Mindfulness is the ability to appreciate each moment, live in the now, and train you to focus on stillness. In our rushed lives we multitask, plan, think about past and future — in parallel realities between social media and real-life. We forget to live in the now. The impact of not appreciating, living the moment and ruminating constantly about past and future becomes an unstable relationship between body, mind, and spirit.
In this Part 1 (of 3) we give you a guide to what mindfulness is. Do you want to complete a lifestyle change and bring balance to body, mind, spirit, and life? Read on, comment and share your thoughts.
Mindfulness: What Is It?
Mindfulness is a way to find peace in a frantic life and appreciate your moment. It can literally change how you view the world, and science has shown that mindfulness changes your brain too, in a positive way.
Mindfulness is more than just a fashionable ‘it word’ – it is a recognized science. Health practitioners and wellness coaches use these techniques in their work. However, anyone at any age can use mindfulness in everyday life and get its benefits — read Part 2 about 7 Mindfulness Benefits for Life and Work and Part 3 – How To Be More Mindful of Feelings, by guest blogger Amber Waddy of KlearMinds.
Mindfulness has been defined in many ways, but the basic ABC is summed up by Juliet Adams, Founder of Mindfulnet.org & Director:
A is for awareness – Becoming more aware of what you are thinking and doing – whats going on in your mind and body. B is for “just Being” with your experience. Avoiding the tendency to respond on auto-pilot and feed problems by creating your own story. C is for seeing things and responding more wisely. By creating a gap between the experience and our reaction to, we can make wiser choices.
I am sure you ask yourself: Why should I do this? And – who has time? Let’s look at what, how and why. The point is that for all the exercise, healthy food and changes you are making to your lifestyle – mindfulness is the final frontier to conquer — to get a real balance to body and mind.
Mindfulness: Focus in Real Time
Jon Kabat-Zinn – who brought modern mindfulness to the forefront in the 70s’ defines it as:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
Mindfulness is about waking up, connecting with ourselves, and appreciating the fullness of each moment of life. Kabat-Zinn calls it “The art of conscious living.” It is a profound way to enhance psychological and emotional resilience, and increase life satisfaction.
The Lunch Date: Live or on Social?
This all sounds very deep, I realize, so let’s bring an everyday example:
You have a lunch date with a dear old friend, who you have not seen for months. After a morning of stressful meetings, and errands, you arrive late. After greeting your friend, you start chatting about the weather, kids, work and order food. Meanwhile, you take selfies and pics of the food and post to your favorite social media sites. You check your messages while posting, and get distracted. While trying to refocus on your friend you remember that you’re hungry, and talk loosely while chewing… and then have to leave as you have another engagement lined up.
Do you recognize this? How was your friend – really? Did you communicate? Did the food taste good? Was the long-awaited encounter memorable OR do you have to check back on Facebook to remember?
The Lunch Date: Here and Now
If mindfulness would have entered here, you would have taken care to listen, without making a judgment, or thinking about past or future. Mindfulness involves consciously bringing awareness to the here-and-now experience with openness, interest, and receptiveness.
Your lunch date would have meant appreciating the moment, real exchange of thoughts, and true communication. And – you would have tasted the food with full appreciation. You would have allowed the luncheon date to be about the here, now and present. Mindfulness would have brought the focus in real-time and made the moments with your friend really count – far more than the ‘likes’ you racked up on Facebook!
Mindfulness: How Can You Do It?
Does it sound like something you would like to try? You can get the principal techniques by reading on, and then find your way to learn more.
#1 Not Reacting to Feelings and Emotions
For moments when you do not need distractions or loss of concentration (interview, test, meetings, washing dishes etc). You will experience how uninvited thoughts creep into the head. The actual point then comes into play: These thoughts are fine, as this is what a brain does – what is important is how we react to the thoughts. If you get irritated, annoyed or angry because the focus goes away you move away from the present moment. However, if you acknowledge that the thought is there, and let it go without judgment the focus stays. You remain in the present moment.
#2 Observing and Being in the Moment
Allowing yourself to really notice the feeling and remain with the sensation of a good cup of tea, a hug, rain, sunshine, music etc. It re-energizes and brings clarity well beyond the moment.
#3 Being Aware and Focused
Not acting on automatic pilot, concentrating on what you are doing, and not allowing yourself to be distracted. This helps you to not break, spill and focus on what you are doing. You also improve relationships by paying attention, in focus and not thinking of something else.
#4 Stopping the Habit of Describing and Labeling with Words
This means thinking before speaking, and listening without interrupting, answering with kindness, and avoiding stereotyping.
#5 Not Being so Hard on Yourself
Putting aside past and future and not being judgmental of experiences, so as to enjoy the moment. You will learn how to stop self-critique and flogging yourself.
#6 Coping Mechanisms
For long and short-term stress read this article on how to reduce stress by using mindfulness techniques.
You can learn by attending a formal course, take an online one or pick up some DIY techniques for your everyday life.
Mindfulness Courses: Formal Certification
When you attend a course or get certified, you learn how to pay attention on purpose by doing special meditation, practices, and movements. You will learn how to slow down and tune out brain chatter, as well as automatic or habitual reactions.
In essence, you learn how to appreciate the present moment as it is. You can search the internet for courses in your area. In the UK this site has a great selection: Find a Course; and in the US you can join the Centre for Mindfulness, founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Mindfulness Courses: On-Line and D.I.Y.
Courses online are a great way to get introduced to and learn basic techniques. This course Be Mindful comes recommended and has great reviews, and mindful.org has a great resource page that gives you a number of choices.
- 6 Mindfulness Exercises You Can Try Today – Pocket Mindfulness
- Mindfulness Exercises To Try On Your Own – Helpguide.org
- 6 Mindfulness Exercises That Each Take Less Than 1 Minute – Psychology Today
- Mindfulness Exercises for Everyday Life – Stress About
- Self-Help Resources and Mindfulness – Get Self Help U.K.
Mindfulness: Lifestyle Changer
Lifestyle changes are so much more than keeping fit and eating well. Lifestyle changes will lead to real inner and outer transformations, that will surprise you. Life altering consequences come from a true lifestyle change – this I know from experience.
While lifestyle change is a step-by-step process that tends to start with understanding the needs of the body – i.e. to eat healthier, move more and stopping (bad) habits – the mind soon follows suit. You will experience the need to feed mind and soul, as well as your body. You are looking and finding a balance between body, mind, spirit, and life.
Mindfulness and wellness are entwined, and the lifestyle change component is to open up yourself to new ways of thinking, appreciating and undoing internal pressures.
The techniques don’t have to involve sitting like Buddha. One of my most precious moments is running on a treadmill with ‘Black Eyed Peas’ booming in my ears. All I know is the moment, the rhythm, my breathing, legs moving, the incline and a tremendous sense of calm. Afterwards – my body and mind have been equally exercised and I have the energy to boot for the rest of my day. What are your best mindfulness tips and moments?
If you wonder how Mindfulness can benefit you – check out Part 2 of this series, and Part 3 ‘How to be more mindful of your feelings’ by guest blogger Amber Waddy from KlearMinds.
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Recommended and Related:
- What Is Mindfulness? – Wild Mind
- How Mindfulness Can Change Your Brain – Harvard Business Review
- Benefits of Mindfulness – The Happiness Trap
- The Art of Conscious Living – Mind Matters
- 7 Things Mindful People Do and How To Get Started – Mindful
- Mindfulness Techniques to Reduce Stress – fix.com
- 5 Surprising Ways Mindfulness Can Change You – Huffington Post
- Mindfulness: Being Present for Your Life – Awakening Joy
- From Amazon.co.uk – Books:
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