Welcome to Mindfulness for Beginners. This site will provide you with an introduction to mindfulness. It is designed to be a micro-learning course requiring only a short amount of your time to complete, but also allowing you to walk away with something you can use immediately in your life. In this course you will learn about three dimensions of mindfulness and a strategy (tool) called mindful breathing. You will also learn about how mindfulness impacts the brain through metacognitive thinking.
What is Mindfulness? Mindfulness has been studied extensively as a “present centered” form of self awareness that is based on observing in a non elaborative and non judgmental state of being. Mindfulness is the ability “to be present” with thoughts and emotions while refraining from reactivity and self judgment. Mindfulness has shown success in reducing negative affectivity and increasing overall psychological well being. Mindfulness does not attempt to change the emotions that are present or being observed in the present moment, but draws awareness to those emotions. Thus, the process of engaging in mindfulness enhances self awareness and attention of emotions without engagement or reactivity. The emotions are simply viewed as “mental events”. What seems to emerge from the research are several identifiable factors linking mindfulness to increased emotional regulation, the reduction of rumination, enhanced attention and the ability to sustain attention, increased positive affect and decreased levels of anxiety.
While there are many ways to be mindful, in this training we will focus on three dimensions. The first is "being present" in the moment with an awareness of our body and mind. The second is self compassion and the third is refraining from self judgment. The awareness of self without judgment and the ability to be present are the key factors in mindfulness. If we are able to harness these aspects of self, then we can also be more aware and responsive to the thoughts, emotions and feelings of others.
There is a growing body of research promoting mindfulness practices as therapeutic interventions for psychological conditions through the self regulation of attention and emotions in the brain and to introduce healthful patterns of thinking which reduce anxiety related conditions. What seems to emerge from the research are several identifiable factors linking mindfulness to increased emotional regulation, the reduction of rumination (Teasdale, 1999), enhanced attention and the ability to sustain attention (Eberth & Sedelmeier, 2012; Kabat-Zinn, 1990), increased positive affect and decreased levels of anxiety (Brown et al, 2007).
Further research into mindfulness has revealed positive outcomes when focused on desirable physical and mental states including attention regulation, reduced rumination or fixation on non-productive thoughts, increased levels of body awareness, emotion regulation and changes in perspective, enhanced mood and decreased levels of anxiety (Holzel et al, 2011).
Whether you are learning about mindfulness for the first time or continuing to refine your own mindfulness practice, you will find that mindfulness can be used as a tool and as a psychological intervention for improving self awareness, elevating mood and enhancing feelings of emotional well being.
What is Mindful Breathing?
Mindful Breathing is a combination of the mindfulness practices of being present, refraining from judgment and demonstrating self compassion with deep (diaphragmatic) breathing. Mindful Breathing as a metacognitive strategy (tool) supports emotional regulation by reducing emotional reactivity while refocusing attention.
Please view these two short videos - What is Mindful Breathing - Part 1 and Part 2
When we engage in Mindful Breathing, we participate in a self regulatory process of monitoring our cognition, our attention and our emotions as we enhance our ability to develop an efficient strategy for reflecting on our thinking and breathing. This process involves several cognitive functions involving working or short term memory, executive functions, attention regulation, emotion regulation, self appraisal, and feedback. Mindfulness meditation improves well-being by facilitating emotional regulation as well as reducing aversion and attachment to internal and external phenomena (Kumar, 2002). Mindful breathing can be taught to individuals or groups to increase metacognitive thinking and to develop resilience to respond to stressful situations. Teachers and students alike benefit from using mindfulness practices such as mindful breathing that build self-knowledge and self-regulation.
The Mindful Breathing Technique (Diaphramatic Breathing)
The first aspect is learning deep breathing techniques that utilize the diaphragm to expand the lower abdomen to increase the volume of air in the lower lungs on the inhalation. The inhalation of air through the nose is slow and deliberate allowing the diaphragm to lower as the lower lobes of the lungs fill with air. As the air is exhaled, and the diaphragm lifts to expel the air from the lower lungs. This cycle of breathing is not automatic and must be controlled through focused practice.
The Mindfulness Technique
1. On your inhalation breath, focus on the word “in” or say “breathing in” in your mind. Do not engage in any other dialogue or self talk during your inhalation.
2. On your exhalation breath, focus on the word “out” or say “breathing out” in your mind. Do not engage in any other dialogue or self talk during your exhalation.
3. As you repeat this process you will notice thoughts appear or ideas emerge. Return your attention to the breath and focus on “in” or “out”.
4. As you continue the cycle, give yourself permission to NOT respond to ideas or thinking about what you are doing, other than focusing on the “in” or “out” breath.
Continue to sustain your breathing cycles for 1 minute. After one minute check in with yourself to see if you were able to maintain the focus on your breath. If so, try to increase the next session to 2 minutes in your next sitting. As you make progress and become more comfortable, consider setting a goal for each session. You might discover that 5 or 10 minutes is a comfortable amount of time. With additional practice you can extend your sessions to fifteen minutes or longer.
Mindfulness as a Metacognitive Strategy
Mindful breathing is taught and practiced over a period of short sessions, usually 15-30 minutes long, for six to eight weeks. Through modeling and rehearsal, we become more aware of the relationship between breath control, attention and emotional reactivity. As a metacognitive tool, mindful breathing allows us to observe our thoughts and emotions and to reflect on our ability to monitor our attention and emotions. Once we have learned the strategy we can also reflect on the observations we made while engaged in mindful breathing, further enhancing our self knowledge and self awareness of attention, feelings of self control and our ability to reduce rumination and anxiety.
After completing a mindful breathing session......reflect on these questions in a journal or aloud:
1. What did I notice while I was breathing?
2. How did my body feel?
3. What did I think about?
4. Did I maintain my attention on my breathing?
5. Did I experience any emotions?
6. Was I successful in this session?
Thank you for completing this micro-course on mindfulness. You should now have a greater understanding of mindfulness and increased your own self awareness of how mindfulness strategies can benefit you. You learned a technique called mindful breathing to use to increase your awareness of self and ability to monitor your attention and emotions.
Continue to develop your own mindful breathing practice at home to become more self aware, less judgmental and more self compassionate. Mindful breathing is a form of "self care" that can be used to combat stress and increase resilience.