It feels like this concept of mindfulness is getting more and more popular these days. But what exactly is mindfulness? And how can we apply it to our everyday lives?
Mindfulness is about paying more attention to the present moment without judgement. It’s about being aware of where we are and what we are doing. It’s about paying attention to your thoughts and feelings and all that is around you. It’s a natural ability that all of us have and it can help us with our mental wellbeing when we practice it more regularly.
So how do we practice it more regularly?
Every day we can practice mindfulness just by noticing sensations. For example, how the water feels as you wash your hands or dishes or how tasty food is as we eat. It may sound very small but noticing these small details gives us new perspectives on life. There is a growing research that shows when you train your brain to be mindful, you are actually remodeling the structure of your brain. Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR) explains how mindfulness lights up parts of our brains that aren’t normally activated when we’re mindlessly running on autopilot.
Observing your thoughts is also another way to be mindful. When we have thoughts and feelings that occur and maybe we don’t like them, instead of thinking to make these thoughts and feelings go away, we should just observe them, acknowledge them and understand that they are just visitors and to let them go. This is also easier said than done. But if we begin to practice mindful meditation, we will be able to feel all the benefits that we can receive.
Such benefits include a boost in our immune system helping us to fight off illness. Our minds benefit because mindfulness increases positive emotions while reducing stress. One study says that it may be just as good as antidepressants in fighting depression. It also helps us focus as it helps us tune out distractions and improve our memory and attention skills.
Maybe you prefer to practice mindfulness in a meditation setting? Here are some tips to help guide your meditation practice in a mindful way:
– Set aside some time. You don’t need to be seated down in a lotus position, you just need time and space.
– Observe the present moment. Use your senses and notice how everything is in the present. How do things feel? What are the sounds you hear? What are the tastes you taste?
– Feel your breath. Bring your attention to the air moving through you as you inhale and exhale.
– Let judgements pass by. Make a mental note of them and let them go.
– Return back to observing the present. It’s so often that our minds get carried away and wander. When you noticed your mind has wandered, return again and again to the present moment.
– Be kind to your wandering mind. It’s normal for your thoughts to wander. Instead of fighting against it and magically disappearing those thoughts (its quite impossible to just make thoughts disappear) gently bring your attention back to your breath.
Don’t worry if you struggle with this. It’s normal and common for our monkey minds to wander. Even explaining exactly what mindfulness is can seem almost common sense to us; but rather we are so distracted these days with our mobile phones, televisions, social medias, that we are more often not in the present moment. Sometimes we are so consumed with our online profiles and other people’s online profiles, stuck trying to record and capture every cool moment that we have, we lose sight of what is right here and right now. So let’s try to remember to be aware of the present moment, it’s all that we really have. <3