meditation

Understanding Mindfulness (A Guide For Beginners)

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Mindfulness is a buzz word right now.

You hear it everywhere and you know it’s good for you, but there’s not much follow up on how to get started or why it’s important.

Essentially, theres a lack of mindfulness around the term mindfulness and we’re just gonna change that right now.

Mindfulness is AMAZING. Studies say it has effects that benefits our health in many different ways, including chronic illness managementanxiety, and even enhanced cognition, just to name a few!

It can help us heal, stabilize, and propel forward into a life we love and it’s simple, effective, and completely free to use.

So why isn’t everyone using it?

Again, there’s a lack of awareness of what mindfulness really is, so let’s start there.

What is mindfulness?

According to dictionary.com, there are two different (but similar) definitions for mindfulness:

“mind·ful·ness — ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/ — noun

  1. The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. “their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”

2. A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

So basically, it’s a conscious decision to bring your attention to the present moment.

And it makes sense that we experience so many benefits from mindfulness because the activities that bring us to the present are what we seek the most…

Think about it. What makes you focus on the present?

For most of us, it’s activities like painting, playing an instrument, going to a festival, dancing, swimming, spending time in nature, heck, even putting on make up!

The things we love to do the most have a direct line to a mindful mind… you just have to be aware that you’re being mindful so you can get the full benefits of it.

If you like the idea but don’t know where to begin, don’t fret — this is the fun part!

Mindfulness comes from training yourself to be present. Meditation is the advanced version of this, but that’s a too much to start.

Pick an activity that you know you have to do daily. Maybe that’s doing the dishes or taking a walk. As you do it, make the intention beforehand to be present as much as possible during the activity. Notice the sights, smells, and sounds around you. Notice how you feel physically.

If your thoughts start to travel to anything else, don’t get mad… this is all practice (and you’re not in competition with anyone else!)

Just bring your attention back to the present. Doing that over and over again (yes, your thoughts will travel A LOT, it’s totally normal in the beginning) will strengthen your control over your brain, lower stress levels, and allow you to experience your life (instead of a perception of your life).

Mindfulness can benefit you in so many different ways and has ZERO negative side effects. You can choose to do it any time, you don’t need to carry anything, and no one can ever take it away from you.

It’s your power, and if you choose to use it, it may just change your life into exactly what you’ve always dreamed it to be. All you have to do is be mindful of your mindfulness and you can’t lose…

So the real question now is, when are you getting started?!

How To Start A Meditation Routine

I started researching meditation the day I yelled at my dad. 

Now, don't misread me... my dad is THE BEST and we're super close (BFFs!), which makes it tough to admit - I used to yell on the phone with him a lot.

It's not that I was mad at him, I was just going through too much. When I was really sick, everything felt like an uphill battle. I'd have complete meltdowns over every little thing because I felt so weighed down by the stress of my illness, the stress of my weight, hell - the stress of my life... I just didn't have the patience for the natural curveballs of life! 

My dad was willing to take the brunt because he knew how much stress I was under (he's actually the best dad ever) and I used him as my personal sounding board day after day.

One night, we were on the phone and I was on one of my usual tirades. 

I was crying, yelling, and arguing with every solution he offered until the true reason for my issues came out. I finally yelled:

"DAD. I DON'T CARE ABOUT THIS. I JUST HAVE NO STRESS MANAGEMENT SKILLS."

I heard it loud & clear the moment it came out of my mouth. When we hung up, I took a few deep breaths and thought - girl, you better get some!

I googled what I could do for stress and hated what I saw. Meditation? Mindfulness?

NO THANK YOU. 

I didn't have the time to "slow down" and the idea of sitting still made my skin crawl. 

So, I just kept on keeping on, getting stressed and having meltdowns. As you can imagine, this was amazing for my health (Hello, sarcasm!) and life felt a little harder with each passing day. 

I didn't know how to get myself to meditate. I tried, but it all seemed so overwhelming, so I focused on the part of my wellness plan that felt easier: diet and exercise. I started feeling better and losing weight and my stress felt a little lighter. I was definitely happier, but I could tell my lack of stress management skills was still making me sick. 

I felt lost and stuck, so in 2016, I quit my job to have an adventure. I decided to travel around the US for a bit but I wanted to do something more. Something wild. So, I decided to head to Peru.

The plan was to spend 5 weeks in South America. Two and a half with a friend and then two and a half on my own. I wanted to see the sights, but I also craved spontaneity. I wanted to wander around and find experiences as I journeyed through. 

Before I left, I only booked two things: Gate tickets to Machu Picchu (of course) and a 5 day silent meditation retreat.. I knew I needed to learn how to do this, away from all distractions, and what better place than on an island in the middle of Lake Titicaca?

While I was on my retreat, I discovered what it felt like to be calm for the very first time in my life. Within a day, I had no MS symptoms and by the end of the retreat, I was unrecognizable to my friend and her family because of how much weight I'd lost. 

I knew then how important it would be to keep this up, so I came home and made it a mandatory part of my routine. I struggled with keeping up with it, making it a habit, but after lot's of trial and error... I figured out how to begin a meditation routine at home. 

Now, I want to share my top 3 tips with you! 

If you're desperate to manage stress but feel intimidated by meditation, these tips are FOR YOU!

Three Tips To Start A Meditation Routine

1. Start with 5 minutes. You don't have to start with 30 minutes of morning meditation, that's actually CRAZY to ask anyone to do! Start with 5 minutes and build up from there. Everyone can find 5 minutes in the morning (turn off instagram and set your timer!) and it's the absolute best way to clear your brain before a busy day! 

2. Listen to a guided meditation. Having a voice to guide you makes it SO MUCH EASIER to focus! There are apps like Headspace, Insight Timer, or even Youtube where you can find easy to follow guides!

3. Simply follow your breathing. Thoughts are going to come into your head and distract you. That's TOTALLY NORMAL. The trick to meditation is noticing that you've gotten lost in thought so you can come back to your breath. In the beginning, this is honestly HELL, but don't get frustrated... every time you do it, you strengthen that muscle in the brain to build focus. I promise it gets easier, practice makes perfect!

When I came home, I started with 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening and now, I do 30 in the morning and 30 in the evening. My stress levels have dropped SIGNIFICANTLY and the benefits are amazing. I feel confident, aware, healthy, and ready to take on WHATEVER the universe throws at me. 

Do you have any tips or tricks that have worked for you? Comment below and let me know!

With love & light, 

Carolyn