Tips for Learning to Pause

Learning to pause can be difficult, especially for people who’ve never practiced mindfulness before. It’s easy to get distracted and let your attention wander or be sidetracked by a cellphone notification or an email arriving.

Here are a few tips to help you learn the practice. You can try one or all of them if you’re having difficulty. Once you get good at pausing, you can ignore some of the “don’ts,” but in the meantime, they should help you master the process.

1.) Silence all of your notifications. This is especially important the first few times you try to do a mindfulness meditation pause. We’re so used to our attention being commanded by our electronics that it can jolt you right out of what you’re doing if you don’t silence them. I am sitting here raising my hand because I am always the one to become distracted by the shiny object in the corner!

2.) Don’t pause when you’re overly stressed or pressed for time. Once you get good at doing it, these will be great times to take a pause to help center yourself and get focused, but when you’re just learning, they can do more harm than good.

3.) Keep it short. Don’t try to do a long pause at first. You’re likely to end up frustrated. Try to keep it to a minute or less when you first start. If you’re easily distracted, aim for 30 seconds. You can extend the length once you’re more comfortable with the process.

4.) Find a quiet place (alone) to practice. It might seem like you should do the opposite since you’re trying to learn to focus on what’s going on, but it’s not. Too much stimuli (i.e., noise) will make it harder for you to learn to quiet your internal monologue and focus. It’ll distract you rather than help you. You should also start practicing somewhere you can be alone to avoid interruptions. I know this is really hard to do and I have even had to resort to doing this in my closet.

5.) Avoid doing a pause when you’re tired or sleepy. The reason for this tip should be obvious; you might just fall asleep, which contradicts the whole purpose. Some people use mindfulness meditation to help them fall asleep, in fact. So avoid doing a pause when you’re tired! Yup I have done this too and fallen asleep.

6.) Take as many deep breaths as you need to calm yourself before starting your pause. Most sets of instructions specify that you should take one or two deep breaths before starting. If you’re having difficulty, it might just be that you need more deep breathing to calm your mind and body before you get started. Try it and see what happens!