BENEFITS OF MINDFULNESS: WHAT IT IS AND TWO SIMPLE WAYS TO BECOME MINDFUL IN YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW
Have you heard the word mindfulness come up here, there, and everywhere these days? What exactly does it even mean to be more mindful? 'Mindfulness is the basic human ability
to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.' To put it simply, mindfulness is just kind of a fancy way of saying BE PRESENT. That's it. Live in the now. Just be present with what is.
What often happens is most of us spend a lot of our time thinking about things that are coming up in the future. We even spend a lot of time worrying, feeling anxious, or sometimes even excited about something in a good way; it isn't always a bad thing. Or we could even spend a lot of our time maybe thinking about the past, regretting the past, or feeling guilty about things. And perhaps on the flip side, we may be thinking about positive things about what has happened in the past. But regardless we don't spend very much time being PRESENT, by noticing what's happening in and around us in the present moment.
The essence of and one of the benefits of mindfulness is that by learning to become present, it slows down the brain. Instead of thinking about the future of what you have to do, worrying, or anticipating what's coming next; or thinking of the past (feelings of guilt, anger or regret that come may come up); sometimes even feeling like there are 'monkeys in our brain', jumping from one thought to the next. Our thoughts can quickly jump from one time frame to the next, from the future to the past; it can really feel like your head is spinning! When we are present in our minds, we can't be worrying about the future or the past. All we can do is be in one time frame at once because our brain can't exist in two time frames at the same time. Being mindful teaches us how to slow down our minds and be present, with whatever is happening and emotions that come up for us.
Mindfulness is a PRACTICE. Most of us are on autopilot mode due to our busy lives and multi-tasking between our jobs, obligations, responsibilities, our families, etc. It is the practice of PAYING ATTENTION, ON PURPOSE, IN THE PRESENT MOMENT, NONJUDGMENTALLY. And just like with any new practice, it's like developing a muscle. When we practice being more mindful on a daily basis, the faster we will see the shifts and feel the positive impact it will have in our lives. This is where you begin to manifest the benefits of mindfulness.
There has been so much research done on the benefits of mindfulness, as it's becoming more mainstream. It's actually not a new thing at all and has been around for centuries! Research has found that it helps with such a variety of things emotionally, physically, and psychologically. As far as mental health struggles, it can really help with depression, anxiety, panic disorders, eating disorders, chronic pain, and self esteem issues. And there's growing research showing that when you train your brain to be more mindful, you're actually remodeling the structure of our brains. By intentionally practicing to teach our minds to slow down, we are creating new neuropathways in our brain so that over time, we can actually rewire a more calm and grounded mind altogether. Now this isn't saying that you will go from being a super high-strung person to this super chill Zen master by any means. A subtle yet impactful shift and change you will notice by practicing mindfulness over time is that you don't get as wrapped up about things as you used to. You learn how to RESPOND to things in our environment instead of REACT.
You will become more in a responding mode rather than reaction mode, which is empowering and will positively impact how you manage important areas of your life.
What mindfulness does is it teaches our brain how to just be present and OBSERVE what's happening right here and now. And when I say observe, I really just mean observe without judgment; observe without overthinking what we are experiencing; but rather we observe with kindness, curiosity, and acceptance.
Practically speaking, what does that look like? Here's an example: Let's just say you are feeling really upset about something someone said to you and your feelings were hurt. Many of us may respond in our minds in one of two ways: The first being we may say something to ourselves like 'Ok just get over it! Stop getting upset, stop taking things so personally, what is wrong with me?' And this leads to overthinking mode, where we attach more meaning to this. Or the second response we could have is to find a bunch of evidence to support whatever it is we are feeling. So it may sound something like 'I am feeling really hurt. Why is everyone always out to get me? Why is life so hard? ' This leads to spiral ourselves down into feeling worse. In this scenario we may either blame ourselves or others for how we are feeling; either way emotionally it feels more complicated.
So with our same example, where mindfulness would come in; it's learning how to feel hurt and to just NOTICE without judgment. Notice it without getting so attached to it. Try noticing it with curiosity; maybe say 'OK, I'm noticing that I'm hurt right now.' That's what's happening. Whether it's good or bad, right or wrong, serving or un-serving, helpful or unhelpful; that is irrelevant in this moment. Just allow yourself to FEEL your FEELING. You will notice the feeling will be way less intense, and most likely you will be able to move through the feeling a lot quicker than if you were attaching so much thought and energy to it.
Can you notice the difference by approaching it with acceptance? Acceptance just means this is happening in this particular moment, RIGHT NOW. We can practice being more mindful internally and externally just by simply noticing.
Here are two simple ways to become more present and mindful in your everyday life:
1. NOTICE AND OBSERVE BY TAKING PAUSES THROUGHOUT YOUR DAY. Whenever you bring awareness to what you're directly experiencing through your senses, or to your state of mind through your thoughts and emotions, you're being mindful. Regardless of where you are or what you are doing throughout your day, focus your attention on your senses. This simple way of becoming more aware really helps you become more present to what's actually happening right now. Notice what you smell, what you see, hear, taste and feel. For example, if you are going for a walk, intentionally smell the fresh air, take a moment to look at the trees, or your surroundings.
Listen to the sounds you hear such as birds chirping, the rustle of the trees, or cars driving by. Take a pause, pay attention and simply notice. If you are busy at home or work, notice the ground underneath your feet, notice the chatter around you without attaching anything to it. When you eat your meals, just notice the taste of your food or drink. Really listen to what conversations you are having with coworkers, friends, or loved ones. Observe what emotions come up for you throughout your day and practice not attaching to the feelings; just FEEL your FEELINGS. With practice, these small pauses help your mind slow down enough to become aware of what's present in this particular moment and can help with managing stress.
2. 10 MINUTE MINDFULNESS MEDITATION: One of the greatest benefits of mindfulness comes with having a meditation practice. Research shows that doing a 10 minute mindful meditation is all it takes to start changing our brains. Simply put, mindfulness meditation changes brain structure. Those areas that are responsible for helping us remember things more vividly, focus better and improve self-awareness are boosted. By the same token, areas responsible for stress and anxiety are reduced. We are so fortunate to have so many resources at our fingertips that give us free access to guided mindfulness meditations. One great source is YOUTUBE, where there are a plethora of meditations to choose from based on the length and type of meditation you are looking for. Here is a link to a mindfulness meditation that I recommend: The Perfect Mindfulness Meditation in only 10 Minutes. When you meditate, notice that mind will wander and thoughts will enter your mind. This is to be expected! When you get around to noticing this-in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes-simply return your attention to your breath. Be kind to your wandering mind and don't judge yourself or obsess over the content of your thoughts. Just notice the thoughts that may come up and imagine them floating away; knowing you can get back to them later. A simple mantra I like to say when thoughts pop into my mind during meditation is 'BE HERE NOW'. This helps to bring the attention back to being present. You can say this mantra not only for meditation, but anytime when you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious. The more you practice meditation, the easier it will become to keep your thoughts in check and slow down your mind.
Mindfulness is a practice that can have a big impact on our ability to like ourselves and our lives. By practicing to be more mindful, we are truly be able to experience the benefits of mindfulness; as it really does positively affect our well being, and our life in general. After all, 'there's no time like the present'. I invite you to incorporate the practice of mindfulness in your day to day life by giving one or both of these simple ways a try, and see what shifts come up in your day to day lives. It's the small changes we choose to make that turn into the most positive and impactful shifts in our lives!
If you are looking to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life to start to make an impact, feel free to book some time with me (your first call is free) and as a gift to get you started on your journey I will also give you access to my Guided Meditation.
With much love,