We live in a hectic world, lead much busier lives than previous generations, and we’ve programmed ourselves to behave in certain ways.
Each day we set goals for ourselves, expect, react, plan, accomplish, and when we finally get a break, it’s often very difficult to stop.
Simply put, we’re very good at doing.
Mindfulness is a practice that revolves around the opposite—it’s all about just being. In this article, you’ll hopefully come to appreciate the beauty of being mindful every day and learn how to create more space for the here and now in your life.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness began as a Buddhist concept over 2,000 years ago and has since become a widely recognized psychological construct practiced by millions of people globally.
It describes being deliberately aware of the present moment without judging our thoughts, sensations, or experiences. Yet, at the same time, keeping our minds open, curious, and accepting of what’s going on right now.
Berkeley University’s Greater Good Science Center describes it as a practice in which we allow ourselves to cultivate (Greater Good Science Centre, 2021): “a state of awareness, or maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.”
It’s a practice that requires no special equipment or training, and you don’t need to be on a retreat to be mindful. Instead, simply by tuning in to your mind, breath, body, and surroundings, mindfulness can help you nurture kinder, more adaptive reactions to the things that happen in your life.
Because mindfulness practice is a sharp contrast to how we often spend much of our quiet moments (worrying about or planning for the future), it can have a huge range of benefits on our mental wellbeing and physical health (Gu et al., 2015).
5 Benefits of Mindfulness
While it began as a religious practice, a vast number of scientific studies have considered the benefits that mindfulness can have on our brains and bodies.
Cognitively, physiologically, and psychologically, it may help us by:
Lowering our stress levels: helping us manage anxious, worried, or panicked feelings in a healthier way, and guiding us toward better coping mechanisms (e.g., solution-finding vs. avoidance) (Vøllestad et al., 2012; Donald & Atkins, 2016; Remmers et al., 2016)
Improving our heart function: studies have found that mindfulness interventions were related to significantly lower blood pressure levels in pre-hypertension patients (Hughes et al., 2013)
Enhancing our immune systems: in some studies, cancer patients in mindfulness programs showed higher T-cell activity, while in others, it may have had a role in reducing the impact of acute respiratory illnesses in older patients (Creswell et al., 2009; Barrett et al., 2012)
Reducing symptoms of depression: as with stress and anxiety, mindfulness interventions can help patients recognize and better deal with negative feelings and problematic thoughts (Costa & Barnhofer, 2016; Forkmann et al., 2016), and
Increasing our cognitive capabilities: by enhancing our creativity, attention, and problem-solving capacities (Shapiro, 2020).
There are myriad reasons to incorporate more mindfulness into your life and just as many ways to do so. But before you start to worry about ‘the best’ possible way to go about it or where it will fit into your schedule, take a deep breath and relax.
Remember that there is no one best way to enjoy a few minutes just “being.”
Whether you’re enjoying a coffee, walking in the woods, or meditating, bring your awareness to what’s happening here and now. Tune into your mind, body, and surroundings.
Even your lunchtime tuna sandwich can be a mindful eating experience!
What colors can you see in your sandwich? The crisp green of lettuce? Darker husks in your wholewheat? What textures or shapes catch your eye right now?
Acknowledge a few things you can hear. The aircon’s hum, a dog barking, fellow diners chatting?
Can you smell any scents around you? A sharp tang of mayo, the aroma of coffee beans?
What does your sandwich taste like? The slight sweetness from your bread? The mild kick of pepper?
Become aware of your physical sensations. Are you tight anywhere? Cold, warm, in between? Can you feel the chair or ground beneath you? The wind against your skin?
Once you get the hang of it, you can learn to seize little mindful moments everywhere. Create the right reminders to take some deep, slow breaths and note your thoughts and feelings. If any unpleasant or worrying thoughts arise, that’s completely normal. Acknowledge them, accept them for what they are, and release them as you come back to the current moment.
If mindful eating isn’t your thing, these ideas for mindful moments might inspire you:
Take a walk in nature. Walking meditation is a real thing—it’s as simple as putting one foot in front of the other and bringing your awareness to what’s happening presently. You might feel the crunch beneath your feet with each step and take it slow as you anchor yourself in the now.
Practice breathing mindfully. Take a quiet few minutes for some deep, slow, relaxed breaths. Sit comfortably where you won’t be disturbed, and tune into what happens when you inhale, hold, and slowly exhale. Put your hand on your chest to feel it rise and fall. Take some time off from the past and the future, tuning into and savoring the present.
Paint, cook, color, build – whatever your creative hobbies are, they can be turned into mindfulness practices too. As long as you’re acknowledging and accepting, rather than judging your transient thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations, you’re inviting mindfulness into your every day.
Check out our wristbands for a meaningful reminder to stop “doing” and just “be.”
About The Author Catherine Moore
Catherine is an avid surfer, MBA, and Positive Psychology researcher and advocate. Working remotely around the world, her goal for 2021 is to catch the wave of her life.
She holds an MBA at the University of Bradford and a BSc in Organizational & Industrial Psychology from the University of Melbourne, including studies in neuropsychology, cognitive psychology, behavioral psych, personality, and social psychology, quantitative & qualitative research methods, positive psychology.
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