25May

The mind is an incredible tool that is vast, ambiguous, dynamic, and mysterious. But who is in charge—the human or the mind?

Mindfulness is time spent being consciously aware, and it helps us to separate ourselves from that undisciplined part of our consciousness. 

“The term ‘mindfulness’ can be misleading,” suggests coach Andrea Roberts. “Sure, you use your ‘mind’ to bring attention to something, but it’s really about connecting with your senses and what’s around you.” PHCI instructor Erin Power agreed here and added that “mindfulness is simply the practice of ‘noticing’.”

In this collection of mindfulness tips to follow, you’ll hear from coaches with varying perspectives as to what the best mindfulness tricks are for themselves and their clients. Ready to see where the practice can take you?

Practical Tips to Get Started

1. Sit still. Practice daily.

The beauty of this practice is in its simplicity. Coach Angelina Brazzale says, “You must stop and be still so you can tune into your 5 senses. That’s the only way you’ll realize how easily distracted you are. When you realize you’ve been hijacked by the mind, you come back to your body, your breath, and your 5 senses. This is something you do every day, repeating it so often that it becomes habitual. That’s why it’s called a ‘practice’ of mindfulness and meditation.

2. Keep it simple

Don’t feel like you have to know what you’re doing,” suggests coach Sarah Hotchkiss. “Try a guided meditation app, they’re amazing…and you only need like ten minutes!

Also, meditation does not need to be sitting in a dark room, for instance, it can be active and movement-based.”

3. Explore and seek novelty

“I think my top tip is to keep trying different methods, apps, instructors, strategies until you find the ones you enjoy. And, like I tell my clients, this comes in handy if you’re someone who thinks, ‘I hate meditation, it’s not for me.’ In my experience, that’s a clue that you might need it, or, in other words, you’d benefit from it in the most life-changing way.”  – Marisa Moon

4. Time for prayer

Prayer can be a powerful form of mindfulness and meditation. Simply by stepping out of ourselves and speaking to a higher power, we change our state of being and diminish feelings of angst. Thank you for the reminder, coach Kristen Holmes, who stated that Christian prayer is her personal meditation.

5. Zoom out

While sitting and waiting in a line of cars, Coach Kristina Diaz said she was feeling very anxious. “As I sat there, my mind was racing, thinking, ‘I have to do this and that…’. Then, I noticed someone staring at me. I wondered why are they staring at a woman sitting in a car doing nothing…then, it hit me! I really am just a woman, sitting, doing nothing at all…

All of a sudden, I felt calm and I focused on just being that person, sitting in their car. By focusing only on what I was presently doing, I felt so relaxed!”

6. 3 Areas of Awareness: Choose 1

“Here’s a powerful lesson. Your attention can only be placed on 1 of 3 areas of awareness at a time: 1) your thoughts, 2) bodily sensations, or 3) your surroundings.

That’s it. Want to get out of your head? Guide your attention over to the cool, air-conditioned breeze sending a chill up your arm. Or focus on people-watching, allowing yourself to become fully engrossed in the minutia of it all.” – Marisa Moon

7. Check in

Coach Katie Blackbourn Brown suggests that we “try to check-in and be present with whatever you’re doing, wherever you are. Any activity can be mindful if you’re focusing your attention on the task at hand. Until it became more of a habit, I set alarms on my phone just to remind me to check-in.”

Bonus tip: Many health trackers—like Fitbit, Apple Watch, and Oura ring—can remind you to take a deep breath or stretch every hour, for example. Use these features to check in with yourself and take a mindful moment.

8. Use task-switching as a cue

Pause for just a moment before you take on that next task. Take 2 slow, full breaths and notice how you feel, what you’re hearing, and what you’re seeing. This is a way to start creating more space between all the things we cram into our lives, and it’s the space between things that creates value.” – Jason Whistler

9. Refocus with intention

Coach April Dos Santos Walters reminds us of a simple way to snap out of auto-pilot. She says, “Throughout the day, whenever it’s time to refocus from one activity to the next, set an intention or expectation for it.

Go Outside, Be in Nature

10. Escape into nature

“I find it easiest to practice mindfulness in nature. Taking in the surroundings seems to amplify my senses, which allows me to reduce distractions and listen to subtle cues my body is giving me.” – Brian Mumm

We do not connect enough with nature,” says coach Steve Manns. “Being out on a trail, listening to the sounds of a natural environment, creates an escape from reality—I don’t think about the million things I need to do. Instead, I am totally in the present. Everyone experiences a boost from connecting with the outdoors.

11. Mindful walking

It’s a timeless activity, coach Morag Ferguson says, “walking slowly, being mindful of your feet connecting to the ground, you use all of your senses to connect with what’s going on around you. The beauty of this is, although it’s ideal to do in nature, you can also take a mindful walk in a busy town or city.”

