How Mindful Are You Of Your Mindfulness?
Do you go about your day being thoughtful, or mindful, about what happens in every moment or are you easily distracted? When the phone rings do you rush to answer it? How often do you catch your thoughts wandering while in the middle of an activity such as eating, driving, or even having a conversation with someone? Mindfulness can improve your overall well-being, physical health and mental health and the good news is that there are endless ways to practice mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that involves taking time to make a conscious effort to pay attention and be present in a moment or experience. You practice mindfulness with purpose, but without judgment.
It requires us to make a conscious decision to be aware of our mind and body in a moment or activity. It’s very easy for our thoughts to start to wander and when they do, it requires us to not only acknowledge that our thoughts are wandering, but to also bring our attention back to the present moment on purpose. It also requires us to intentionally notice the sensations in our body and how we react to them. The ability to acknowledge a judgment and let it pass as well as accepting whatever arises in our thoughts is a major part of practicing mindfulness. Being cognitively aware that some thoughts or experiences may be pleasant while others are unpleasant, yet not reacting on an emotional level, will allow you to achieve the balance and stillness of your mind that mindfulness allows.
Benefits of Mindfulness
There are many benefits to practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness supports attitudes that contribute to a satisfied life because they encourage you to savor the pleasures as they occur. It challenges people to become fully engaged in all their daily activities, and creates a greater capacity for people to deal with conflicting events that may occur in their lives. People who practice mindfulness have found that they are less likely to get caught up in worries of the future or regrets of the past, and they are said to be less preoccupied with anxieties regarding their success. In addition, practicing mindfulness can help relieve stress, reduce chronic pain, and improve sleep among so many other benefits. In fact, psychotherapists have begun to use mindfulness meditation to help treat conditions like depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, and others because it helps people accept their experiences, even painful, rather than responding to them with aversion and avoidance.
Ways To Practice Mindfulness
There are several ways to practice mindfulness. One of the easiest ways to practice mindfulness is with your senses. This can be practiced while doing your everyday tasks like eating, showering, or walking. Begin by noticing all the sensations in your body. Take in a deep breath through your nose and allow the air to travel down into your lower stomach region expanding your abdomen completely, and then exhale out through your mouth. As you continue to inhale and exhale, notice all the sensations of each breath. Continue with your task slowly and engage in your senses with everything you do. Notice each sight, smell, sound, feel, and taste so that you can completely savor each moment. Once you notice that your mind has wandered from the task at hand, bring your thoughts back to the sensations you’re noticing as you complete the task.
Another common way to practice mindfulness is with your emotions. Allow your emotions to be present without judgment. Practice labeling your emotions as they surface (joy, anger, frustration), accept the presence of each emotion without labeling them as good or bad, and then let them pass. Acknowledging that your body is experiencing an emotion without classifying the emotion as positive or negative allows you to view them as simple mental events that are temporarily passing through your window of awareness.
Being able to stay present with an experience, whether it’s eating or following the inhale/exhale of a single breath, means you are actively shaping your mind and developing a higher working memory capacity. Practicing mindfulness techniques can positively impact your health and everyday life by helping improve your focus, boost creativity, help you manage pain, enhance relationships, reduce stress, improve sleep patterns, and so much more.