4 simple mindfulness exercises for beginners
5 min read
Imagine only brushing your teeth when they got fuzzy and your breath could take down a small army. Brushing is a an easy habit to implement because we can see (and smell) the direct impact of neglect.
Unfortunately, we don't think about our minds the same way. Since we can't see the consequences, we tend to let things get "fuzzy" up there for longer, except the fuzz isn't made up of old food and bacteria. It's made up of negative self talk, judgment, limiting beliefs and debilitating fears.
To notice and ultimately clear away the fuzz, we have to slow down. During the day, our minds are constantly racing. In this highly active state, it's hard to examine the quality of our thoughts because they're coming at us a mile a minute.
As we consciously slow down and increase the time between our thoughts, we can start to observe them. We can look back on situations as a passive observer, rather than an emotional participant and when we look back from that perspective, negative thought patterns become more apparent.
Our mind is often running scripts that we picked up from past experiences, but don't serve us in the present. In the background of our mind, we unconsciously play thoughts like: I'm not smart enough... My goals are too hard for me to actually achieve.... I can't pursue my dreams because I'll fail... I'm too young to be successful... I don't deserve this... I'm an impostor.
Left unchecked, these types of thought lend themselves to self sabotage. The good news is that we can overwrite them. Once they're identified, we can examine where they may have come from and work on letting them go, but it goes back to first slowing down and training ourselves to become the passive observer.
Since there's no magic button, here are four mindfulness exercises that will help you hit slo-mo:
1) Focus on your breath
Being mindful is as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on your breath. As thoughts enter your awareness, which they will, visualize them turning into clouds and allow them to drift away. Acknowledge them and then let them go. This practice will eventually increase the time between your thoughts, so that they're no longer racing and in this space, it's easier for us to hit pause on anything that we may want to examine.
For something a bit more focused, try the box breathing technique. Inhale for a count of 5, hold your breath for a count of 5 at the top of your inhale, exhale for a count of a 5, hold at the bottom of your exhale for a count of 5. Repeat.
2) Guided Meditations
If meditating on your own isn't doing it for you, guided meditations are readily available. When the guided meditation is over, take a few quiet moments to yourself to see if any fuzz drifts to the surface. Keep a journal handy to write down any revelations.
Tara Brach guided meditations: https://www.tarabrach.com/guided-meditations/
10 minute mindfulness guided meditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6p_yaNFSYao
20 minute mindfulness guided meditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2zdUXve6fQ
3) Brainwave Entrainment
This sounds hardcore, but all you're doing is putting on headphones and listening to relaxing sounds to slow your brain activity.
Our neural activities synchronize to produce rhythmic wavelike patterns that range in speed based on the activity we're engaged in. Slower waves means slower active thoughts. Listening to sounds that are embedded with these slower waves can stimulate the brain into following suit, a.k.a brainwave entrainment.
Here are the various states from slowest to fastest:
Delta – Dreamless sleep (slowest)
Theta – REM sleep, deep meditation
Alpha – Physical and mental relaxation, meditation
Beta – Awake, normal alertness, racing thoughts
Gamma – Heightened perception (fastest)
Alpha waves and theta waves both allow the brain to relax and get into a meditative state, so listening to either would be slo-mo inducing.
Here are a few links. Headphones highly recommended to receive the full benefit.
Believe it or not, something as simple as daydreaming can produce alpha waves. Easy peasy. Put your feet up and let your mind take you away. The more you zone out and feel what it would be like to experience what you’re visualizing, the more likely it is that you're producing alpha waves, so go on and get into it!