Have you noticed that mindfulness is as hot topic lately? But, what exactly IS mindfulness and how do you do it? Let’s dive in!
What is Mindfulness?
In a nutshell, mindfulness is being fully present and aware of where you are and what you are doing without becoming reactive or overwhelmed. Mindfulness is there for us at any time if we take the time for it. When we are practicing mindfulness, we are practicing the art of creating space for ourselves in our lives.
Mindfulness has a ton of benefits, as you can probably imagine. When we take the time to turn more inward, we experience so many positive consequences. Here are a few examples:
Decrease stress and increase relaxation. Many research studies have demonstrated that mindfulness is a key element to fighting stress. Mindfulness is one technique to induce relaxation, which helps to:
- Lower blood pressure and heart rate
- Increase attention and focus
- Increase immune function
- Lower anxiety levels
- Increase clarity in thinking
- Higher brain functioning
- Increase awareness
Deal with illness. The practice of mindfulness has been extensively studied in cancer patients. Mindfulness has been shown to significantly help with making symptoms more manageable and to decrease rumination and worry. Similarly, in studies where caregivers of chronically ill family routinely practiced mindfulness, they were found to have decreased stress, depression, and anxiety.
Helps with symptoms of depression. One of the ways that mindfulness helps with depression is that the practice enhances the ability to regulate emotions. It provides the tools to be able to take a step back from intense negative emotions, recognize them, and accept them instead of fighting them. This process helps to improve coping methods and, in turn, helps to decrease depression.
Improves health. Interestingly, research has shown that people who are mindful are more likely to practice other healthy behaviors (e.g., exercising, getting regular check-ups, avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol, wearing seat belts). It has also been shown to help people lose weight and improve eating behaviors and attitudes.
Helps in the workplace. When workplaces have started a mindfulness program, they found lower levels of work-related stress, greater job satisfaction, and enhanced job performance.
How to Practice Mindfulness
Now that we have seen some of the benefits of practicing mindfulness, let’s learn how to do it! At its core, there are just 3 steps to being mindful:
Think about your thinking
Basically, mindfulness is being mindful about what you are thinking and deciding where you are choosing to focus your attention. Have you ever been driving and you start thinking about something that you’ve been upset about, this leads you to become anxious and you arrive at your destination without remembering how you go there? Choosing to focus your attention on the present moment as opposed to letting your mind wander to your anxiety-producing thoughts leads to benefits like the ones described above.
Here are some other ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life
Pay attention. Slow down and focus on experiencing the world through all of your senses. What does the earth feel like under your feet? What smells are in the air? What do you see right now? What sounds are happening? Try this during your next meal. Be mindful of what you are eating and notice if the experience is different in any way for you.
Live in the moment. Intentionally bring attention to what you are doing in the present moment and find some joy. Steer your mind away from your to-do list or the mistake you made yesterday and see how you feel when you focus on the now.
Focus on your breathing. Try this when you are having negative thoughts: sit down, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Bring your attention to your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Do this for just one minute and notice any effect it had on your ability to deal with that negative thought.
Are you ready to give mindfulness a try? I want to know how it’s going, any roadblocks you are encountering, and any benefits you are getting from it!