5 Ways to Practice Mindfulness

by Christina Bruni Patient Expert

Practicing mindfulness has been in the vanguard of recovery services. I explored this practice in a starter SharePost on mindfulness in 2011. Eight reasons to try mindfulness at our HealthCental depression website got me thinking about revisiting this topic.

Five Mindfulness Tactics:

These helped me and might be able to help you.

Calm your anxiety by focusing on your breath.

I practice a simple routine wherever I am: on the bus or train, at the job, or in my apartment. Breathe in for five seconds, hold the breathe for two seconds, exhale for a count of eight.

Focus on the present moment.

Eckhart Tolle, countless pop psychologists, and Vinny from the Jersey Shore advocate we do this. I've found it's the single most effective tonic for worrying about the future or agonizing over the past.

Enjoy what you have while you have it.

This is a form of living for today. This point was sharpened for me because of the curtains. "Curtains?" you ask. I was able to remove the broken closet doors in my bedroom and take each one down separately to the first floor to place in the garbage room. I hung curtains from a tension rod where the doors used to be. The curtains are a temporary solution. New doors will be installed in three weeks.

The more serious corollary to this is that nothing lasts forever. Friendships often don't last forever and this can be poignant and painful to come to terms with.

Create an imaginal to heal your worry.

I wrote unsent letters to the friend, peers, and others I felt I hurt. Then I recorded myself reading the letters out loud and downloaded the file to my computer. I played back the recording twice a day for five days.

This was a cognitive behavioral therapy technique called an imaginal. A lot of times, forgiving ourselves is the first clear path to achieving emotional freedom. The goal of practicing mindfulness is to be aware of our thoughts and feelings and not become prisoners of our own minds.

Create a man cave or "woman cave" to rest and relax in.

The closet doors suddenly became my focus because I want to paint the bedroom walls a color. I find that creating a cave to retreat to helps me feel calmer and chill out more easily. To beat the summer heat I turn on the air conditioner. I recommend painting the walls of your apartment tranquil colors. The color I'm going to use is a nude pink.

Three takeaways about practicing mindfulness:

Becoming aware is not an all-or-nothing affair. Distractions will come up and disrupt your peace of mind. Gently guide yourself back to focusing on your breath and your surroundings and where you are right here right now.

Practicing mindfulness is an adjunct to medication not a replacement for it for most of us.

Research years ago suggested the benefits of an actual meditation practice. These include halting the intrusive "me" thoughts a person with schizophrenia experiences. Shifting the focus from ruminating about yourself to meditating on compassion, for example, can help you manage the worry.

Christina Bruni
Meet Our Writer
Christina Bruni

Christina Bruni wrote about schizophrenia for HealthCentral as a Patient Expert. She is a mental health activist and freelance journalist.