Getting Started with Mindfulness: A Quick Guide for Beginners

Are You Feeling Overwhelmed?

Do you feel overwhelmed by your growing “to do” list? Can you remember the last time that you felt joy blossom inside of you?  For that matter, when was the last time that you felt anything strongly, passionately? 

If you are discomforted by the speed, the flatness, the pressures, and the anxieties that life holds, don’t worry. You aren’t alone. Millions of people—most people in the world—are experiencing the same kind of disenfranchisement. We are all like sleepwalkers going through the motions of the repetitions of life. 

The good news is that there’s a possible solution, and it doesn’t cost any money. It doesn’t take up too much time from your life. You don’t need to download an app, join a club, or join a new religion. It’s really as simple as breathing, and you do that already.



Mindfulness is the art of deliberately paying attention to what’s happening within you and around you with curiosity, openness and acceptance.


What is Mindfulness? 

Mindfulness is paying attention to what is happening right now (including our mental events) with curiosity, openness, and acceptance.  It’s about being aware of how you are feeling, what you are thinking, what’s happening around you right at this very moment. I like to think of it as “deliberately paying attention.” When was the last time that you took a second to pause whatever you are doing to say, “how am I doing, right now?”

Many people come to find mindfulness when they are experiencing a crisis in life. Grief, nonstop stress, the loss of a job, a new medical diagnosis…these are all common reasons why people think, “there must be a better way to get through the day.” 

Mindfulness can help. Starting right now can help you lower anxiety, decrease your blood pressure, develop clearer thoughts, and regulate your mood. Making mindfulness a practice every day, even when you have a good day, can help you manage the crisis of a bad day so much easier. 

You can practice mindfulness anywhere and anytime. It’s completely free, and you don’t even need to spend $20 on a fancy cushion or a special music playlist. You can practice mindfulness alone or with your children and friends. You can practice it while being quiet or while engaged in an activity. Anyone can practice mindfulness—a 6 year old, or a 96 year old.

How Can Mindfulness Help Me? 

For decades now, scientists have been studying the effects of mindfulness on practitioners in a variety of settings in order to try to scientifically quantify the results.

Mindfulness has many benefits for you (an individual) and for groups of people. Just by one person practicing mindfulness, a whole family can benefit, as can an entire company team or an entire community. Mindfulness has a beautiful, positive ripple effect. 

All types of people and workplaces can benefit from mindfulness.

Here at Awaken Pittsburgh, we have sought to examine how, exactly, mindfulness lowers stress. How does mindfulness work to increase productivity and concentration, and how much does it help? There are fascinating studies that have shown the positive effects of mindfulness on our health and wellbeing.

At Awaken Pittsburgh, we have had success working with K-12 schools, non-profit organizations, health care professionals, emergency response organizations, public-sector groups, and recovery and addiction centers. Click here to see Awaken Pittsburgh’s training offers for teams and organizations.

Here are a few ways that mindfulness might help you:

Relieve stress

Mindfulness is a strategy for helping you to regulate your emotions so that you are less likely to react negatively during times of stress. . Through practices like mindful breathing and meditation, we can actually slow down the stress response in the body and begin to relax. 

Increase focus and clarity

Do you constantly have a hundred thoughts spinning through your head all the time? Mindfulness helps you to change our relationship to our thoughts, resulting in the ability  to focus on one thing at a time. Good concentration is a byproduct of mindfulness.

Develop more patience

Every single one of us has experienced difficulties. Perhaps a beloved parent, child, or pet died. Perhaps you are battling an ongoing medical problem. Maybe you lost your job. Mindfulness is a strategy for dealing with life’s difficulties. It is not a replacement for therapy, but it is a healthy method for embracing the curveballs life throws your way. Because life is going to challenge you…that’s the nature of life. 

Connect more meaningfully

Do you find yourself fighting with your spouse all the time? Engaged in a battle of wills at work? Do you find yourself isolated from your friends? Mindfulness can help you to see others more compassionately and hear what they are saying to you more deeply.

