Mindfulness is a bit of a buzz word these days. Many people talk about it, but often times it’s relegated to a discussion of meditation. Meditation is, in fact, a form of mindfulness practice, but it is not the definition of mindfulness nor is it the only way to practice.
Mindfulness simply defined is being in the present moment – being fully engaged in the moment you are in. It’s not complicated at all, but we only spend about 5% of our time fully conscious of the present moment. That means 95% of our time is spent on “autopilot” letting our subconscious and habits run the show. There is a raft of research showing learning to practice mindfulness has great benefits. Here are just three of them:
Helps reduce stress.
Regular mindfulness practice has been proven to reduce stress. Just eight weeks of mindfulness practice can actually alter how your brain functions, reducing its activity related to stress. Research conducted by Hoffman and colleagues in 2010 found that it also reduced feelings of depression and some physical complaints regarding stress.
Those who regularly practice mindfulness find their ability to focus increases. Since mindfulness is, by definition, being in the present moment it helps you stay focused on one thing. One of the key skills in mindfulness practice is to be “one mindful” meaning you are fully present and engaged in what you are doing in this moment.
Lessens emotional reactivity.
As you practice mindfulness and learn to be in the present moment you give yourself cognitive space to evaluate situations and feelings that arise. When you are aware of the present you might notice, “Whoa, I feel pretty angry about the comment so-and-so just made.” The awareness allows you to determine what might be effective in that situation. You might walk away until you are more calm and can talk, you might mindfully tell the person what they said hurt your feelings. Either way, being mindful helps you not let the “feels” overtake you and dictate your actions.
Don’t fret if you realize you could use a little mindfulness practice. This is a skill you can learn and implement starting today. One way to give yourself a bit of practice is to take a look at your surroundings and observe everything you can. What is the temperature in the room – hot, cold, just right? What sounds do you hear? Can you feel your feet on the floor? Can you feel your body against your chair? Just notice. If other thoughts come in, notice them, too, and return your attention to the space you’re in. Examine an object near you closely. Is there something there you have not noticed before? Try looking at things with new eyes, as if you’ve never seen anything like it. Just spend a few minutes on this exercise. At the end, ask yourself, “What did I notice in a new way?”
If you or someone you love is struggling with anxiety or depression, I may be able to help. Schedule a free, 15-minute consultation with me and let’s figure out how to get you on your way to having a life worth living. Stop surviving and start truly living.