Can mindfulness really help us? We all rush into and about our day without stopping to really take much in. We’re tied to our routines. Paying attention to the moment you’re in, taking stock of your thoughts, feelings and your environment can greatly improve your mental wellness.
The word you hear people using for this state of awareness is ‘mindfulness’. This is the trick to helping you enjoy life and understand ourselves. To achieve this, you have to develop it through practice.
Mindfulness is generally accepted as acknowledging exactly what is happening inside and outside of yourself in a given moment.
It’s very easy to ignore the world around us. Equally, it’s easy to stop noticing what’s going on inside our own mind and body. We live mostly in our heads, but we’re constantly distracted by our thoughts. We need to stop and take stock of our emotions and surroundings.
Mindfulness connects our physical self with our sensory experiences. It means proactively considering the smells, sights, sounds and tastes of that given moment. It might be as simple as thinking about how soft your clothes feel on your skin or the smell of those flowers in the corner of the room.
It’s not just the physical sensations we should take in. Also, we should be considering our emotions and thoughts at that moment and consecutive moments.
We should allow ourselves to be present. In doing this, you have a positive opportunity to change the way you view yourself and your life.
Once you start mastering mindfulness, you become aware of the moment. You can, therefore, begin to enjoy your surroundings and a deeper understanding of yourself.
Becoming aware of the present moment and picking something to be grateful for can really highlight the things we might’ve previously taken for granted.
You learn about your train of thoughts and how you feel. Therefore, you get an idea of the thoughts that don’t serve you. Learning these patterns can help you break them. Over time, you learn how to steer your thoughts away from the negative. Doing this means understanding that your thoughts do not have control over you.
Tapping into a state of mindfulness is not easy. Once you begin, you’ll notice you can deal with things more productively. You sulk less, for a start!
You benefit from learning your stress and anxiety signals and you can do something about them before they manifest.
People suffering from depression have reported mindfulness as a wonderful tool for coping.
How can you be mindful?
It requires a level of proactivity. You must remind yourself to pause and pay attention to what you’re feeling, thinking and the physical sensations happening around you at that moment.
Every day has something to offer
You don’t have to be on a beach or looking at beautiful scenery to do this. You can do it in your daily life. Notice sensations. Think about the food you’re about to eat, how does it smell, how does it taste? Notice the air shifting around you as you move. These small things are very powerful and knock you out of autopilot.
Choosing a time of day to practice will help form a good habit. It could be as you travel to work, when you’re in bed or taking stock in the middle of your day. Decide to actively notice those sensations.
Vary what you notice
Vary the type of things you pay attention to. Do you always sit in the same chair during a meeting? Try another one and give attention to how it feels.
Monitor what you think
A big concern for people is that when they pause and it’s suddenly just them and their thoughts, this opens up the door for anxiety to step in.
Mindfulness doesn’t aim to stop the thoughts from happening. It’s about accepting them as events. Consider a thought to be like a cloud. You can see it in the sky, but you know it will eventually pass. This practice of observation is difficult at first, but with consistency, you’ll get better at it.
Give it a name
Labelling what you’re experiencing can be helpful. If you’re worried about missing your dentist appointment, that’s anxiety. If you feel you’ve got too much to do and not enough time, that’s stress. Acknowledge what it is.
Let go of everything that isn’t NOW
If your mind drifts to the past or ahead to the future and you begin to worry, you should acknowledge this. Bring your thoughts back to now. What do you hear? How do you feel? What sensations are you experiencing? Don’t pre-live and don’t ruminate on regret.
You could try incorporating meditation to stimulate mindfulness. Specific mindfulness meditation simply asks that you sit somewhere quiet. You practice the same exercise as we’ve discussed. Bring your thoughts to the moment you’re in. Then think about all the sensations that are happening to you. In addition, think about your breathing. Keep it calm, deep, lengthy and energising. Your mind may naturally begin to wander away from the moment and you use your breathing to come back into yourself. Focus on how it sounds as much as how it feels.
Tai-chi and yoga are fantastic ways to develop a breathing technique.
The Garmin Venu can be of excellent help with keeping your breathing on track, check out our review.
Sadly, mindfulness does not claim to be the answer to everything. You should certainly be enthusiastic about it, but it also requires you to be patient and persistent. It gets better the more you do it.
There’s positive evidence of the benefits of mindfulness in all sorts of situations from healthcare to the workplace and even prisons.
There are many dedicated apps that can help you develop your mindfulness. If you’re already a smartwatch owner, you should check your app store. Many are free, too!
Other fitness trackers and smartwatches come with a native app to encourage regular mindful breathing. The Apple Watch will monitor your heart and actively announce that you should take a moment to centre yourself, which takes away the responsibility on yourself to remember to do it, and helps form that good habit. If an Apple Watch is out of your price range, don’t worry. Most of the newer Fitbit models come with a dedicated app called Relax where you can select the length of time to suit you to sit, breathe and be mindful.
Hope that helps! Namaste!