Most of us spend most of our time thinking about what’s coming up in the future or dwelling on things in the past we can’t change. Apart from the fact that this makes us miss the beautiful experience of the present, it hurts our health.
Being mindful means paying close attention to what’s happening at the moment. You become aware of what’s going on inside and around you—your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and environment. You observe these moments without judgment.
It means noticing what’s happening inside your mind and in your body – your stomach hurts when you think about doing your taxes, flowers are blooming on your route to work and so much more. That way, you notice your life with a little distance, instead of reacting emotionally.
Is this possible with all the stress and demands of life? An absolute yes! It is possible to train yourself to focus on the present moment.
Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist meditation – a practice that aims to increase awareness of the mind and concentration. Why has this gained popularity? It’s because it comes with a boat load of benefits.
Why Practice It?
Being mindful helps you notice when you’re on autopilot. That lets you change what you’re doing in the moment, rather than regretting it later.
Let’s say you find yourself eating a bag of chips in front of the TV — your evening pattern. Being mindful can help you break free from the autopilot trance and take a moment to make a different choice. You could trade the chips for carrots, or decide to skip TV and take a walk around the block instead.
You can also use this practice to help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight by going this way;
- Do a gut check to see if you’re really hungry before you eat.
- Focus on each bite, savouring its flavour and texture.
- Notice if what you’re saying to yourself is helpful.
- Do another gut check to see how full you are. That way you can stop eating when you feel full instead of mindlessly cleaning your plate.
Studies suggest that focusing on the present can have a positive impact on our health and well-being.
There’s also evidence that mindfulness can lower blood pressure and improve sleep. It may even help people cope with pain.
One of the first mindfulness-based therapies was used for depression. Many studies have shown that it can be effective for some people in two ways.
First, it helps you develop the ability to stay grounded in the present. Second, mindfulness can help you “de-centre” from such thoughts.
Developing the skill of mindfulness can help stop you from being pulled into anyone’s thoughts and carried down the stream. Over time, and with practice, you can develop the ability to stand back from these painful thought patterns.
Here’s how to be mindful when you have a few minutes to yourself and don’t need to concentrate on a more pressing task:
First, pause and focus on your body. What do you see and hear, smell, taste, and feel? Don’t label these sensations as good or bad. Just let them go.
Then narrow your focus. Notice subtle sensations like an itch or tingling. Give each part of your body a moment of your full attention. Start with your head and move down to your toes.
Next, be more intent on your breath. Where in your body do you feel it most? Rest your attention there.
Acknowledge your thoughts and emotions. Spend a few moments with them, being with things as they are. Allow your feelings to be present without judgment.
When your mind wanders (and it will), simply return to your breath. There’s no need to beat yourself up for losing focus.
Mindfulness is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
Do you have any question or comment? Do share with us in the comment section.