12. One-minute meditation

While coaching a group through her stress-relief challenge, coach Julie Graham asked clients to take a walk, and “on that walk, they were to find one thing to look at for one full minute. Whether it is a tree, an urban mural, whatever. Just stop and take something in fully. This ended up being a true moment of bliss for many of my clients.

13. Solo walks for inner stillness

Anya Perry enjoys taking a long, solo walk as meditation. “This works better for me than sitting still. On the walk, I’ll box breathe [breathe in for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4], or slowly count trees letting them ‘float’ through me. It’s like traditional, sit-down meditation, but I’m in motion instead, which creates stillness and space for me.”

14. Use challenges to focus attention

“Mindfulness is being present,” affirms coach Filip Zawadiak. “Sometimes I go rollerskating because it really requires that I stay present (if I allow my mind to wander, I can get hurt).”

Balancing activities, that are challenging to do, will demand your complete presence. Get outside and practice balancing yoga poses, a Slackline or Slack Block, archery target practice, or walking across a fallen tree.

Body Awareness and Breathing

15. Presence at your fingertips

Coach Suzanne Frank says that whenever she’s in a pinch, her go-to trick for mindfulness “is to focus on what’s at my fingertips. Literally. I touch something and notice everything I can about the sensation. Fingertips have lots of nerve endings and are very sensitive.

16. Just breathe

“It all starts and ends with breath,” says Coach Ste Lane. He reminds us not to overcomplicate mindfulness. “Just breathe.” Coach Dude Spellings shared his trick to remember to breathe. He stuck a post-it note to his computer monitor that reminds him to “nose breathe.”

In a fascinating book called Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, by James Nestor, I learned that Native Americans consider nose breathing ‘the great secret of life’. ‘The health benefits of nose breathing are undeniable,” says sleep specialist Dr. Mark Burhenne, and the more you practice breathing through your nose, the more the nasal cavities open and adapt. It’s truly revitalizing.

17. Body tension scan

Coach Morag Ferguson does a mindfulness body scan (similar to progressive muscle relaxation). “Starting at my head, I check-in for tension or stress. I then observe it, breathe through it, and then release as I relax the muscles in that part of my body. This process carries on down your neck, shoulders, and so on, continuing until you reach your feet.”

18. Use tension as a cue for deep breathing

Coach Brad Eaton said it’s time for mindfulness when he notices tension in his chest and short, shallow breaths. “To bring my heart rate down and minimize stress, I do diaphragmatic breathing and 4×4 box breathing when I really need to pull out of a nosedive. A full diaphragmatic breath feels rewarding compared to the discomfort of a tight chest.”

Next-Level Tips

19. Cold therapy

Ever try a cold bath? Coach Charles Robert said, “To me, cold exposure, with an emphasis on calm breathing, is a fast track back to the present moment.”

20. Heed trauma and take things slow

For many people, trying to be in the present moment can trigger a trauma response. This might look like getting angry about mindfulness, sweaty hands, shaking, or feeling generally unsafe. My tip for this is to take it very slow and focus on something outside of yourself….

Take 10 breaths, eyes open with a soft gaze, and focus on the sense of sound (or smell). For 10 breaths, hear everything you can, then focus in on a single sound, and move on to another. Learning to do this with sound slowly teaches us how to witness a thought and let it pass through the mind without attaching.” – Katie Farrell Norris

21. Set a daily intention

“Be intentional,” says coach Jennifer Beamer. “Set a daily intention each morning. In just 60 seconds, ask yourself, ‘How do I want to show up? What qualities are necessary to do this? What specific steps can I take to express these qualities and live in integrity with this vision?'”

22. Try mindful eating

Coach Mitch Webb has a mindful eating routine. “I begin by turning off all distractions and taking 6 deep breathes before eating. While chewing, I take 3 deep breaths through the nose and try my best to listen to the noises in my environment. This daily routine has really helped improve my digestion, and my clients love it too!”

23. Mindfulness journaling to reach your goals

According to coach Jennifer Michelle, working on the past, present, and future helps equip you for success towards your goals. “Reflect on what’s gone wrong and get clear about your stumbling blocks,” she explained. “I created a mindfulness workbook for my clients where I guide them to reflect on how they got here, where they are today, and what future outcomes can look like for them.”

24. Release the pressure

Coach Karen Kelly asserts that mindfulness is, perhaps, not for everyone. So for our final tip, #24, we release you from any pressure you may feel to make it work

“Practice it only if it helps you! For some people, it can have the opposite effect. I benefit very little from sitting still, concentrating on my breathing, clearing my mind, etc…. It increases my stress—not from a trauma response or anything—it’s just not who I am. If it works for you, great, do it. If it doesn’t, that’s also great, don’t do it.”

Which of these strategies piqued your interest the most? Come share your own experience inside our Facebook group, Health Coaching Success, for new and aspiring health coaches.

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