Mindfulness has become quite a buzz word lately. While on the tips of the tongues of yogis and Buddhists and other spiritual teachers, for thousands of years it is now floating out of the mouths of psychologists, physicians, journalists, and yes, everyday people. But what is it?
Mindfulness is the act of brining your attention to the present moment: whether it’s an action you are taking, a thought you are having, or a situation you find yourself in. You stop your mind from wandering to what you have to do next and put it on what is happening now. It is the antithesis to multi-tasking. Instead, it is one-pointed focus.
Why is this important?
For one, it helps us learn how to take control of our mind. Many people who suffer with anxiety or negative thinking will tell you that their mind becomes a runaway train. By practicing mindfulness we learn how to bring the train back to the station.
Mindfulness also tends to decrease feelings of anxiety and depression. By stopping this runaway train, we bring our attention to what is actually happening, not what dooms day situation our mind is playing out. Most times when we do this, we will see that there is actually no present danger or catastrophe occurring.
Mindfulness also has the added benefit of stimulating pathways in the brain associated with attention and focus, so it now can improve the types of thoughts we are having, but it can improve our thought processes or the quality of our thinking.
In addition, mindfulness helps us stay present to our situation so we can respond appropriately to what is actually happening in the moment, not what we are expecting to happen or to what is happening in the past. We can choose to take act rather than to re-act, which aids us in taking right action rather than repeating old behaviors.
Finally, mindfulness leads to greater gratitude. When we are in the moment truly experiencing our thoughts, emotions, and relationships, we have more opportunities to savor the good in life and appreciate what we have.
Here are some simple ways to bring Mindfulness into your everyday life:
1) While you are driving, only focus on driving. Notice the sensation of the wheel in your hand and your feet on the pedals. Stay alert to other drivers and focus on the path you are taking. Put your phone away, turn off the radio and just drive. I do this all the time and it makes driving more fun, not to mention safer.
2) While you are eating, stop to look at your food and really see it. Now take the time to smell it. Then, take a bite and close your eyes for a moment only focusing on the food in your mouth. Focus on the texture and the taste. Chew slowly. Feel the texture of the food changing. Notice when you feel the urge to swallow and do so. Use all of your senses and put all of your focus on your food. Added benefits to this practice are better digestion, more satisfaction, and feeling on fuller on less food.
3) Next time you are in the shower, slow down and focus just on the shower. Focus on the sensation of the water on your body. Notice the smell of the soap. Really see your body. This may be hard for some people. Throw out the judgment and just observe. It’s a great practice to learn to put aside judgment.
4) When in a conversation with someone (especially your children), put everything else down. Stop and just listen. Make eye contact. See them. Watch their facial expression and hear the tone in their voice. Listen to their words and don't try to think of how you are going to respond next. Just focus on the person and what they have to tell you. Not only will you increase your connection with them and truly hear what she/he has to say, but you will send them the message that they are important and cared for.
Have other ideas about how to incorporate Mindfulness in your everyday life? I would love to hear them! Please share in the comments below. If you would like more help learning Mindfulness practices, feel free to contact me at (708)232-6673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be Well Friends!