LIST-Mindfulness Well-being

Breathing Mindfulness

Background: The purpose of this exercise is to simply notice, accept and be aware of your breath – it is not about relaxation or stress reduction, although this may well occur. Breathing is something we all do – if you have a pulse then you breathe. Your body knows how to do this; it has done it since birth. This is simply about breathing mindfully. Breathing is something you carry with you everywhere – you are not usually aware of it.

  • Sit quietly in a chair with both feet on the ground and your hands in your lap. Allow yourself to feel centred in the chair. Bring all of your attention to the physical act of breathing – start to notice the breath as it enters your body through your nose and travels your lungs. Notice with curiosity whether the inward and outward breaths are cool or warm, notice where the breath travels as it enters and departs.
  • Also notice the breath as your lungs relax and you inhale through your nose. Don’t try to do anything with your breathing – simply notice it, pay attention to it and be aware of it. It doesn’t matter if your breathing is slow or fast, deep or shallow – it just is what it is. Allow your body to do what it does best – breathe.
  • You will start to notice that each time you breathe in your diaphragm or stomach will expand and each time you breathe out your diaphragm or stomach will relax. Again, don’t try to do anything – just be aware of the physical sensations of breathing in and breathing out. If you find that thoughts intrude, this is okay, don’t worry, just notice the thoughts, allow them to be, and gently bring your awareness back to your breath.
  • Start this exercise initially for 5 minutes building up daily. You can also do this exercise lying down in bed if you have difficulty sleeping. It is simply a way of allowing you to have more mindful and conscious awareness of your body and its surroundings – its breathing and its capacity to relax. When our breathing relaxes our muscles relax.
LIST-Mindfulness Well-being

Walking Mindfulness

Before you start, prepare the space. Removing your shoes is good, if that’s possible. And find a place where you can walk for about 12-14 steps before you have to turn.

Now first notice your body as you stand in stillness. Feeling the connection of the body to the ground, or the floor. Becoming aware of your surroundings, taking in any sights, smells, tastes, sounds or other sensations.

Notice any thoughts or emotions and let them be. Notice your arms by your sides or if you prefer, hold your right hand in your left hand at the front, or clasp your hands at your back. Notice your breath, moving in and out of your body. No need to change it; just let it be. And now shift your weight to the left leg and begin to lift your right foot up. Move it forward, place it back down on the ground.

  • Mindfully shift the weight the right leg and begin to lift the left foot up, move it forward, place it back down on the ground.
  • And continue with this walking …walking mindfully, walking slowly, and paying attention to the sensations on the soles of your feet.
  • As each part of the sole from heel to toe, touches the ground.
  • Lifting, moving, placing.
  • Lifting, moving, placing.
  • Notice how the body moves as you walk.
  • Walk with awareness.
  • One step at a time.

When it is time to turn, maintain the flow of mindfulness and bring your awareness to the intricate process of turning. Slowly, and with attention to each movement necessary to turn. Begin to walk back to where you started.

  • One step at a time.
  • Lifting, moving, placing.
  • Lifting, moving, placing.
  • Find a rhythm that suits you. That suits your body and your balance.

And as you move forward, noticing your body, noticing your head sitting on your shoulders, your arms & hands, your torso, your legs, moving you forward, step by step.

Notice any thoughts that arise and let them be.

Returning your focus to the sensation of walking.

  • Lifting, moving, placing.
  • Notice your breath.

Has it moved into a rhythm – a rhythm that fits with your pace of walking, step by step. There’s no need to change your breathing but you might find that it has changed without you noticing it.

  • Continue walking.
  • Taking care to notice each intricate movement required at the turns.
  • One step at a time.

(Pause to allow silent practice)

And next time you return to your starting place, be still. Notice the sensations in your body, bring awareness to your breath. Notice the stillness when movement ceases. And appreciate the time you have spent today, practicing mindfulness of walking.

