Mindfulness is the practice of being fully aware of the present moment, not distracted or dwelling on past hurts or worrying about what might happen in the future. Mindfulness keeps you grounded in the here and now. You might think you need to have achieved a state of blissful detachment to be mindful or spend hours meditating in silence, sitting cross-legged on a cushion.
But anyone can practice mindfulness, anywhere, at any time. It only takes commitment to detach from the monkey mind of stress and worry and give your complete attention to what is happening in the present moment. To focus on your breathing and every aspect of what you’re doing, whether it’s preparing a meal, walking in the park, or commuting on the train. The capacity to calm the mind is also a fundamental element of meditation, although when you mediate your focus is turned inward.
We’re only just starting to appreciate all the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Studies have shown that with regular practice mindfulness can have long-lasting positive effects on your mental and physical health. Here are some compelling reasons why you should seriously consider incorporating mindfulness into your life.
- Decreased Stress — Scientists consider mindfulness a key element in fighting stress. As well as decreasing cortisol (a stress hormone), practicing mindfulness has an immediate impact on lowering blood pressure and your heart rate. One study showed it cut heart attack risk by 50% in five years.
- Pain management — Mindfulness can help you deal with aches and pains, especially for people who have a painful chronic disease such as arthritis.
- Increased immune function — An increased immune function meaning you can fight off common illness like flu and recover faster from illness or surgery.
- Mindfulness has been shown to increase the neural connections in the brain, improving brain function, memory, and decision-making.
- Mindfulness and mediation boost your attention span and capacity to focus and concentrate.
- It increases resilience and capacity to deal with stress.
- It improves problem-solving and mental performance in stressful situations such as exams. One study showed that students who meditated before an exam performed better than students who didn’t.
- It slows down the progression of age-related cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Practicing mindfulness and meditation has been proven to dramatically reduce anxiety and depression, including postpartum depression, and enhance the effectiveness of psychological therapies.
- Mindfulness can have a powerful effect on changing a negative mindset and reprogramming your inner self-talk to be more positive and nurturing.
- It reduces feelings of loneliness.
- It improves your mood.
- It increases your capacity for empathy.
- People who practice mindfulness develop improved resilience.
- It enhances creativity.
Here are some answers to the most common questions people have about mindfulness.
- How do I do it?
The short answer is that you can practice mindfulness and meditation in the way that suits you best. Some people enjoy traditional meditation, sitting in silence on a cushion. Other people use guided meditations on their smartphones or computers. It’s important to integrate mindfulness into your everyday activities, taking the time be genuinely aware of the present moment. You can even practice mindful walking. The best way to practice mindfulness is the way that feels right to you.
- How do I breathe properly?
You may feel like you should force your breath into some pattern or control it in some way, such as trying to slow it down but that’s not necessary. It’s best just to feel and experience your breath. As you begin to relax, your breathing will naturally slow down and regulate on its own. Try not to judge yourself for not doing it ‘right.’ Don’t try to control or channel your breath, just keep observing and allowing. Simply let the breath breathe you.
- How do I stop my mind wandering?
If you find a way, let me know! It’s natural for your mind to wander or be distracted. Our mind thinks. That’s just what it does. Even highly-experienced mindfulness practitioners have wandering minds! Everyone does!
Most of us spend our days worrying about the future or brooding over the past. We don’t often stay in the present, but it is the way to inner peace and calm. Be kind to yourself and don’t judge your mind for falling back into familiar patterns of thinking. Bring your attention back to the present and use your breath to keep bringing your attention back to focus on the here and now.
- How do I find the time for mindfulness?
This one’s easy! You don’t have to set aside special time to bring mindfulness into your life. In fact, you can enhance your formal meditation time by integrating mindfulness practice wherever you are. You can use these prompts throughout the day to return your attention to the present moment and take some deep conscious breaths:
- In the shower
- During your daily commute
- Waiting in line, or for an elevator, or for a meeting to start
- Before you start your car
- While you’re booting up your computer or opening your inbox
- While you’re waiting for your coffee
- Before answering the phone
Take advantage of all these ‘lost moments’ in your day to turn them into mindful moments!
If you want to make mindfulness part of your every day life, have a look at the MAGIC membership here. You will get a mindfulness exercise to work on weekly.