No doubt you’ve heard about mindfulness but do you know what it’s truly about and how it can benefit you?
What is mindfulness?
When you’re being mindful, your mind is fully focused on what’s happening right now. You’re not simply reacting to what is going on around you. It sounds simple enough but how many times do you find your mind wandering off on random tangents? It’s so easy for your mind to fixate on the past and future rather than the present moment. But mindfulness can bring you back to the here and now when it happens.
One of the myths about mindfulness is that you need to clear your mind of all thoughts. This is almost impossible to do and it’s one of the main reasons people ultimately give up on mindfulness. Instead of trying to stop your thoughts, focus on letting them go.
Meditation is a popular form of mindfulness but there are plenty of other ways to be more mindful in your day-to-day life.
What are the benefits of being mindful?
Mindfulness has plenty of benefits, especially when it’s part of a regular routine.
Mindfulness is a proven way to reduce stress. It also trains the mind to be calmer and react in a healthier way to stressful situations. If you’re someone who tends to ruminate, mindfulness can help with this too. Even focus and memory can improve through mindfulness, according to some studies.
There can also be benefits for your physical health too. If you practice mindfulness regularly, you’ll often find that your blood pressure is reduced. For chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis and IBD, mindfulness can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
Sleep is often improved too, which can be a byproduct of feeling less anxious and more relaxed. Most of us know what it’s like to toss and turn for hours because of stress, but sleep tends to be far less elusive when your nervous system is calm.
Mindfulness is also linked to feeling happier. Contrary to popular belief, wealth, material possessions and the “perfect” relationship aren’t the keys to feeling happy and fulfilled in life. Spending time in the present moment is the real secret, according to studies.
How to practice mindfulness?
Anything can become a mindful experience if you focus on what you can see, hear, smell, taste or touch. We often go through life on autopilot and fail to notice these little things. Brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, taking a shower and even eating are just some of the activities that can become more mindful.
You can bring mindfulness into any activity that you’re doing and you don’t necessarily need to be by yourself. Mindfulness can still happen in a busy, social setting or a situation that would normally cause you plenty of stress.
In fact, it can be a great move in this kind of scenario!
When you’re first starting out with mindfulness, it can be helpful to pick a specific time of day to practice or focus your efforts on a particular activity. Being aware of your breathing is an easy way to start off with mindfulness. It’s very common to breathe from your chest rather than your diaphragm, which can become second nature.
Pay close attention to your body when you’re trying to be mindful. It’s easy to feel disconnected from how you’re feeling, especially if your thoughts are taking over. Mindfulness helps you reconnect with your body and see the impact of your emotions, thoughts and behaviour. Over time, you can train yourself to notice when your thoughts are controlling you so you can take a step back from them.
The great thing about mindfulness is that it can be done when you’re sitting, standing, walking or moving. You may decide to combine mindfulness with exercise to increase the benefits. Yoga and tai chi are great for this. Technically, you can also be mindful when you’re lying down but the relaxation benefits may lead to a nap! This can be great if you’re trying to wind down in preparation for sleep but it can be less helpful in the daytime.