The Green Hope Falcon

Mindfulness: What Is It and Why Should You Be Practicing It?

Audrey Compiano, Staff Writer

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What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of being present and bringing oneself back to the current moment without judgement, pulling away from thoughts of worry, anxiousness, and obsessiveness. This practice cultivates serenity and awareness for the right now, focusing on oneself and their surroundings. Making mindful decisions and living in the present invites self-fulfillment, decreased stress and anxiety, and an appreciation for the blessings in everyday life. Mindfulness is a conscious, continuous practice that requires daily application, multiple times a day.

Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways, based on what works for each individual. Some people find focus through breathing exercises while others like to focus on specific senses. Finding a practice that works entails trying multiple, discovering what feels right and is beneficial.

 

Why should you be practicing it?

We live in a society where a life of being overworked is encouraged. There is constant motion, stress, and anxiety running through one’s mind like a treadmill that does not know how to turn off. It seems like there are never moments of silence or peace. There are very few times that people are truly present in the moment, present with themselves, and at peace with the moment, steering away from obsessing over the past or future. Sadly, it is quite rare for people to be living in the now. Present awareness seems so mundane, yet challenges a part of the brain most people do not exercise and do not realize is deceivingly difficult.

Additionally, so many people live in the constant cycle of schedules, going through the motions of each day without finding fulfillment or living life with passion. Understandably so, it is so easy to fall into patterns of familiarity, not straying away from what one knows and is comfortable with. Mindfulness cultivates mindful decisions. The act of stopping to ask oneself the simplest of questions like, “do I really want to eat oatmeal for breakfast again?” Being able to pause in the midst of the chaos and evaluate what it is that needs to be done in that day to find satisfaction and joy. Whether it is a fifteen minute walk or testing out that new nail polish color, understanding what is needed in order to feel whole and content is mindful decision making. As a result, mindfulness creates personal intuition which allows for the ability to listen to one’s body. Understanding personal needs cultivates self care.

Mindfulness is a common, recommended practice for people struggling with mental illness. The practice of present awareness lowers cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone,  and supports focus. While it will not necessarily “cure” anyone and it will be more effective for some than others, mindfulness has been proven to reduce depression and anxiety, reduces the chances of depressive relapses, and can also help people struggling with addiction, according to Mindful.org.

 

What are different kinds of mindfulness practice?

Mindfulness can be done in a number of ways. There is such a variety of mindful meditation methods. Meditation practices can be done for twenty minutes in the quiet of a bedroom or they can be done for 60 seconds throughout the day at school, work, or other public places. Some of these versatile practices include sensory meditation, body scanning, and breath awareness. Here are some techniques to start practicing these mindful meditations:

  1. If laying down, close your eyes. Begin with three deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Pick one sense to focus on. The most beneficial when practicing meditation alone are touch and listening. If you choose touch, move through your body, focusing and noticing where your clothes make contact your skin and the areas of your body that are pressing into whatever surface you are lying on. If your legs or hands are overlapping, feel the sensations and pressure of your limbs making contact with each other. Feel the way your tongue presses against the back of your teeth, the way your eyelids feel while being shut, and the way your toes feel pressed against each other. If you notice tension in your body, take a deep breath and as you release the breath, allow the tension to leave your body. Focus solely on these sensations. If you choose listening, take a moment to notice all the different sounds on either side of you. By focusing, you can hear much more than you may think. After a while, transition into focusing on one specific sound, hearing as it changes or stays the same. If at any point your mind wanders, allow yourself to acknowledge these thoughts and then guide your focus back.
  2. If in a public setting, the listening and feeling practice can be done similarly with open eyes, but it can be more difficult to hold focus. If this happens, sight is the perfect sense to focus on. Take a moment to notice the objects, people, and details in your surroundings. See if you can find an object in every color of the rainbow, going in order from red to purple. Notice how many objects of the same color you see. Focus on the movement around you and take deep breaths, really taking the time to live in the present moment and notice the details that would otherwise have been overlooked.
  3. Focus on your breathing. A simple but very effective practice is pinch-nose breathing, also known as alternate nostril breathing. Start by resting your thumb and ring finger of your dominant hand on each nostril, and rest your pointer and middle finger on your forehead. Close your eyes and press your thumb into the nostril it is resting on, leaving the other nostril available for breathing. Breathe in slowly for four counts, press down your ring finger and hold for four counts, and then release the thumb and breathe out for four counts. Breathe back in through that same side for four counts, press your thumb down and hold for four counts, release the pointer finger and breathe out for four counts. This process repeats as long as you would like. This creates focus on the breath, clears the mind, and slows down the heart to create a sense of peace and calmness.
  4. Body scans involve laying down, with eyes closed, in a comfortable environment. Starting at the tips of your toes, you slowly release all tension in your body and make your way up. Sometimes it can help to tense up the body part for a couple seconds and then release all at once, creating a larger sensation of relaxation and understanding what it feels like for stress to leave your body. Make your way from your toes, to your feet, all the way up to the muscles in your face. Relax your tongue, your eyebrows, and your jaw. For a couple moments after your body is calm, just be.

 

Mindfulness keeps people present in day-to-day life and has so many health benefits. As high school students, having tools to manage stress is imperative to maintaining positive mental health and not pushing oneself too hard. This season of life is one of the most difficult and challenging. Life never truly calms down but that does not mean you cannot.

About the Writer
Audrey Compiano, Staff Writer

Audrey Compiano is a junior at Green Hope high school.  She was born in Iowa, but moved to North Carolina as a child.  This is her first year on The Green Hope Falcon. In her free time, Audrey likes to work out and volunteer for Key Club and National English Honor Society.  In the future, she would like to become a published author. Her favorite class at Green Hope is Creative Writing I. She applied for The Falcon because she wanted to expand her different writing styles and was interested in trying other mediums of art.  She is excited to continue exploring different kinds of writing through the newspaper.

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