Updated: Feb 10, 2019
Mindfulness is one of the trendiest words out there, but what is it really? It everyday terms this ambiguously vague term is what meditation has evolved too. It’s not just meditation anymore, it’s more of paying attention in a particular way: on purpose in the present moment and non judgmentally. Mindfulness can help you be more productive, less stressed and more effective in any situation.
Where does mindfulness start? It starts with your breath and your breathing, observing the movement patterns of your breath in and out. You don’t need a coach to begin practicing mindfulness. Like so many self-care ideologies it is something you can learn on your own with some guidance and solid research. The goal is to observe the thoughts, feelings and sensations that you identify with your breath. Between the awareness of your breathing and your awareness of your self is a practice that is always available to us, however most of us don’t practice this enough. It falls to the way side like going to the gym or nutrition plans, but in reality, fitness, nutrition and mindfulness are major parts of a good self-care plan.
Mindfulness might sound like a new trending term, but the reality is it has been around for more than 2500 years. By many standards it has its roots in Buddhism and ancient teachings of Africa and the middle east. Not only is it not new it manifests itself in everything. At its heard, mindfulness is cultivating an awareness of awareness and paying attention to intention.
From more than 100 studies we do know that practicing mindfulness has a startling array of benefits: It reduces symptoms of chronic pain, increases psychological hardiness and improves the effectiveness of existing treatments for psoriasis to name a few. It can help reduce stress, anxiety and conflict while increasing resilience and emotional intelligence.
When we think about self-care, we often prioritize the body over the brain. Our overused joints and muscles make their pains known to us more often than the subtle messages of our mind, and aches are much more concrete and easy to identify the source of than our emotions and emotional pain. / Truth is most of us are not very good at being mindful.
Even those of us like massage therapists who you would think are always aware of ourselves wand that perhaps should be some of the most mindful people out there next to first responders, and other health care providers but not so.
Often we get into trouble trying to help too much. Trying to help too much can just be draining. Being mindful offers a perpetual reminder of our ability and need to take care of ourselves, anywhere, at any moment. Often those needs are even greater when we are traveling or away from our comfort zone. Being mindful ultimately allows us to attend to ourselves just as we attend to the other people and matters that we hold so dear to ourselves.
Let me offer these 10 practical tips to start being more mindful right now:
1. Take a few minutes to notice your breathing. Become aware of the flow of your breath in and out, the rise and fall of your diaphragm
2. Notice what you are doing as you are doing it and tune into your senses. When you are eating, notice the color, texture, smell in addition to the taste of the food. The next time you are bathing, notice the texture, smell, feeling of the soap, the water the temperature against you and the feelings and sensations it generates.
3. When you are walking or running, tune into how your weight shifts and the sensations from the bottom of your feet, calves, hips. Focus less on where you are headed.
4. Don’t feel like you need to fill up all your time with doing. Take some time to just be” “.
5. When and if your mind wanders into thinking about a million other things, take a deep breath and draw it back in.
6. Recognize thoughts are just thoughts. You don’t need to believe them or react to every single one of them.
7. Practice listening without making judgments.
8. Begin to notice where you tend to zone out: driving, emailing or texting, walking the dog, doing dishes, etc. Practice bringing more awareness to that activity.
9. Spend time in nature. Nature doesn’t always mean on a trail in the mountains. Nature occurs in your backyard and even in the city. One of the most peaceful things is to observe or find that bit of nature in a big concrete jungle.
10. Notice how the mind likes to constantly judge. Don’t take it seriously. It is not who you are.
It's important to note there is literally no wrong or right way to be mindful. It is an iterative process and only you can determine the best state of mindfulness for yourself. No professor or teacher is going establish your benchmark for you.