LIST-Mindfulness Well-being

Eating Mindfulness

You can practice this exercise with one simple sultana or raisin, a piece of chocolate or a selection of fruit, biscuits on a plate. Before you choose one, come to a place of mindfulness: sense what your body needs – notice whether saliva production increases as you look at the platter. Take your time to choose one thing.

Focus with clear awareness on each movement and each moment of the experience as you move your arm and hand and fingers towards the object and pick it up – placing it on the palm of your hand or hold it between your fingers.

Imagine you have just come to Earth and awakened to this substance you have not encountered before.

  • Explore it with all your senses.
  • As if you have never seen it before.
  • Scan it, explore every part of it with your eyes as it sits on your palm or in your fingers.
  • Turn it around.
  • Notice the texture, the light on it, its shape.
  • Whether it is soft, hard, coarse, smooth.
  • Notice any thoughts that arise (like “why am I doing this?” ) and see if you can just notice the thoughts and let them be…bringing your awareness back to the object.
  • Take the object beneath your nose and carefully notice the smell of it. Bring the object to one ear and squeeze it, roll it, listen for any sound coming from it.
  • Begin to slowly take the object in your mouth, noticing that the arm knows exactly where to go and perhaps noticing your mouth watering.
  • Gently place the object in your mouth or take one bite if it is larger than one bite-size but do not chew yet … feel it on your tongue: its weight, temperature, size, texture …explore the sensations of it in your mouth.

When you are ready, intentionally bite into it …does it go automatically to one side of the mouth? Notice when the taste releases. Slowly, slowly chew, noticing the change in consistency, until you are conscious of the impulse to swallow.

Sense the food moving down to your throat and into your oesophagus on its way to your stomach. Sit with the experience noticing any vestiges remaining in your mouth, on your tongue, taste, feelings …satisfaction, pleasure, aversion.

Take a moment to congratulate yourself for taking the time to experience Mindful Eating.

LIST-Mindfulness Well-being

Mindfulness of the External World

Background: We carry with us our 5 senses – touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight – but we often register those sensations unconsciously. Using these tools, we can become aware, accepting and mindful of the external world. We can only see, smell, touch, taste and hear in the present.

  1. 5,4,3,2,1 Exercises

These are exercises in noticing what is around us:

A.  Sight: Look around you and name as you look at 5 different objects (variation: 5 blue/black/green objects), then do the same for 4 of those 5 objects, 3 of those 5 objects, etc
B.  Sight & Touch: Look at, name and touch 5 different objects, noticing their texture, temperature, mass and weight as you do so. Then do the same for 4 of those objects, 3 of those objects, etc
C.  Sight, Touch and Smell/Taste: Look at (in a garden or a kitchen), name, taste and smell 5 different objects, noticing their colours, texture, taste and aroma. Then do the same for 4 of those objects, 3, 2, 1.
D.  Hearing: Close your eyes and listen for 5 different sounds. Then 4,3,2,1.

  1. Other Exercises On The External World

A.  Mindfulness on washing the dishes
B.  Mindfulness on walking
C.  Mindfulness on sitting in the garden
D.  Mindfulness on driving a car through traffic

Notice physical sensations through the body – sights, smells, sounds, tastes, touch/sensations

LIST-Mindfulness Well-being

Introduction to Mindfulness

In this section you will find a variety of Mindfulness strategies that you might find useful in helping you to notice distress (worry, sadness, hurt, pain, anger, loneliness, etc) when it is happening rather than having to distract yourself from these feelings – because, of course, distraction can only last for so long and eventually the feelings come back – or the fear that they will overwhelm you.

Distress doesn’t just happen in your head – yes, there are difficult and painful thoughts, but these are always accompanied by emotions and bodily sensations. Mindfulness practice allows you to be able to identify, tolerate and even reduce some of these difficult, painful and even frightening thoughts, feelings and sensations – it gives you back some mastery over them.

Rather than feeling that you are being pushed around by your feelings and thoughts you learn to be able to have some agency over them.

