What exactly is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is simply the practice of being present. Pushing aside worries of the past, anxieties of the future and being aware of the present moment.
It’s about focusing on our breathing, a slow inhale, a long exhale that washes away stress. It’s about using our senses to experience the world around us. To feel, to hear, to smell, to see and to taste.
As well as bringing us more peace and less stress, mindfulness can help us focus on all the wonderful things in our life and our appreciation and gratitude for them.
Quick facts about mindfulness
Incorporating mindfulness into our daily routine can provide a multitude of benefits to our mind and body. Here are just a few benefits of mindfulness:
- Being mindful of our thought patterns can help us to cultivate a positive mindset. This increases productivity and creativity.
- Conversely it can help us break negative thought patterns.
- The body can’t stay in a stress response when we breath slowly. Practicing deep, slow breathing lowers cortisol levels, the stress hormone.
- It’s impossible to worry about something that may or may not happen in the future when we are focused on the present. This reduces anxiety caused from worry, doubt and fear.
- And lastly, mindfulness increases our ability to be still and present in the moment, rather than being distracted easily.
How to practice mindfulness
What are some mindfulness exercises?
These are just a few mindfulness techniques to get you started, but mindfulness can be practiced anytime, anywhere.
In through your nose, out through your mouth. Take 3 or 4 seconds on the inhale and a little longer on the exhale. Feel the breathe flowing in and through your body.
Why does this work? Our body’s nervous system operates either in the sympathetic (fight or flight) or parasympathetic (rest and digest). But the thing is, when we slow our breathing down we can’t stay in a state of stress. We return to a relaxed state, driven by our parasympathetic nervous system.
Engage your senses.
Focus first on what you can see around you. Look at something that is off in the distance, then something a little closer to you (5-10 feet away) and then something close to you. It might be your shoes or your hands if they are resting in front of you.
Next listen to the sounds around you – pick out three distinct sounds and just notice them. Continue this exercise through with what you can feel, maybe a breeze or the wooden table you are sitting at, what you can smell and what you can taste.
Find somewhere quiet and comfortable to sit and spend 5 or 10 minutes letting your thoughts float in and out of your mind. Just watch the thought come in, with no judgement, no action required. You may notice negative thoughts coming in. Similarly, just observe them and let them go again. Don’t hold on to any thoughts for too long.
You may start to notice some common patterns in your thinking. Often our internal voice is just left to rattle on all day, spouting all kinds of negative, untrue or judgmental phrases and you haven’t really stopped to listen. The more you practice mindful thinking, the more you become aware of this and can make the choice to not accept these thoughts.
Or if it’s easier for you, spend the time writing in a journal in the same way. Write whatever comes into your mind, and you’ll start to see the common patterns in your thinking.
Starting a mindfulness routine.
You’ll notice that the above activities are incredibly simple. They don’t take any special equipment or hours a day every day. These are just basic, easy techniques that you can do anywhere. The key is to find a time in your day where they fit easily, and do them consistently. Over time you will reap the benefits.
If you have time in the morning when you first get up, it is a perfect way to set yourself up for the day, calm and peaceful. Find a restful spot and practice 5-10 minutes of mindfulness.
You might like to incorporate this into your day more regularly. Every hour on the hour, pause and take ten deep breaths.
And of course, any calming activities at bedtime will reward you with not only a calm moment in the day, but a peaceful sleep ahead.
Ready to learn more?
Practicing mindfulness has so many great benefits, it’s really worth learning a little more about it and incorporating it into your daily life. And if you feel you’re too busy, or are already juggling too much – all the more reason!
Here are some great reads for beginners to learn what mindfulness is and how you can begin to practice it yourself:
- The Power of Now: A guide to spiritual enlightenment – Eckhart Tolle
- The Untethered Soul: The journey beyond yourself – Michael A. Singer
- Wherever you go there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life – Jon Kabat-Zinn
- The Mindful Day: How to find focus, calm and joy from morning to evening – Laurie J. Cameron
If nothing else, I hope you take away from this that a few deep breaths and some moments to yourself every day will pay dividends in the long run.
You are worth it!