What is Mindfulness?
The concept of mindfulness can be simple, yet profound. Mindfulness is the ability to be totally present in the given moment. Your mind is totally focused on and appreciative of the given moment that you find yourself in, without allowing your thoughts to linger on topics that would otherwise distract you from your current state. There are seemingly innumerable ways to practice mindfulness, and varying descriptions of how to increase your level of presence, but one thing is certain: Everyone has the ability to be mindfully present in the given moment.
When we think about mindfulness, often times it is an image of someone meditating for hours, or someone engaging in a yoga practice, and that could be true. However, mindfulness is something that can be cultivated in short blocks of time and can grow into a whole new way of being present in the moment – whether you are meditating by a serene waterfall, or simply driving home from a long day at work.
How Do I Get into Mindfulness?
There are exercises to increase mindfulness that can be found almost everywhere, from Google searches, to magazine articles, Youtube videos, and self-help books, and even blog posts! The main point to remember is that though meditation is a simple concept, it can be surprisingly difficult to execute at first. You may find that your mind wonders almost immediately when attempting an exercise. Remember to be kind to yourself, and know that it takes patience and continued engagement to become more mindful. If you keep it up, you’ll be able to increase your awareness and length of time being mindful.
One simple place to begin is to find a safe, quiet spot to sit comfortably. Free yourself of distractions, whether that be turning off the TV or silencing your phone. Then choose one small part of your body to focus on. Perhaps it is taking notice of your breath, its natural rhythm, or maybe it is your feet, and how they are relaxed and resting on the floor. Stay here for as long as you can just focusing on this one part of your body. Try to keep your mind clear or any thoughts in particular. If you find your mind wandering, just refocus it on your chosen body part. Take note of how long you were able to engage in the activity without becoming distracted, and see how much longer you can be mindful and present the next time.
Here are 5 Simple Steps to Try Being More Mindful!
- Mindful Waking: When you wake up and are still in bed, take a moment to focus on yourself and take a few deep breaths. Then, set an intention for the day. Something to achieve with your day, however big or small, that would benefit you. Try not to set intentions that are work related, but instead something more personal, such as being kind to yourself. Throughout the day, remember to check in with yourself and how you are working towards your intention.
- Mindful Eating: Take notice of each bite that you take. Notice if you are rushing, and be mindful enough to slow down. Actually notice the flavors of the food, the textures. Take a moment during your meal to pause and just breathe deeply.
- Mindful Exercise: Take time to engage in a physical activity and pay attention to how your body feels. Pay attention to the change in your breath, how strong you may feel, the power of your own body. Be mindful in your warm up for your intention to be kind to your body in your workout, and be mindful in your cooldown to be thankful for your body.
- Mindful Driving: Take time during your drive to take deep breaths. We so often drive on autopilot. Pay attention to your surroundings, the sights, the cars filled with people that are around you, your own journey as you travel.
- Mindful Rest: As you retire to get for the night, take a moment to think about your accomplishments in the day. Think about your favorite moments, things you are grateful for, or you determination to overcome. Take a few deep breaths to center your mind before falling asleep.
Often times, society praises us for being continuously busy. The busier we are, the more important, the more successful, less lazy. We become accustomed to filling our days and working ourselves to the point of exhaustion. Ever felt like there aren’t enough hours in the day? Because of this, we can often run on autodrive, giving our minds a rest from how hectic our lives can become. Ever started driving somewhere and before you knew it, you were already there, with no real recollection of the drive in between? Or watched a movie and suddenly it’s over without really having paid attention to the plot?
On average, we have approximately 10,000 thoughts a day. Between all of the work we put ourselves through, and all the thousands of thoughts that can distract us, it’s no wonder that we zone out sometimes.
So if zoning out is how we give our mind a break from our stressful lives, why change? What would we even do? Well, there are evidence-based benefits to mindfulness.
Mindfulness has so many health benefits, from improving mental health, physical health, life satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, even job performance. Not only that, but mindfulness isn’t just the practice of taking 5 or 10 minutes out of your day to stare at your own feet, it cultivates a new way of thinking and connecting with the world around you, of being more aware, and being more intune with yourself.
Mindfulness has been scientifically proven to reduce stress levels, reduce the presence of ruminating and therefore creating clearer and more positive thinking, increased focus and memory. It also allows for more cognitive flexibility, giving you a built in tool to actually change your thought patterns for good to be more productive and positive. It has also been shown to reduce emotional reactivity, allowing you to be more present, conscious, and aware of your own emotions and how to maintain control of them.
With all that being said, the question really is: Why not mindfulness?