Mindfulness is a way of participating in our lives that brings greater calmness and well being. The practice develops our capacity to find a greater sense of patience and a deeper kind of self-trust during moments of agitation.
Below you will find simple practices to incorporate in your daily life.
The 4/4/8 Breath
Step 1: Inhale for a count of 4, counting evenly.
Make sure your belly expands as you inhale.
Step 2: Hold that breath for a count of 4, counting at the same pace as you did to inhale.
Your belly should be fully expanded now.
Step 3: Exhale the entire breath for a count of 8, keeping the same counting pace you used for the inhale and the hold.
Make sure your belly flattens toward your spine as you exhale.
Repeat this three times — the whole thing should take about 30 seconds.
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.
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.
Find a rhythm that suits you. That suits your body and your balance. As you move forward, notice your body, notice 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. Practice this for a moment.
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, practising mindfulness of walking.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Begin by finding a comfortable position sitting, standing, or lying down. You can change positions any time during the progressive muscle relaxation exercises to make yourself more comfortable as needed.
The first progressive muscle relaxation exercise is breathing. Breathe in forcefully and deeply, and hold this breath. Hold it...hold it... and now release. Let all the air go out slowly, and release all the tension.
Take another deep breath in. Hold it.... and then exhale slowly, allowing the tension to leave your body with the air.
Now breathe even more slowly and gently... breathe in....hold....out....
Continue to breathe slowly and gently. Allow your breathing to relax you.
The next progressive muscle relaxation exercise focuses on relaxing the muscles of your body.
Start with the large muscles of your legs. Tighten all the muscles of your legs. Tense the muscles further. Hold onto this tension. Feel how tight and tensed the muscles in your legs are right now. Squeeze the muscles harder, tighter... Continue to hold this tension. Feel the muscles wanting to give up this tension. Hold it for a few moments more.... and now relax. Let all the tension go. Feel the muscles in your legs going limp, loose, and relaxed. Notice how relaxed the muscles feel now. Feel the difference between tension and relaxation. Enjoy the pleasant feeling of relaxation in your legs.
Now focus on the muscles in your arms. Tighten your shoulders, upper arms, lower arms, and hands. Squeeze your hands into tight fists. Tense the muscles in your arms and hands as tightly as you can. Squeeze harder.... harder..... hold the tension in your arms, shoulders, and hands. Feel the tension in these muscles. Hold it for a few moments more.... and now release. Let the muscles of your shoulders, arms, and hands relax and go limp. Feel the relaxation as your shoulders lower into a comfortable position and your hands relax at your sides. Allow the muscles in your arms to relax completely.
Focus again on your breathing. Slow, even, regular breaths. Breathe in relaxation.... and breathe out tension..... in relaxation....and out tension.... Continue to breathe slowly and rhythmically.
Now focus on the muscles of your buttocks. Tighten these muscles as much as you can. Hold this tension..... and then release. Relax your muscles.
Tighten the muscles of your back now. Feel your back tightening, pulling your shoulders back and tensing the muscles along your spine. Arch your back slightly as you tighten these muscles. Hold.... and relax. Let all the tension go. Feel your back comfortably relaxing into a good and healthy posture.
Turn your attention now to the muscles of your chest and stomach. Tighten and tense these muscles. Tighten them further...hold this tension.... and release. Relax the muscles of your trunk.
Finally, tighten the muscles of your face. Scrunch your eyes shut tightly, wrinkle your nose, and tighten your cheeks and chin. Hold this tension in your face.... and relax. Release all the tension. Feel how relaxed your face is.
Notice all of the muscles in your body.... notice how relaxed your muscles fee l. Allow any last bits of tension to drain away. Enjoy the relaxation you are experiencing. Notice your calm breathing.... your relaxed muscles.... Enjoy the relaxation for a few moments....
When you are ready to return to your usual level of alertness and awareness, slowly begin to re-awaken your body. Wiggle your toes and fingers. Swing your arms gently. Shrug your shoulders. Stretch if you like. You may now end this progressive muscle relaxation exercise feeling calm and refreshed.