A few months ago I had no idea what mindfulness was. In fact, I thought it was just being aware of how you interact with and talk to others. It wasn't until I started researching tips for practicing mindfulness and having a little experiment with it that I realized what all the fuss was about.
The Dictionary describes mindfulness in a couple of ways, with the first being, "The state or quality of being mindful or aware of something" and "a technique in which one focuses one's full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them." It elaborates by explaining that mindfulness is, "The mental state maintained by the use of this technique."
As someone with an insanely busy brain, for me, mindfulness means taking back control of my mind and gently tugging the reins of my wild thoughts so they dissipate. It means kindly yet firmly informing my conscience that enough is enough and that I want to be present and not wrapped up in thoughts of the past and the future, or spirited away in a flurry of unwanted emotions. My mindfulness journey began very recently through the medium of meditation. I meditated in the mornings before work and I was left with a clear head, feeling invigorated and ready to start each day. Here are some tips on how you can practice mindfulness and the benefits therein.
1. Make Gratitude A Part Of Your Routine
I was first introduced to the art of practicing gratitude by one of my favorite inspirational women Gala Darling. Gala is a teacher, speaker, and author who overcame an eating disorder and depression via radical self love. She emerged from the other end a sparkling, magical young woman who inspires and motivates others to live positive, fulfilling, and happy lives. On her website, Gala explains that practicing gratitude is akin to counting your blessings and she even created a video on the topic. Within this video, Ms. Darling explains, "So gratitude is the very simple act of just expressing thanks for the things you have in your life and even when you're having a terrible day there are always things to be grateful for..."
She informs viewers of three ways to practice gratitude which are: Turning your Instagram into a visual gratitude diary, creating a gratitude jar, and making a list of ten things you're grateful for every morning and night. By practicing gratitude, you are made aware of what is making you happy and/or what you are grateful for in that moment, which supports the idea of being present.
2. Work On Your Breathing
I recently started attending yoga class again after not practicing since my teens, and aside from the actual poses, I really enjoyed the relaxation parts of the class at the beginning and the end. At the end of the class we often practice Pranayama breathing in order to further our practice and understanding of yoga beyond the positions. Concentrating on your breath and nothing else seems like an easy task but it can be quite tricky depending if you've got anything on your mind. Focussing on your breathing helps you to be present and gradually drown out your thoughts so you can exist in the here and now.
There are a huge array of benefits to practicing mindfulness meditation. The Huffington Post reported that mindfulness meditation can lower stress, change the brain in a protective way, and help you sleep better among many other benefits. I mentioned before how great it makes me feel and I find it easy to fit it into my routine. I choose a mindfulness meditation video from YouTube depending on how much time I have (for instance, a 10-minute mindfulness meditation video,) I lie down on my yoga mat, close my eyes, and listen intently to the voiceover. Like anything, the more you practice, the easier it gets and it becomes easier to focus solely on the voiceover and dismiss distracting thoughts.
4. Increase Your Awareness
Engaging your senses can help you become more aware, which will help you on your path to mindfulness. You can do this by giving yourself a hug, interacting with a pet, or smelling a flower. If your mind and body feel really out of line, then do something bigger such as swimming, going for a run, or touching something really cold to give yourself a jolt back into your body and out of your head. Personally, I love swimming in the sea as I feel I am not only at one with nature (which puts me back into line with myself), but as I dodge waves and try to keep afloat I am hyper aware yet still relaxed.
5. Watch The World Go By
The art of people-watching has been around for quite some time. There's something so pleasant about sitting in a cafe and watching people go about their everyday lives and imagining who they are, what their hobbies are, and what they might do for a living. From my experience, taking time out of your day to people-watch is an activity that is rooted in mindfulness: You are taking a step outside of yourself and your ego to observe other people in that exact moment in time. Plus, it's rather relaxing.
6. Take Control Of Your Thoughts
As a renowned worrywart amongst my friends and family, I often find it difficult to be present. This coupled with the fact that I have an insane imagination (a blessing and a curse) means that I sometimes find it a challenge to get out of my head. IMO, mindfulness means appreciating each second and giving yourself entirely to the moment you are in and you can't do that if you're wrapped up in thought with the lights on and nobody home.
This may sound a little silly, but whenever I feel stuck in my mind and trapped by my thoughts, I metaphorically shout at my brain and tell it to be quiet. If it fights back, I reason that I am missing moments of my life that I will never get back and as my brain is (usually) a reasonable entity, it sees sense and shuts up. However if your mind is escalating into a thought-frenzy, take control of the situation and do some exercise which will release endorphins and help to reign in your manic brain. Then you can give yourself completely to the moment you are experiencing and enjoy it.
7. Take [Ten]10 Minutes To Do Nothing
"... Not being lost in thought, not being distracted, not being overwhelmed by difficult emotions but instead learning how to be in the here and now; how to be mindful, how to be present. I think the present moment is so underrated. It sounds so ordinary and yet we spend so little time in the present moment that it's anything but ordinary," Puddicome said.
Puddicombe asked the audience when they last took the time to do nothing. By "nothing" he literally means just that and elaborates by explaining doing nothing means not being on your phone, eating, reading, or interacting with others, "Not even sitting there reminiscing about the past or planning for the future. Simply doing nothing." Puddicombe goes on to explain that we often take more time to look after our material possessions and our own appearance rather than giving our mind the break it needs. If the mind is always on the go we get stressed and then we need to find methods for dealing with this stress. So give your brain a 10 minute time out so you can refresh your mind and keep it working at its best.
To help work mindfulness into your everyday life, the Headspace app created by Andy Puddicombe, is a great way to ease into a more mindful way of living. Go forth and enjoy every moment by utilizing mindfulness!