There’s been a tremendous surge in the popularity of mindfulness in the past decade and it’s transcended from an obscure Buddhist concept to a mainstream practice. Mindfulness is about having moment-by-moment awareness and being fully immersed in the present.
Practicing mindfulness can reduce anxiety and depression, improve emotional intelligence by helping us relate to others and ourselves with kindness, reduce reactivity to stressful situations and improve concentration and mental clarity. One of the biggest benefits is that it decreases rumination – the incessant focused attention on something that’s causing you distress. Rumination is associated with anxiety and other negative emotional states.
The mind is powerful – like an inner child. Just like a child, when you ignore it, it will start to pull at you even harder. If you continue to ignore it, eventually it will cry, lash out and do whatever it needs to do to get your attention. Your conditioned mind is there for one reason – to make you dissatisfied. Anytime you experience a negative thought, it is your conditioned fear-based mind talking.
The trick is to stay in the moment – don’t go into the past, don’t go into the future. The past will bring up old worries and fear and whilst you might be thinking that the future will be great, it will probably bring you stress as your conditioned mind begins to take over.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness. Breathing is a simple place to start because the breath can only be in the present.
Set aside around 10 minutes each day, take a seat in a place that feels calm and quiet, notice your body – straighten your back, but not to the point of stiffening, rest your feet on the floor and your clasped hands in your lap and close your eyes. From there, focus on your breath – the sensation of breathing, the cool air moving in through the nose, the warm air moving out, the rise and fall of your belly. When your mind wanders from your breath, gently bring your focus back in to your breath, again and again. When you are ready, gently open your eyes and sit there for a few moments, observing how your body feels right now.
There are other ways to check the mindfulness box in daily life. Simply taking a walk and observing the smells of the beach or the bush, the feel of the breeze on your face or the birds chirping is enough to bring the mind back from its persistent wandering.
Go ahead and get yourself some mindfulness. You deserve the investment.