Mindfulness For Beginners: How Mindfulness Helps You Flourish

One of the best ways to learn mindfulness for beginners, is to think about a time when you were actually mindful. If you are brand new to this, you may be thinking, “But, I don’t even know what mindfulness means. How can I think about a time I was mindful?” Not to worry, we are going to start with a simple exercise that will help.

Think about one of your happiest or most memorable moments. Maybe you think of your graduation or wedding day. Perhaps, it was the first baseball game you went to with Dad, or the first family vacation. Whatever that moment is for you, think about it for just a second.

Mindfulness For Beginners

What is mindfulness? In this guide to mindfulness for beginners, learn the definition and benefits of mindfulness, how to do a mindfulness meditation, ideas and easy exercises to help you be happier and more mindful everyday.

Try It Right Now

The best way to learn mindfulness for beginners is to practice it, so stop reading. Take a moment and practice a form of mindfulness right now. Bring your attention to that happy day or that memorable occasion.

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How did you feel? What kinds of sights, sounds, or smells do you recall? Your mind was not thinking about the past or worried about the future. You were simply enjoying the moment. That is mindfulness.

Already Know What Mindfulness Is?

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My Mindful Memory
Remaining Calm In Chaos

The moment that pops into my head is the morning my daughter was born, and that crazy, hectic drive to get my wife to the birthing center.

It was around 4:30AM when my wife woke me, and said she was in labor. For the most part the next hour was pretty calm. However, that all changed the moment it was time to get in the car.

It became abundantly clear to my wife that our daughter was very ready to greet the world. The problem was, the birthing center was 45 minutes away, and she was not going to wait that long. At our first red light, my wife yells at me, and says, “what the hell are you stopping for. GO!”

I spent the next 20 minutes running red lights and stops signs, dodging cars and school busses, all the while trying to talk to keep my wife calm. We made it to the center, and my daughter was born about 2 minutes later. We didn’t even make it through the door. She was born on the parking lot. Thankfully, our midwife was there to see the delivery through.

Mindfulness For Beginners

How Is This An Example Of Mindfulness?

If you are wondering just how this is an example of mindfulness, I understand. It seems like such a stressful event (and it was). Isn’t mindfulness all about being calm and happy? Well, actually it may not be what you think it is, but after reading the rest of this article, you’ll understand much better.

What Is Mindfulness?

Dr. Christopher Willard, author, Harvard educator, and therapist defines mindfulness as, “paying attention to the present moment with acceptance and nonjudgement.

As you can see, there are 3 elements of mindfulness:
  • Paying Attention On Purpose
  • Present Moment Contact
  • Acceptance And Nonjudgement

Mindfulness For Beginners

What is mindfulness? In this guide to mindfulness for beginners, learn the definition and benefits of mindfulness, how to do a mindfulness meditation, ideas and easy exercises to help you be happier and more mindful everyday.

What Is Mindfulness? 1-Paying Attention

When you were a kid, I’m sure teachers and parents told you to pay attention more than once, but did they ever teach you how to pay attention? Mindfulness teaches us just that. Some mindfulness experts or meditation teachers feel that the term pay attention is too loaded. They prefer terms like “notice” or “bring awareness to”.

Paying attention is often taught through the senses. What are you hearing, seeing, smelling, or feeling? Bring awareness to your feet as you walk across the grass. How does that feel? Notice what the teacher is writing on the board, or pay attention to the oncoming traffic patterns as you’re about to run this red light.

Mindfulness For Beginners

Back to the story

During our drive to the birthing center, I was most certainly paying attention. The situation almost gave me no other choice, right?

I had to bring my attention to the traffic lights, the vehicles surrounding me, the flow of oncoming traffic, all the while continuously noticing open parking lots or parks in case I had to suddenly pull over and delivery my daughter. At the same time, I had to bring awareness to my wife and make sure she felt safe and supported.

What Is Mindfulness? 2-Present Moment Contact

Being present is a critical component of mindfulness. Mindfulness grounds us in reality.
If our thoughts and minds are stuck in the past, then you’re at greater risk for depression. Conversely, if you are worried about the future, you’re likely to experience anxiety.

Mindfulness teaches us to let go of both the past and the future because they do not really exist. The only thing that exists at any given time is the present moment.
Back To The Story

I needed my entire mind to be in the present during that drive. My senses had to be honed and tuned in to the moment in order for to our destination safely. Now, I’d be lying if I said I was 100% present. I’ve already said I was looking for places to pull over in case I had to deliver the baby, so I was doing a little bit of planning and looking into the future. In this circumstance, that was a smart way to be.

Mindfulness For Beginners

Being mindful doesn’t mean being happy go lucky without making any plans. Most of our lives require us to look into the future a little bit. How else would we get to work everyday, or make sure our kids are up in time for school.

