Everything you need to know about mindfulness…
Mindfulness is the talk of the decade; everywhere I look I spot mindfulness discussions, books, techniques, etc. etc. but while I am always noticing stuff related to mindfulness, I seldom see anyone explaining exactly what it is.
For this reason, I’ve written a post for those of you who aren’t too familiar with mindfulness; here I explain what it is, why it is now in the mainstream and how you can practice it to improve your life.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a state of awareness that is achieved by paying attention to the present moment with no judgment.
A moment of mindfulness will allow you to gain clarity within yourself by detaching from all of those thoughts that have been holding you captive for however long.
Mindfulness takes our attention away from our thoughts and onto what is happening right now. As a result, we are able to experience freedom from the mind, even if just for a short period of time.
Why do People Practice Mindfulness?
It’s estimated that we each have around 35-50 thoughts per minute, a staggeringly high number; mindfulness gives us a break from those thoughts.
There are two kinds of thoughts – firstly, there is what I would call ‘passing thoughts’, these are the thoughts that pop into our mind and then leave with no resistance and little emotion. Not all thoughts are bad, and these are the ‘good thoughts’, if you will.
In addition, we also have what is called ‘repetitive thoughts’ – these are disruptive thoughts that we all experience at one point or another. Repetitive thoughts are usually very negative and can impact our well-being, health, happiness and pretty much any area of our lives.
“I’m too fat”, “I’m not good enough”, “I’ll never succeed”, “nobody likes me”, are some examples of repetitive thoughts. You might think you are the only one who experiences these kinds of thoughts but take it from me, you’re not.
We tend to take our thoughts quite literally and perceive them as truth, which is why negative thinking is often the culprit of anxiety, fear, and even depression. One moment of sadness can unleash a whole trail of negative thinking.
Along with disrupting the way we feel, repetitive thoughts also distract our attention from what is happening right now, which is where mindfulness comes in; mindfulness calms the mind by bringing our attention to the present moment.
As a result of mindfulness, you can expect to experience a better understanding of yourself, calmness in the mind, improved relationships and an overall more fulfilling life.
Can Anyone Practice Mindfulness?
Anyone with a mind can practice mindfulness, so the answer is yes – that encompasses you and I, and every other human being alive today.
In fact, mindfulness is even increasing in popularity among children, with parents beginning to understand the benefits of teaching their children how to calm the mind from a young age.
How to Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness embodies anything that creates present moment awareness, and quiets thoughts in the mind.
I wrote a post a short time ago, which explains how to live in the present moment, but I’ll also go over a few techniques that you might like to try.
Meditation comes in many forms; what it means to one person is completely different to another, so it’s all about finding a way that aligns with your preferences. Here you can learn about: Alternative Ways to Meditate Without Sitting Cross-Legged.
It’s important to note from the offset that meditation isn’t necessarily about stopping thought because in doing so, a battle is created in the mind. It’s more about lessening the impact the thoughts have over you. Instead of being gripped by thought, with meditation you step into another role of watching your thoughts with no judgment or resistance, and as such, the thoughts have little control.
Engage with Whatever is Happening
You don’t have to be doing anything at all special to gain awareness in the present moment; you simply have to be engaged with whatever is happening.
One technique I like to use is this – close your eyes tight for a couple of seconds and when you reopen them, stare around the room, or wherever you are, and pay attention to the small detail, perhaps furniture, a picture, or maybe even an object.
For those short seconds, you will find your state of present moment awareness increase. The more you use this technique, the more it will come naturally to you, and eventually you’ll be able to maintain a present state without shutting your eyes. (Closing your eyes helps distract your attention away from the mind).
Breathing techniques are one of the most common forms of mindfulness, which are discreet and can be used anywhere and everywhere.
Sit in a comfortable position and pay full attention to your breathing – gain a sense of the feeling as the air flows into your body and observe as it flows out as you exhale. Pay specific attention to your breath as it glides past your nose on the way in and gently touches your upper lip as it leaves. Even take notice of the speed at which you’re breathing, and listen to the breath.
You might also like to read: Buddhist Principles That are Still Relevant Today