Mindfulness has been the buzz word now for quite some time both within Mental Health circles and amongst the general public.
I’d like to start by saying I was one of those people who literally was allergic to the word Mindfulness yet alone the thought of doing any formal practicing at one point and time. This was many years ago and since then I’ve went from more than disliking it, to now being someone that wouldn’t let a day go by without some formal practice of Mindfulness.
There are many of you who will already love mindfulness and all the benefits it brings to your life and rightly so. But I’m also very aware that many of you when you hear the word, it can invoke a very specific response and often not a very positive one.
Some reasons for this:
- You’re sick of hearing that mindfulness is good for you
- You’ve tried it and didn’t find it helped you
- Your perception of what mindfulness actually is
- You tried it and it only helped while you were doing it
- Feeling you don’t have time or it’s a waste of your time
Personally, for me I didn’t truly understand what mindfulness was many years ago. I had my perception of what it was, some of which was true but much of which was not. Because I held this perception of Mindfulness, I was not open to practicing it therefore was not going to benefit from any of the positives it had to offer.
Thankfully much has changed since then and I very much enjoy and look forward to formally practicing mindfulness each and every day and continue broadening my own practice.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness means being fully aware of the present moment, of our thoughts, feelings, emotions and our connection to the environment around us.
An interesting Harvard study shows, “that people spend almost 47% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, which impairs their creativity, performance, and well-being”.
When we practice mindfulness, we are fully present to the moment, not lost in thought thinking about the past or worried about the future, thinking patterns that are clearly linked with symptoms of both depression and anxiety amongst many other mental health issues.
But even outside of these clinical presentations people struggle with being lost in thought very simply means you can’t be truly happy therefore affecting your quality of life.
Contentment is possibly a better word to use as this is really what we’re all striving to have within our lives, as happiness is an emotion, we experience on occasions or specific situations.
To be truly content within our lives and experience happiness we have to be present to the moment and this is why mindfulness is so important to us all.
Some examples of this are:
- Going on a walk: You can either be on the walk and thinking about all of life’s problems or you can be on your walk and fully present and connected to the environment around you.
- Spending quality time with your child/children: You may be with them but if you’re stuck on your phone all the time you’re really not present to them and both you and them miss out on what can be a very special moment together.
- IT can be as simple as meeting a friend for a coffee: You may be there physically but if you’re lost in thought thinking about what you have to do later today well then, you’re missing out on another heathy connection.
If we take any of the examples above each of them is someone being the complete opposite of what it is to be Mindful.
A Formal mindfulness practice is when you’ve specifically taken time out of your day to practice and develop the art of mindfulness. If we view our mind as a muscle and like any muscle group in your body if you want it to be stronger you would exercise that muscle group. So, no different than going to the gym a number of times a week, doing weights and cardio to help you get fitter and stronger muscles, this is exactly what formal mindfulness practices do for the mind.
Some formal Practices Include:
- Breathing Exercises
- Mindful Walking (No head phones 😊)
- Using Headspace or Calm App
- Mindful Colouring
- Mindful Yoga
- Mindfulness of Thoughts
Of course, there are many short-term benefits to incorporating formal mindfulness practices into your day, which are wonderful like reducing stress, anxiety and letting go of unwanted negative emotions or thoughts and even just giving your mind a well needed rest. But the long-term benefits are far greater, the more you practice formal mindfulness over time this will aid you to become more mindful within all other aspects of your life.
Like strengthening any muscle group going to the gym once a week or a few times a month you’re really not going to see any major benefits. You possibly won’t even keep it up and might fall back into old habits. But when you incorporate it regularly into your day and week over longer periods of time you will then reek the rewards.
Practicing 10 minutes of mindfulness each morning and again in the evening doesn’t need to be any different than taking the time to brush your teeth. Once you do it frequently enough the hard work is gone and after a while you wouldn’t want to go a day without.
Moments in our lives come and go once they’re gone they’re gone and we don’t get that specific moment back again. Don’t let life pass you by, make the most of each and every moment by being more present.
To be clear you don’t need to struggle with any mental health issues to benefit from mindfulness, if you want to be a better version of yourself, if you’d like to reduce the stress you experience or reduce your reactivity to the kids after a stressful day at work. If you want to have more fulfilling relationships where you’re truly connected to those you care about most. If you want to be a kinder and more thoughtful person, well then let me tell you Mindfulness is for you.