This article provides a list and description of my favorite mindfulness meditation techniques. Set a goal to meditate 10 minutes per day for 1 week. Then read my article on how to take hold of your mind called “Putting Mindfulness to Work.”
1. Mindfulness Software for Electronic Devices
The first thing I suggest is to install mindfulness software on your computer, smart phone, or apple watch. You can also use a conventional watch as well. Ideally you should have the mindfulness bell go off every 15 minutes while working at your computer and take 3 conscious breaths. You do not have to do anything special for this breathing exercise except to breathe deeply three times in through your nose and out through your nose. If every 15 minutes sounds unrealistic, try every 30 minutes. Most of us do not realize that monks who work at their computers install a mindfulness bell on it, and take 3 conscious breathes every 15 minutes!
2. Headspace’s FREE Take 10 Program
Many of my clients will follow a free 10-minute mindfulness meditation created by the amazing Andy who has demystified mindfulness meditation. My clients have had great success with Andy’s Headspace Meditation app. You might start by arriving to work 15 minutes early and listening to the 10-min Headspace mindfulness meditation in your car. If you do not want to arrive early to work or cannot, practice it before bedtime. If bedtime does not work, take that 10 minute break that you never take at work and go to your car or a quiet room and practice the 10-min Headspace meditation.
3. Mindful Walking
Personally, I am a huge fan of mindful walking. You can do it anywhere, at work, at home, on a hike, anywhere. Basically, you silently count your steps. I will usually count to 30 and go back to 1, if I am on a long walk. If I am walking around my house or office, I count my steps for however long is needed to reach my destination. I might also practice breathing instead of counting while walking. According to buddhist monks who developed this technique, counting is NOT thinking it is a way to suspend thinking and sometimes you need to walk rather than sit to meditate.
4. Breathing Exercises
Counting your Breath. My personal favorite is counting your breath. Remember, counting is not thinking, it is a way to suspend thinking. Sit in a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair, lie down, or take a walk. As you inhale, we aware that “I am inhaling, ONE.” When you exhale, be aware that “I am exhaling, ONE.” Remember to breathe from the stomach. When beginning the second inhalation, be aware that “I am inhaling, TWO.” And, slowly exhaling, be aware that “I am exhaling, TWO.” Continue up through 10. After you have reached 10, return to ONE. Whenever you lose count, return to ONE.
5. Body Scan Meditation
One simple body scan meditation that you can easily do is to “scan” your hands and feet. Sit or lay down. Close your eyes and see if you can sense the energy, heat or any sensation in your hands and feet. You might start with trying to sense your feet, which can be a bit easier, and then try to sense your hands. If this is too difficult for you, try to follow the guided Body Scan Meditation by Jon Kabat Zinn two or three times per week. The full body scan is 45 minutes but you can stop it after 15 minutes or move forward to the middle or last half of the meditation.
6. The Half-Smiling Exercise
If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I thought half-smiling was a useful meditation practice, I would have told you, “No.” Mainly because I thought it was silly. But once you get past the silliness of it, half-smiling is a powerful technique that has been used by monks for over 2,500 years! I regularly half-smile now while folding laundry or doing other mundane tasks, and it almost immediately transforms the boredom or irritation. Below are instructions for half-smiling developed by psychologist, Marsha Linehan.
- How to Half-Smile: Accept reality with your body. Relax (by letting go or by just tensing and then letting go) your face, neck and shoulder muscles and half-smile with your lips. A tense smile is a grin (and might tell the brain you are hiding or masking). A half-smile is slightly up-turned lips with a relaxed face. Try to adopt a serene facial expression. Remember, you body communicates to your mind.
- Half-Smile while at your Computer: Put a sign on your computer or desktop that reminds you to half-smile. Take hold of your breath for a minute or two. Then inhale and exhale for three gentle breaths while maintaining a half-smile.
- Half-Smiling while Irritated or Worried: When you realize, “I’m irritated,” or “I am worried,” half-smile at once. Inhale and exhale quietly, maintaining a half-smile for three breaths.
7. One Mindfully in the Moment
One mindfully is another ancient technique that is now supported by neuroscience research It helps to calm the mind and improve present moment awareness.
- DO ONE THING AT A TIME. When you are eating, eat. When you are walking, walk. When you are working, work. When you are in a group, or a conversation, focus your attention on the very moment you are in with the other person.
- If other actions, thoughts, or strong feelings distract you, LET GO OF DISTRACTIONS and go back to what you are doing—again, and again, and again.
- CONCENTRATE YOUR MIND. If you find you are doing two things at once, go back to doing one thing at a time.
About the Author
Dr. Christine E. Dickson is a cognitive psychologist in private practice who specializes in mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy. She is the owner of Tri-Valley Psychotherapy where she offers consultations and therapy both virtually and face-to face. Christine is a regular guest on local TV where she provides self-help advice to nearly 200,000 viewers. Her work is also featured in Wikipedia, the world’s largest online encyclopedia. To learn more about her workshops, coaching, and counseling services, please visit her website.