What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness has been frequently discussed in the media over recent years, but can often be misunderstood. Sometimes people think of mindfulness as trying to force themselves not to have any thoughts, or they may perceive it to be a spiritual state to strive for.
In actuality, mindfulness is simply practicing non-judgmental awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and involves gently focusing on the present moment instead of worrying about the future or past.
Why is Mindfulness helpful?
Much of the time when people feel stressed and anxious, they are not in a mindful state. Instead, they tend to be caught up in thoughts about the future or past, and these thoughts tend to be negative and critical.
Practicing mindfulness helps people get out of their heads and back into the present moment. Mindfulness has been found to have numerous benefits for physical and mental health including boosting energy levels, improving sleep, boosting concentration and focus, reducing anxiety and stress, and improving mood.
Let’s say you are at a concert. However, instead of focusing on the music and atmosphere you are in your head about a presentation that’s coming up and worrying about messing it up. If you continue to stay wrapped up in your worries, it could ruin your time at the concert and potentially even upset the people who came to the concert with you.
Alternatively, you could practice mindfulness. You could notice that your mind has wandered and acknowledge your feelings of anxiety about your upcoming presentation. Then, gently you could turn your attention back to the present moment, focus on the sounds and sights around you, and enjoy the rest of the concert.
How can you practice mindfulness?
Formal mindfulness practice/Meditation
One way to practice mindfulness is to set aside time every day to meditate. The act of meditation involves sitting quietly in a comfortable, upright position. Your eyes can be closed or resting gently on a spot in the room. During meditation you can focus on your breath, body sensations, or your five senses.
If you find that your mind wanders during meditation, remember that this is perfectly normal and happens to everyone. Try not to fall into the trap of thinking you are “bad” at meditation. In this situation, simply acknowledge that your mind has wandered and then gently shift your attention back. Remember that meditation is a skill, and gets easier with practice.
If you are just starting out, it would be better to set aside a shorter length of time (5-10 minutes, or less). Choose something that will be realistic for you as consistently practicing mindfulness daily for shorter periods of time will be much more effective than practicing only once/week for a long period of time.
There are many meditation apps and online resources available if you are interested in guided meditation.
Informal mindfulness practice
Being “short on time” is no excuse for not practicing mindfulness, as you can be mindful while doing just about anything throughout your day including eating, walking, and engaging in daily chores.
For instance, you can take a shower mindfully by noticing the sensation of the warm water on your skin and the feeling of shampoo in your hair rather than being in the shower thinking about an upcoming meeting in your mind.
A final word
If you are interested in learning more about how to incorporate mindfulness and meditation in your life, please feel free to reach out for a free initial consult.