Mindfulness is a buzz word in the world of self-care. You don’t have to sit cross-legged, inhaling incense, to be mindful. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, anytime. It’s an experience of awareness that has been practiced across millennia, religious traditions, and modern workplaces.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is simply the ability to be fully present in the moment. Being mindful means you are aware of where you are physically, what you’re doing, and not being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you.
The benefits of being mindful are endless.
Mindfulness has stood the test of time for a reason. Research shows it can:
- Decrease rumination. We’ve all been there: long day at work, stress at home, and we just want to give our minds a break. But the thoughts keep coming! Mindfulness helps break the spell of rumination and gives our mind that much-needed momentary refresh.
- Increase focus and reduce emotional reactivity. These two work together. Routine mindfulness enhances our ability to hone in on what’s important. Practicing quiet awareness also allows us to disengage from situations that are draining our mental reserves.
- Reduce the symptoms and effects of stress. Mindfulness participants consistently show reductions in their baseline anxiety, depression, and physical distress. Regular practice of mindfulness positively affects the neural pathways in the brain that process emotion. This leads to better and more sustainable stress responses.
Mindfulness is a palate-cleanser for your brain. Are you ready for a taste?
First, put down that smart phone and set a timer. Having a defined amount of time to practice mindfulness can help quiet the mind’s natural anxieties and reduce internal distractions, like “How long have I been doing this?” or “How do I know when to stop?” Start with a manageable chunk of time, like four minutes. Consistency is the key to developing a profound practice.
Begin with one of these simple practices:
- Mindful breathing. Sit or stand comfortably with your spine upright and relaxed. Deepen your inhale. Lengthen your exhale. Notice your breath as it moves in and out of your nostrils. Focus on the sensation of air moving into your nose, throat, and filling your lungs. Feel your belly expand. Allow thoughts to enter and leave your mind, just as the breath enters and leaves your body.
- Mindful listening. Make yourself comfortable. Take a few slow, deep breaths to release tension in the body. Relax the head and neck. Softly bring your attention to the sounds occurring naturally around you. Gently tune your ears into the repetitive and unique sounds you hear. Let them wash over you, as you experience them in quiet attentiveness.
Is today the day you begin to reap the benefits of mindfulness? Why don’t you find a quiet place, a few minutes, and give it a try! Here is another great article about how to be more mindful.