What exactly is mindfulness?

You may have seen a lot of talk about this thing called mindfulness in the news lately. In fact, in recent years, there has been an increase in people using mindfulness practices to reduce stress, manage pain, alleviate anxiety, create more meaningful connections with loved ones, and a whole lot of other physical and mental health purposes.

So what exactly is mindfulness?

In the simplest sense, mindfulness is the art of paying attention, on purpose, and without judgment. Noticing the present moment through using simple exercises to focus your attention on your body, breathing, or the thoughts that are occurring in your mind. Some people also call it training the mind. In essence it is a way to train your brain to step out of the chaos of the endless to-do list and become aware of what is actually happening … now.

Why is mindfulness beneficial?

Have you ever experienced worry? Of course you have (unless you’re the Dalai Lama). Do you normally worry about things that are happening right now or do you often try to analyze the consequences of something that already happened or predict the future? I bet you can think of at least one time you’ve worried in the last 24 hours (maybe you’re worried right now that you don’t know how to be mindful!). Mindfulness helps you to release thoughts about past or future and focus fully on the present moment, which lowers your cortisol levels (the fight or flight response stress chemical), slows down your (NASCAR driving) mind, and allows you to pay more attention to whatever it is that you are doing. It also helps in times of challenge when your brain kicks into overdrive and wants to control EVERYTHING.

As part of my practice as a life coach, I teach my clients a variety of mindfulness tools to help them connect with their hopes and dreams, face tough times, and bring them back to a sense of balance in their daily lives.

For today, I’ll be your life coach, and I would like to offer a taste of what it can be like to practice mindfulness.

First, find a comfortable seat, and sit with your legs and arms in a relaxed position, perhaps with your hands resting on your lap (unless you’re drinking coffee) and without too much noise in the background.

Breathe in deeply through your nose and exhale out of your mouth audibly a couple of times (don’t inhale your coffee!).

Next, allow your breath to come naturally and comfortably in and out through your nose (unless you have a cold, in which case it’s fine to breathe with your mouth). There is no special way to breathe when you’re being mindful.

Normally I would suggest you close your eyes at this point, but read on and simply follow directions as listed.

The Body Scan:

Notice the top of your head. Really notice it. You can’t see it unless you’re looking in the mirror, so how do you know it’s there? Try to feel it from the inside and continue breathing in a comfortable fashion. Next, bring your awareness down through each part of your body, scanning and noticing each area as you continue to breathe and sit quietly. If you notice any areas of tension, simply breathe into them and don’t make any effort to change the way you feel. The key here is just noticing what you are actually experiencing at this moment in this body.

When you have reached the bottoms of your feet (don’t forget your toes!), take a few deep breaths and imagine that each cell in your body is breathing along with you.

Counting Your Breaths:

Now that you have become aware of your body, bring your attention back to your breaths. Begin counting them and track them until you reach ten and then start back at one again. If you notice that you have lost track of the number of your last breath because you are making a mental grocery list, simply start with the number you last remember counting. Do this for a few cycles and notice how many times your mind pulls you away from the task at hand to remind you about something you have to do, by showing you a vision of what it would be like to be on the beach in Aruba, or making your left calf itch. When these things happen, bring your attention right back to the breath and keep counting.

Congratulations! You just practiced mindfulness! Give yourself a pat on the back! Now notice how you feel. Do you feel a little calmer? Is your mind driving a little more slowly? I believe that if you do the exercises outlined here every day for even five minutes, you will see a benefit. If so, I’d love to hear from you! Email me: laura@bud

toblossom.net.

The Good Life runs on the second Sunday of the month. Laura Klain is a women’s empowerment and mindfulness coach and the owner of Bud to Blossom Life Design, which is located at 92 Main St., Suite 104, Nashua. She works with private clients and conducts classes and workshops on mindfulness and a variety of other topics throughout New England. You can learn more about her at: www.

budtoblossom.net and on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/BudtoBlossom/.