Can I practice mindfulness by myself?

If you don’t want to attend a mindfulness course, or you’re unable to, it’s possible to practice mindfulness by yourself. In fact, many mindfulness courses ask you to practice mindfulness by yourself between sessions.

”Mindfulness makes me feel safe because even when I can’t access my counsellors, carers, medication and relapse prevention plan, mindfulness is still there. Nothing can take it away.”

How can I get started?

  • Set aside some time. Consistent short periods of mindful meditation can be better than occasional long ones. It can help to commit to a regular time every day to practice. If you struggle to find the time, it might suit you to focus on finding ways of being mindful in your daily life.
  • Go slowly. Try to build your practice slowly. Remember, you’re learning a new skill so it’ll take time to develop. Most people find it hard to sit and meditate for long periods of time at first, so try to do a few minutes and gradually build up to more.
  • Be patient. There is no need to set goals when practicing mindfulness. Putting pressure on yourself may make it harder to be mindful. Mindfulness simply means noticing what is going on for you right now. It is impossible to get it wrong.

What exercises can I try?

As mindfulness involves paying more attention to what you do in your daily life, it can be a good idea to decide on one or two routine activities which you will try to do mindfully each day. For example, this could mean focusing on:

  • the taste, sight and temperature of drinking a cup of tea or coffee
  • the sounds and smells of having a shower
  • the taste and sensations of brushing your teeth
  • the sound of the kettle boiling
  • the sensations of your body as you sit in a chair
  • the feel of your feet and body moving as you walk

Different things work for different people, so if you don’t find one technique useful, try another.

You can also try mindfulness exercises like:

  • guided meditation from an app or CD
  • mindful colouring
  • mindful walking in nature

“The mindfulness colouring really helps me unwind and relax in the evening. It promotes better sleep and I go to bed feeling ready to rest rather than anxious and wired.”

When you do any mindfulness exercise, the key steps are:

  • Pay attention – for example, when you shower in the morning, make a special effort to really pay attention to the feel of the water on your skin.
  • Notice – when your mind wanders, which is just what minds do, simply notice where your thoughts have drifted.
  • Choose and return – choose to bring your attention back to the present moment, usually by focusing on your breath, body or something in your surroundings.
  • Be aware and accept – notice and be aware of emotions you are feeling or sensations in your body. Try to observe and accept these feelings with friendly curiosity and without judgment.
  • Be kind to yourself – remember that mindfulness is difficult to do and our minds will always wander. Try not to be critical of yourself, and gently escort your mind back every time it wanders.

What if I encounter a problem?

Try not to judge yourself if you find mindfulness hard, or if it’s simply not for you. Different things work for different people, and there are lots of alternative things you can try to look after your wellbeing and your mental health. For example, you might want to try talking treatments or arts therapies

(See Mind HK’s online resource “Making sense of talking treatments”)

“I found it very difficult to clear my mind and sometimes ended up feeling frustrated and upset.”

Remember to look after yourself. If you find that practicing mindfulness brings up any difficult feelings for you, you might want to think about how you can look after yourself.  This might be through using your support network, or using self-care tips that work for you.

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