Additionally, when mindfulness helps you to stop racing, the practice allows you to be more available to others, allowing others to connect with you more easily. When you feel more joyful and likely to build that living room blanket fort with your kids, your kids will naturally feel a connection with you. Everyone in your life is aching for you to be more present with them.

Develop empathy

It’s simply a consequence of mindfulness that the practice allows you to see the hurt and pain in others around you. When you connect with people more meaningfully, compassion grows naturally. Mindfulness also helps us to identify ways to live with integrity and purpose, which naturally leads to self-confidence and a deep-rooted sense of joy.

Identify crutches

Are you the type of person that would rather play video games or watch tv than to sit in silence and be bored? Do you drink alcohol after certain encounters with people? Do you overeat when you feel lonely? I promise, you aren’t alone. Everyone has ways of escaping difficult feelings. Mindfulness can help you identify ways that you find escape routes in daily life and helps to transform them.

Practicing Mindfulness Is Easier Than You Might Think 

There are some common mistakes that people make when they get started with a mindfulness practice. Most of these mistakes stem from expectations or preconceived notions. I want to take a moment to dispel some of these myths. 

Myth #1: Mindfulness is about “emptying your mind.” 

Although calming an overly energetic mind is a side-effect of mindfulness and also a strategy you can use, it’s not the goal. You don’t have to have an empty mind in order to be mindful! On the contrary: mindfulness is more about being super-aware of what you’re thinking about. You can choose to follow a thought down a rabbit hole of contemplation, or you can choose to let a thought go if it isn’t serving you well. 

Myth #2: In order to practice mindfulness, you need to be sitting down, preferably in a cross-legged or lotus position.

This is not true. You can be mindful anywhere, anytime. You can be sitting, standing, lying down, or playing a game in your front yard. 

Myth #3: You’ll find some kind of “nirvana” if you do mindfulness.

The practice of living fully in the present moment is a journey, not a destination. What will you discover along the way? You are likely to experience much joy when practicing mindfulness, but that’s not necessarily the goal of the practice. The goal is to really experience all that life has to offer you, whether that’s good or bad. If you set aside your expectations, you are likely to be delighted by what you encounter on the journey.

How to Get Started With Mindfulness

It is easy to get started practicing mindfulness. A lot of people assume that they need to be in a special place such as a meditation studio. You might be surprised to know that you can practice mindfulness just about anywhere, anytime. In fact, you can do it now, while reading this article.

Let’s get started.

Just close your eyes and try to name three things that you can hear, smell, touch, or taste. What noises do you hear? Do you smell freshly cut grass or aromas from the kitchen? Is there a gentle breeze running across your nose? How do your pants feel to your fingertips, if your hands are resting on your lap?

Guess what – you just had a mindful experience!

To be successful at mindfulness, all you have to do is…do it. There’s no rule about how long you have to do it, or that you do it while sitting down, or that you have your eyes closed. You can be mindful at any time, doing any activity.

Experts indicate that a good goal is to practice mindfulness for about 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week. But it is likely to be unrealistic to expect that you can set aside that much time, especially at first. After all, you have so much to do in your day already. Someone new to running doesn’t put on jogging shoes on the first day and goes to run a half marathon. They haven’t built the right conditions for success by doing that. 

The same is true for you. Start small and be proud of the little baby steps you make as you begin to adopt the habit of mindfulness. You can set yourself up for success by incorporating mindfulness into activities that you are already doing, like brushing your teeth, driving to work, eating dinner. 

A Few Techniques for Beginners

Beginning your new mindfulness practice is as simple as staying put where you are at, and really paying attention to what is happening right now in your body, in your mind, and in your life.

 

Everyone has days when mindfulness feels easy and days when mindfulness is hard. For the days when it’s hard, it might be helpful to employ one of these techniques.

Counting

Breathe in on a slow count of four. Then, hold your breath for four counts. Then slowly release your breath for four counts. Hold your breath for another four counts. Then, repeat the cycle.

