not a religion.
- It does not try to transcend daily life.
- It is not emptying the mind of thoughts.
- Its practice is not difficult, over time we can realize it almost without realizing it, automatically.
- It is not a way of escaping, denying or abstracting from pain.
Usually, in our daily lives, we are in the present only partially, because while we perform different tasks, our mind is usually in the past or in the future, without paying full attention to what we are doing or what is happening in that moment.
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When this happens, many experiences and moments go unnoticed. Also, when the emotions we experience are negative or unpleasant, we tend to avoid them, deny them and / or judge them. Mindfulness proposes to accept them and let them be as they are presented. Negative, as well as positive, emotions are necessary and adaptive.
They help us to convey to others how we feel, regulates the behavior of others towards us and so does social interaction. Trying to avoid negative emotions will only generate more suffering to the situation that is already painful in itself.