What is mindfulness?
Although it’s been trending recently, mindfulness is not a new concept and it has existed in Buddhism for well over two thousand years. Mindfulness involves living in the moment instead of letting your life pass you by. It teaches you not to dwell on the past or remain in anticipation of the future. It means accepting things as they are, even if you do not like the way things are. You can be mindful of the sounds around you, of your senses or of the thoughts crossing your mind. The point of mindfulness is to observe everything around you and within you, without judgment, and without doing anything to change the present as it is.
In recent times, research has shown that mindfulness is associated with many benefits. Being mindful of your thoughts and emotions promotes well-being by increasing positive emotions and life satisfaction. It decreases depression, stress and anxiety, which in turn reduces the risk of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Mindfulness has also been shown to improve attention and memory. Practicing mindfulness can help you make better use of character strengths such as compassion, wisdom and curiosity. It makes you more resilient and increases overall levels of happiness.
The best part is that you don’t need to attend a class on mindfulness or spend too much time on it to reap benefits. It’s something that you can incorporate into your daily busy lives. Whether you spend your day working at home, or outside, or studying, you can take a few minutes out of your schedule to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness, like other good things in life, will not produce instantaneous results; it must be learned and practiced. Here are three simple ideas that can help you be more mindful every day:
- Mindful breathing: Spend a few minutes breathing deeply. Feel the air going into and out of your nostrils and through your body. Feel the way your lungs expand as you inhale and deflate as you exhale. Focus on your breathing.
- Mindful interactions: Listen to others without thinking of your next response. This will not only help you to better see someone else’s perspective and be more thoughtful in your response, but it will make the other person feel heard and respected.
- Mindful eating: Try eating alone, without the distraction of email, social medial or TV. Pay attention to what you’re eating and the sensory experience – the taste, smell and texture of the food that you’re taking in. Notice what the food looks like in color, shape and size.
Seems simple enough? But in reality, we are rarely mindful of our immediate present. In his TED talk, Andy Puddicombe, an expert on mindfulness and co-founder of Headspace (a guided meditation app), asks when was the last time we did absolutely nothing for 10 whole minutes – and that includes texting, talking or even thinking. You probably don’t remember such a time. Puddicombe goes on to describe the transformative power of simply being mindful and not doing anything else for several minutes each day. Watch the talk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/andy_puddicombe_all_it_takes_is_10_mindful_minutes
If you’re interested in learning more about or practice mindfulness, there are many blogs, videos and even apps (such as Headspace) that can help you in your journey to a more mindful life experience.