Repeating a phrase

This can be something that’s totally personal to you, but some ideas are: “I am okay,” and “I am here,” and “I let go of worry,” or “Joy is inside me.” 

Try a simple exercise

Walking slowly outside is a great way to elongate your time spent in mindfulness. Similarly, doing yoga or simple stretches is another way to enjoy a few mindful moments. Movement helps to naturally redirect your mind. 

Practice mindfulness with others

Another way to set yourself up for success is to practice mindfulness with a group of people. This is one way where Awaken Pittsburgh can help. Our organization is committed to practicing mindfulness in groups. Group practice can help you stay accountable, to learn new strategies to engage in mindfulness, and also to go deeper in the practice.

Awaken Pittsburgh can help you by providing a community where you can develop your mindfulness skills and also be held accountable for showing up. We offer many courses and open meditations

Free open meditations – sign up here


Developing Mindfulness as a Habit

Anytime you try to develop a new habit, it’s hard to remember to do it. As you develop your mindfulness practice, you will learn hundreds if not thousands of ways to get in touch with each moment. There are so many ways to do this, whether it’s through guided meditation, visualizations, reflecting on key words, taking a walk in nature, and countless other ways. 

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you begin your mindfulness practice.

Get comfortable

Whether you are sitting in a chair, standing at the sink, walking to your office…be comfortable. If you need to shift in your chair, slow your pace, or stand up straighter—do it. Mindfulness should never cause physical discomfort. I like to sprawl on a blanket in the grass, looking up at the clouds.

Start small

Don’t expect to dedicate 20 minutes a day to a mindfulness practice right off the bat. Instead, start with a few minutes, or a pause to feel your feet firmly planted on the ground. When you start to notice how good it feels, increase the time slowly. Know that your wellbeing is worth taking a few minutes a day to start a practice.  You can also start to look for other mindfulness strategies to enrich the practice. 

Pick one task in your day and try to do it mindfully

Choose something that you do every day, like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, washing the dishes, or eating breakfast. Just try to focus on the task and nothing else. How does the toothpaste taste? How does the water feel running across your skin? Does the feel of a squeaky clean plate under your fingertips bring a glimmer of joy? What texture does your yogurt have? When was the last time you noticed any of this?

Be kind to yourself

Never judge yourself, or criticize yourself for “doing mindfulness wrong.” If you are having difficulty relaxing and enjoying a moment—that’s okay. You’ll learn strategies for overcoming obstacles as you practice. But in the beginning, if you are struggling, just smile kindly to yourself and try it again later. Be as kind to yourself at all times as you would be to your most beloved friend or child.

Use nature whenever you can

Nature helps you get in touch with present moments better than any other tool possible. Wash the dishes in the sunlight. Sit on the porch where you can feel the breeze. Listen to the birds chirping outside. Can you smell the freshly cut grass?

Above all, have fun!

Give yourself permission to play and have fun with your new practice. Mindfulness offers a quick moment for spontaneity, to explore what happiness feels like again. Go ahead and make a soap bubble board or gurgle the alphabet. 

Awaken Can Help You Get Started

Awaken Pittsburgh offers mindfulness training for all skill levels, including beginners just like you. Our introductory program introduces a spectrum of practices that can benefit all levels. Once you’re on your way, we offer programs to build your mindfulness practice into long-term habits.


Through our proprietary curriculum, Mindful Connections™, we offer essential, evidence-based mindfulness training designed to meet many needs—from individuals looking to deepen their practice, to educators, to public safety teams and others working in high-stress professions.


Led by experts in their fields and grounded in the latest findings in neuroscience and dialectical behavioral therapy, Mindful Connections™ programs are a proven path to powerful and lasting transformation.


Our introductory series is geared towards beginners, introducing a spectrum of practices that can benefit all levels. In addition, we offer programs specific to intermediate and advanced practitioners.

Ready to Get Started or Have Questions?

Complete our program information form and a member of our team will be in touch to answer your questions and provide a price quote.