If I was in freak out mode as I am speeding my way to the birthing center, it would have been perfectly understandable. However, I would not look back at this moment with such fondness. I remember that drive as being full of peace and joy/ I don’t know I would think of it that way had I not been grounded in the present.

What Is Mindfulness? 

3- Acceptance And Nonjudgement

Acceptance is a state of “being” rather than “doing”. That’s not to say that you can’t be doing something at the same time. It’s more like turning off autopilot and being aware of the things you are doing and feeling.

Being in a state of acceptance and nonjudgement doesn’t mean you have to like what is happening. Bad things happen, and life is stressful. Mindfulness helps give us clarity and prevents our hearts and minds from being overcome by negative thoughts and emotions.

When we accept what is happening and stop fighting it, we often find more peace and perspective.

Mindfulness For Beginners

Back to the story

As I was driving like a madman, cars were honking at me, and people were shouting at me. While I was very aware of this, I did not judge them for it. I didn’t get mad at people who went out of there way to express their anger over my driving.

Did I judge my wife for ignoring my repeated requests to leave the house much earlier, of course not, nor did I get mad at her for shouting at me every time I was forced to stop. I accepted the situation as it was, and responded with love, compassion, and amazing driving.

Furthermore, I did not judge the midwife for driving through McDonalds before going to the birthing center. Did I notice the Egg Mcmuffin in her hand when I banged on her can window and shouted, “she’s coming”? Of course I did, but I did not judge her for it.

It was not ideal for my little girl to be born outside right there in the parking lot, but there was no judgement. We threw down a blanket and quickly said hello to my little girl.

I Did Not Set Out To Be Mindful

This story not only illustrates what mindfulness is and its benefits, but it also shows you how practicing mindfulness can help you create a new default reaction to stress. When we got in the car that morning, it’s not like I said to myself, “okay Dave, let’s be calm, compassionate, and in the moment.” It just happened that way.

I’m sure you feel the same way about your good memories. You probably did not purposely set out to bring awareness to the moment with acceptance and nonjudgement. You just did it, and now you have a great memory too.

Commitment To Mindfulness

My daughter was born in 2014. This was the same year that I decided to commit to meditating every single day of the year. Incidentally, this was the first and only New Year’s Resolution I was able to keep. Every day I practiced mindfulness and meditated for at least 5 minutes.

Without the commitment to mindfulness, this important morning would have been completely different. I would look back at my daughter’s birth as an incredibly stressful drive, and I’d probably be frustrated with my wife for not listening to me when I told her we should go.

Instead, this is of one of the most joyous days of my life. I hold no negative feelings towards anyone or anything. I am also able to remember so many small details that I am certain I would have forgotten if I was stressed.

Mindfulness For Beginners

The Benefits Of Mindfulness

Stress

Better stress management is one of the key benefits of practicing mindfulness. No matter how great our lives are we will eventually encounter stress, pain, or hardship of some kind. However, pain is not necessarily a bad thing.

Pain and hardship can help us learn from our mistakes and develop compassion for others. It can be one of our greatest teachers if we have the tools to work through the suffering. Mindfulness gives us those tools to transform life’s inevitable challenges into wisdom and compassion.

Calm Under Pressure

It’s easy to be happy and nonjudgemental when times are great. However, when we are hit with hardship, stress, or hectic events, that’s when we may need some extra help. That’s where mindfulness really shows its’ worth.

Mindfulness gives us the gift of calm and clarity when stressful times happen

Mindfulness Helps Us Flourish

Dr. Christopher Willard sums up the benefits of mindfulness perfectly. In his book, Growing Up Mindful, he writes,

“The research shows that mindfulness greatly enhances what psychologists call “flourishing”-the opposite of depression, avoidance, and disengagement.”

Mindfulness makes us happier, more curious, and engaged. It reduces anxiety and soothes difficult emotions and trauma. Mindfulness also increases our attention helping us focus, learn, and make better decisions.

Mindfulness Can Stop Mind-Less-Ness

Many of us respond to stress, pain, or just plain boredom by checking out. In today’s social media world, we are all guilty of losing time mindlessly thumbing through Facebook, Instagram…etc. Scrolling through social media helps occupy our mind, so we do not have to deal with things including our own thoughts. However, mindfulness teaches us to check in with ourselves and helps stop the hours of mindless time spent on our phones or in front of the TV.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with watching Netflix, and I’m often on social media too. However, it’s important not to spend that time checked out. Check back in, so you can actually enjoy your experiences. If you’re enjoying thumbing through Facebook, good for you. But, if you’re not just put the phone down and do something else.

Mindfulness For Beginners

What is mindfulness? In this guide to mindfulness for beginners, learn the definition and benefits of mindfulness, how to do a mindfulness meditation, ideas and easy exercises to help you be happier and more mindful everyday.


