What’s all the hype about mindfullness?

mindfulness_poster_UK

This subject has been brought up a lot this week.  But what exactly is mindfullness? Some say being completely engaged in the present moment.

Imagine driving a car; you reach your destination, but realise you remember nothing about the journey (and this is not related to intoxicated driving!) This is mindlessness… when our attention is absorbed in our wandering minds and we are not really ‘present’ in our own lives.

Living this way we often fail to notice the beauty of life, fail to hear what our bodies are telling us and we all too often become stuck in mechanical conditioned ways of thinking and living that may be harmful to ourselves or others.

On autopilot we tend to get lost in ‘doing’ so we find ourselves constantly striving and struggling and ‘getting stuff done’ instead of really living.

Mindfulness also involves non-judgment, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings with the attitude of an impartial witness.

A simple walk down the street and you shift your attention to the sunlight or the rain, the sounds of music, birds or traffic, the green of the trees or colours of the painted walls, the flow of your breath…  which helps us to remain in the present moment.  Forget about what you had for dinner last night or what projects you need to finish this week. Savour each moment as it arises, whether it’s a walk, exercise, being intimate, sipping a coffee or doing yoga 🙂   Intentionally direct your attention to the sensations you’re feeling.

But to get there we have to let go of the tension caused by wanting things to be different, the tension of constantly wanting more, and instead, we accept the present moment as it is.

There are two forms of mindfulness practice. The first is the formal practice of mindfulness, which is commonly referred to as meditation.

A meditation practice is commonly done sitting down with eyes closed, but can also be done lying down or even walking or dancing a.k.a active/dynamic meditation.  Some meditation practices also involve mantra (sound) or movement.

The informal practice is the rest of your life!  Anything we do in daily life with full awareness can be said to be mindfulness practice.

You can do the dishes mindfully, wait at the traffic lights or go for your morning walk mindfully.  Any routine activity can be made into a mindfulness practice when you bring your full attention to it.

The benefits:

-Mindfulness reduces stress, anxiety and other destructive emotions.

-Mindfulness reduces insomnia and reduces lethargy and increases energy both mentally and physically.

-Mindfulness is also very effective for pain management.

-Mindfulness sharpens your memory and increases your focus and attention.

-Mindfulness improves your emotional and social intelligence and develops your empathy and compassion.  It is also shown to improve relationships.

-Mindfulness improves health and boosts immunity. In fact, mindfulness is shown to have beneficial effects on many serious illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.

-Mindfulness creates clearer, more focused thinking and improves efficiency at work and at home.

-Mindfulness improves confidence and emotional resilience.

In other words, the more mindful you are, the happier you are.  Train your mind to see the good in every situation 😉

References:
Harvard Gazette: Wandering mind not a happy mind
Mindfulness based stress reduction clinical trial for insomnia
Greater good research digest: Mindfulness better than antidepressants
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