One of the main ingredients of doing mindfulness successfully is to be able to focus so that your brain and body can slow and calm down allowing you to relax. Success is more challenging when your mind is racing from one topic to another, although I have found I feel very much better after a ½ hour of even scatter-brained activity than I felt before I started.

The simplest way to focus is to do a mental inventory of your body from the toes up to the top of your head. Lying on my back with or without my calves and feet on a bench or couch, I think about my toes until I have a sense that I can feel them. Then I move my attention to my ankles, calves, knees, thighs, hips, etc. up to the top of my head. This may be challenging at first but keep at it and soon it will work for you.

Try not to look for too much as it is just a “sense”from each body location. This process has you focussed on the task and your brain is not jumping from topic to topic, distracting you. Different breathing techniques can also help get to and keep a focus. The two I will describe both work well but the second one requires a bit more attention to do it successfully.

The first technique is just an add-on to the deep-breathing (relaxation breathing) method described in part 1 of this topic. Breathe in four to five seconds, hold three to four seconds, breathe out four to five seconds. The change is called the “sip method,” where at the end of the breath in, you take two more “sips” of breath (like sipping tea.) You have to think about this so that helps with your focus.

The second technique cannot help but keep your brain on topic, therefore clear of wandering. You can vary the start, but the routine is important to follow and keeps your focus. The timing for inhalation, hold and exhalation are the same, but the routine changes with each breath. Let’s say you start breathing in through your nose. You exhale through your mouth and then inhale through your mouth and out your nose. Then inhale through your nose and out your mouth. Each breath is inhaled/exhaled opposite to the previous one. In order to do this routine, one has to pay attention. Doing so keeps your brain focussed and free from wandering.

You really can’t do mindfulness wrong, you can just do it better. It works and it is not difficult to enjoy healthful success. Just don’t set your goals too high to start with, keep doing it and allow yourself to find joy in glimpses of success. There’s more to come and the whole process will amaze you.

Some days the brain has more challenge to focus on anything, but I have found I can have a very successful ½ hour of mindfulness even in our small cabin with grandchildren enjoying themselves.

Stressed out? Try mindfulness – Part 1