Mood determines our outlook on life. It’s a pillar that forms our motivations, desires and will. It can, however, also deter us from realising our potential. Not only does a negative mood give you less perspective, it can also create a festering environment where family, friends and colleagues are also impacted.

It’s for these reasons that you should always try to keep a good mood. But try as you might, sometimes being positive just doesn’t happen. Our brains are wired to interact with certain stimuli in a negative way. This doesn’t mean that you can’t try to improve your mood though. Here is a five minute technique you can make use of to help get on the right track.

Your body and mind in the present

The art of mindfulness may come from Buddhist traditions, but it’s very much grounded in scientific reasoning. It’s a meditation technique that helps you stay in the present, allowing you to channel your energy into your current internal and external experiences. Plenty of research has been done to understand the mechanics of this practice, with researchers pointing to its ability to effect the same improvements that are brought on by consuming psychoactive drugs.

While you may think it doesn’t work, mindfulness is a practice that needs to be developed through constant meditation. The idea is not to get it right in one go, but to expose yourself to the technique and perfect it as you go along. So how do you practice mindfulness? Follow this step-by-step process to help you get started.

Step 1: Start off simple

The first step is to set aside time to yourself. If you have a busy schedule, try wake up a little early – perhaps, wake up when everyone else is still sleeping. You need to find a location where you can go be alone. This allows you to avoid both external and internal noise, the latter might be difficult to mute, but not for long.

Step 2: Get comfortable

You need to be as comfortable as possible. So sit on the floor with your legs crossed. You can do this inside or outside, on a carpet or the grass – wherever you’re most comfortable. If this is impossible, sit on a chair but keep your feet flat on the ground. They shouldn’t dangle as this can create discomfort.

Step 3: Set a timer

Mindfulness can be practiced for as short as five minutes or however long you would like it to last. As you’re still a beginner, you should set your time for at least five minutes. Start the timer as you begin to meditate, and let it run. At this time, you should try keep your mind off of the clock and focus on the meditation. But how?

Ste 4: Take deep breaths

Keep your eyes open slightly, gently fixing them to the floor and rest your hands (palms-down) on your laps. Rather than staring, let your eyes rest on the focal point. This allows you to experience everything around you in that moment. Your mind is a powerful thing, so it may not be easy to just switch off your thoughts. This is where breathing comes in. Take a gentle breath in and exhale.

There’s no technique to breathing. What you’re trying to do is not alter your breathing pattern, but to merely bring attention to the process. So try as much as you can to focus on the process itself, minding how the clean air enters your body and exits it. As time goes on, you should start focusing on one prominent part of the breathing process, either as it occurs in the nostrils, throat or diaphragm.

Step 5: Let your mind wander

This is where most people fail at mindfulness. As they try to control their thoughts, they don’t stop to realise that their minds will wander – again, the mind is a powerful thing. If yours decides to do so, let it. Once you’ve realised it has, bring it back gently to your breathing. Use a phrase to remind yourself that you’re meditating such as “thinking”. The key here is to be easy on yourself, so once it wanders don’t rush it back. Pushing your mind to do things it doesn’t want encourages volatility.  

Once the timer rings, don’t hurry to get up or stop the meditation. Give it time. You can use this as an opportunity to reflect. Mindfulness doesn’t stop you from thinking, but brings attention to your thoughts in the present moment. As you begin to start paying attention to what you’re thinking you begin to understand the stimuli that leads to those thoughts. Rather than running away from them, you start critically thinking of the best way to solve problems that affect your mood.

As you begin to improve the technique, extend the meditation in increments such as an extra 5 minutes until you can meditate for as long as you wish.