So what is this thing called “Mindfulness”? Below are some definitions;

  • The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment to moment” (Kabat-Zinn, 2003).
  • “The non-judgmental observation of the ongoing stream of internal and external stimuli as they arise.” (Baer, 2003).
  • “Keeping one’s complete attention to the experience on a moment to moment basis” (Martlett & Kristeller, 1999).

Put simply, Mindfulness is as simple as becoming aware of your here and now experience, both internally and in the external world around you. It gives you a space in the present moment to be able to more safely deal with the distressing and painful memories of things that might have happened to you in the past and to also be able to look at and plan for the future, even when you might have fearful thoughts about things that haven’t yet happened, from a secure position of knowing that you are in the present moment. In fact, we are never NOT in the present moment – we just lose track of that fact quite often.

Sometimes it is easier to understand something in terms of what it is NOT. Here are some examples of MindLESSness:

  • Breaking things, spilling things, clumsiness, accidents because of carelessness, inattention or thinking about something else.
  • Failing to notice subtle or not-so-subtle feelings of physical discomfort, pain, tension etc.
  • Forgetting someone’s name as soon as you hear it.
  • Listening to someone with one ear while doing something else at the same time.
  • Getting so focussed on goals that I lose touch with what I am doing right now.
  • Getting lost in my thoughts and feelings.
  • Being preoccupied with the future or the past.
  • Eating without being aware of eating.
  • Having periods of time where you have difficulty remembering the details of what happened – running on autopilot.
  • Reacting emotionally in certain ways – feeling like an emotion just “came out of nowhere”.
  • Daydreaming or thinking of other things when doing chores.
  • Doing several things at once rather than focussing on one thing at a time.
  • Distracting yourself with things like eating, alcohol, pornography, drugs, work.

If you do some or even most of these things at times, then you are probably a normal member of the human race.

Recent research is indicating that with as little as 20 minutes of Mindfulness practice daily, the brain actually changes – the part of the brain that send messages of anxiety and distress slows down and the part that sends messages of calmness and comfort to the body gets more active. So this stuff is not just a sugar pill – it actually does make a difference. You don’t have to do it all the time, but once you practice some of the strategies we have made available on this website then you can adjust and modify them, or make up your own, and incorporate them into your daily routine. Like any new skill, they need to be practiced and it is best to practice them BEFORE you really need them so that they are familiar to you.

We have provided a number of downloadable Mindfulness exercises in this section. You can download them to a CD or straight to an iPod or MP3 player. Use the ones that seem most helpful to you – after using the recordings for a while you may find that it is easier to just practice mindfulness without them. You might find you are developing your own Mindfulness strategies that work well for you.

LIST-Mindfulness Well-being

Mindfulness Overview

You might have heard the term ‘mindfulness’. This is related to Relaxation, but they are slightly different things.

Mindfulness is about paying attention to things about yourself and your environment that would normally go unnoticed. Mindfulness allows us to step away from distressing thoughts and feelings which often seem so compelling.

Practising mindfulness is useful in and of itself, not just when you are having difficulties. You can incorporate it into your everyday routines, such as practising mindful walking or mindfully drinking tea or coffee. By consciously using mindfulness in as much of your day as possible, you increase your awareness and enhance your sense of control and choice.

A ‘trap’ for men trying to use mindfulness is feeling pressure to ‘get it right’, or thinking that you ‘just don’t get it’. There will be times when you doubt your ability to practise mindfulness.

Expect that you will become distracted and doubt your ability to ‘do’ mindfulness. This is part of the practice. The idea is to notice such doubtful thoughts and the way that they can take hold, as you practice mindfulness awareness exercises.

Mindfulness exercises can be a struggles at first for men, as it goes against the idea that men are ‘do-ers’, who have been trained to be problem solvers. Learning to notice things without trying to assess them or change can therefore feel difficult. The idea that you should do something will almost certainly occur; the challenge is to simply notice a thought and then to come back to your breath anchor.