Mindfulness For Beginners: The Benefits:
  • Improves Stress Management
  • Calm Under Pressure
  • Increases Happiness & Vitality
  • Improves Focus & Decision Making
  • Decreases Anxiety & Depression
  • Reduces Mindlessness

Mindfulness For Beginners

How To Bring Mindfulness Into Your Life

Formal vs InFormal Practice

There are two ways to bring mindfulness into your life: formal and informal. You can think of a formal practice as a meditation. However, you do not have to sit in the lotus position with your thumb and index finger forming circles. You can lay down, sit in a chair or recliner, and you can even do a walking meditation.

Keep in mind that when you do a mindfulness meditation the goal is NOT to silence the mind. Many people give up on meditation saying there’s no way they can turn off their mind. However, every time your mind wonders it gives you an opportunity to practice mindfulness. You simply notice where your thoughts go and then bring them back to an anchor.

Do not judge yourself for your wandering mind, just gently bring it back. That is a small act of mindfulness. The more you do this, the better you get during your meditations and in everyday life.

Anchors can be things like your breath, music, or your body. During a walking meditation, your anchor can be the feeling of your feet hitting the ground or the sounds you hear around you.

Informal Practices

There are many times throughout the day where we are on autopilot. We’re not really thinking about anything. We’re just doing what we always do like driving to work mindlessly listening to the radio or a podcast.

These simple daily activities can be transformed into a quick informal practice.

Let’s use the drive to work as an example. You can take the first 5 minutes of your drive just to be present. Use your senses to ground you in the moment.

Look around at the things you see, the people around you. Bring awareness to how you feel. Are you feeling tired, happy, ready for work? What kinds of sounds do you hear as you drive? After 5 minutes, turn the radio back on, or start enjoying your coffee.

Once you get to work, you have another opportunity to practice mindfulness. Bring attention to the feeling of your feet hitting the ground as you walk from the car to your desk or workstation. Notice, the wind blowing or the warm sun on your skin.

Check In Throughout Your Day

One way to bring more mindfulness in is to check in a few times a day. It only takes a couple minutes, but can make a huge difference in your happiness.

How Do I Know?

An easy way to check in is by asking yourself, how do I know I’m doing what I am doing? How do I know I am listening to my kids or boss? Is my mind thinking about something else, or am I thinking of a response while they’re still talking?

How do I know I am cooking? I can smell the food as it cooks, and I feel the heat coming up from stovetop. Again, always use your senses to bring awareness to what you are doing. Do this 3-6x everyday and you will notice yourself being present a lot more. You may even feel more at ease and happier too.

5 Things

This is a practice I have personally implemented this week. I took all 3 kids grocery shopping, and we ended up stuck in line for 20 minutes. I could feel the agitation growing after 5 minutes, so I turned to my middle child and said 5 sounds. We’ve done this before, so he knew what I was doing.

We then took turns listing off all the sounds that we heard in the store, The cashier talking, the bags being popped open, wheels of the carts as they pass, the chocolate bars hitting the ground as my 4 year old knocked them all over…etc

The purpose of this exercise is to bring your mind back from a place of, “what the he** is taking so long!!” Focusing on my senses and really trying to hear sounds that were further away helped a great deal to keep me calm as I standing in line for 20 minutes with 3 kids.

You could use any of your senses to do this exercise. 5 things you see, smell, or touch would make great variations.

Pin It For Later

What is mindfulness? In this guide to mindfulness for beginners, learn the definition and benefits of mindfulness, how to do a mindfulness meditation, ideas and easy exercises to help you be happier and more mindful everyday.

Mindfulness For Beginners

In Conclusion

To be more mindful in your life focus on bringing in all 3 elements of mindfulness: pay attention to the moment without judgement. You can do this as a formal meditation practice or simply by bringing mindfulness into everyday activities.

In general mindfulness makes us happier and helps us respond to stressful events rather than react. Whether you are overwhelmed at work, trying to stop a child’s temper tantrum, or speeding through rush hour traffic with your very pregnant wife, mindfulness will help you stay calm and clear.

Sharpen The Saw

All tradesmen make sure that their tools are in good shape. As parents, our tools are our mind, body, and spirit. and we also have to take good care of those. Mindfulness is a great way to make sure our tools stay sharp. When we take care of ourselves, we are better able to show up for our families, our friends, and ourselves.

I’m No Guru

I’m not a mindfulness teacher, guru or anything close. I’m simply a Dad trying to beat stress, live a happy life, and raise a mindful family.

If you’d like to learn from the expert, check out Dr. Christopher Willards books. You can also hear him on my podcast coming in September!

Mindfulness For Beginners:

One comment

  • This is great! Especially about being present. I find we spent so much time “doing” or “thinking” but we forget to just enjpy or pay attention to what’s going on around us- we zone out too much.

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