How to start practicing mindfulness (without spending any money)
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is a specialist form of therapy, with few therapists available and long waiting lists. We spoke to Hannah Bullimore about how to start your own mindfulness practice
By Hannah Bullimore
The mindfulness ‘trend’…
The mindfulness trend is everywhere, from the cute books on mindfulness in Topshop and Urban Outfitters to your Instagram feed and inbox. Mindfulness has become yet another example of an old idea taking on such power in the realm of modern marketing. Images of blissful women with perfect bodies, perfect tans, and, apparently, perfect minds are everywhere, with products attached to help us achieve a similarly blissful state.
However, with so many of these books, journals, lounge clothes and cushions representing the marketability of mindfulness and in fact, just being big, semi-
concealed advertisements, how can we access real mindfulness? Not the marketing ploys, not the endless line of things to buy, but the practices and habits that can actually make a difference in our lives.
Whenever these cleverly marketed items appeal to us, it’s best to take time to research and consider if you really need them — will they actually make a difference? Will you really use them? Do you have an alternative at home you can use instead? For example, rather than an expensive meditation cushion, use a
cushion off your bed! You can still have a great mindfulness practice without all the “necessary” accessories.
It’s not just a fad.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is helping people with serious mental health problems around the world. A study by The University of Surrey found that this therapy can decrease depression by 63% and reduce anxiety by 58%. Another paper by the same university showed that mindfulness can also be used to help physical symptoms such as fatigue, pain, and insomnia.
To get you started, here are 5 mindfulness practices that require no money at
The breath is the most accessible way to bring yourself into the present moment. There are many different breath-centered meditations to help focus the mind, but for beginners, using the breath is as simple as noticing, and then changing our breath. To begin, sitting or lying where you are, close your eyes and bring your attention to wherever your breath is most prominent in the body — for example, the rise and fall of your stomach.
After a few breaths noticing this sensation, lengthen your inhale and exhale, taking three long, full breaths, feeling your body expand with each inhale. When you open your eyes and return to normal breathing, you’ll feel more relaxed and at ease. This is a quick pause that can help us to step back and consider what next and can also help to still the rush of anxiety, anger or frustration.
No expensive mindfulness journals here — just whichever notebook and pen you have around. As well as not needing to be expensive, journaling doesn’t have to take up loads of time. You don’t need to write every detail of your day. Instead, try to simply answer these three prompts:
Today the thing I am grateful for is:
Today the person I am grateful for is:
Outside the weather is:
Walking is one of the most meditative practices around, and it is accessible to many of us. Head outside for as long as possible — even if you only manage five or 10 minutes, the fresh air, sunlight, and change of space will help you feel calmer. As you walk, either focus on your feet landing on the earth with each step, or look around — what can you see? Even in a busy city, there will be signs of nature. Perhaps you pay attention to these. You could focus on sounds, simply noticing what you can hear and naming them. With this focus, you become truly present in the moment and will stop going through your to-do list, your list of worries and concerns.
Developing a bedtime routine will help you sleep well and bring a touch of mindfulness to your evenings. Sleep is incredibly important to physical and mental
wellbeing, so finding a bedtime routine that works for you is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Consider turning off tech an hour before going to sleep. Read in bed to help relax, or add essential oils such as lavender to your routine by dotting them onto your pillow and duvet or dropping them onto your hand and breathing in their scent.
Meditation can feel inaccessible. It might conjure images of monks sitting for hours in uncomfortable positions, closing themselves off from the world. But meditation is for everyone. It can be just a few minutes out of your day, and there are so many different forms of it — there is bound to be one you’ll enjoy.
Free apps to help you get started
Getting started is often the hardest part when it comes to starting a mindfulness practice, and there are many apps available to help. However, these can be
costly. 10% Happier has a free setting with a few mediations available each day for those who don’t pay the monthly fee. There are more than enough free meditations on there, and the app even keeps track of how many minutes each day you’ve meditated.
Another great, free meditation app is Insight Timer, which has loads of free content from different meditation teachers. If you enjoy their work, you can choose to donate to them as payment, but there is no pressure to do so and you can use as many of the meditations and soundtracks as you like without having to
Give it a go!
With so many mindfulness options available, you definitely don’t need to spend money to give them a try! Mindfulness is simply trying to be more present — living in this moment right here rather than dwelling on the past, worrying about the future, or wishing time away. It sounds simple, but it takes practice. We hope you find these tips helpful and give mindfulness a go!
About the Author
Hannah Bullimore is a yoga teacher and writer from the North East. She teaches writing workshops for all ages and yoga classes for all abilities.
Follow her on Instagram @hannah_bullimore