What is Mindfulness?
Have you ever felt so disconnected from yourself that you do something and then you don't even remember doing it?
Or have you ever been so deep in auto-pilot that you don't even notice the drive back home?
I know I've been guilty of this on more than one occasion, and when I come to realize what I have done I feel like I've been robbed of a piece of my life. I feel like I haven't been living, like I've just been existing. That makes me sad. Is there a solution to this crisis? Yes, one word: Mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Every time we change gears to autopilot, we are letting precious life moments slip by. Today, thanks to our hectic schedules and busy minds, we find ourselves in autopilot mode more often than we would like to admit. Mindfulness is a way to protest against our agitated life styles. It is a way to experience life and to get to know ourselves better.
- Deliberately being aware of your thoughts, feelings and surroundings.
- Keeping an open attitude towards those feelings without judging.
- Concentrating your mind in the present moment.
- Training your brain to take control of your emotions and to learn how to deal with the problems of life appropriately.
Where did the practice of Mindfulness start?
Mindfulness started as one of the ancient buddhist practices. However, today it can be taught without any religious or cultural connotations.
Keep in mind that mindfulness is NOT the type of meditation that encourages to leave your mind blank. No, if anything it urges you to think about the moment at hand and to concentrate on living the present.
Mindfulness encourages us to feel without judgment. It encourages us to become aware of our emotion as their passing through us so that we can better understand ourselves and so that we can be better prepared to deal with life when it hits us in the face.
The practice of mindfulness also urges us to become completely aware of every waking moment. To live and enjoy the moment as it is happening.
There are many benefits to practicing mindfulness:
- Reduces Stress
- Lowers risk of cardiac disease
- Reduces anxiety and depression
- Increases concentration
- Can help with addiction problems
- Alleviates chronic pain
- Improves sleep quality
- Decreases irritability and exhaustion
Who can benefit from mindfulness?
- Anyone who is depressed, anxious or stressed.
- Anyone who needs to learn to control emotions.
- Anyone who wants to be better emotionally prepared for when the crap hits the fan.
- Anyone who desires to be reconnected with the self.
- Anyone who needs to find motivation in life.
- Anyone and Everyone...
Why is mindfulness important?
I had an anxiety attack not too long ago. All the emotions that I had been repressing finally came back, all together, to smack in the head and make me realize that I am not made of stone, and that repressing emotions doesn't take me anywhere.
During this moment of panic, I felt as if I had plunged down to the bottom of the sea, where I could finally see all the hidden fears, anxieties and panics that aren't visible on the surface. I understood many things about myself that I hadn't understood before. I liked this feeling. I liked it so much that kept exploring all the dark alleys in my head so I could find the root for my motivations, my fears, my anger, my happiness. That's exactly what mindfulness encourage us to do.
Mindfulness becomes especially important today. It seems that everyone is competing for your attention: your boss, your family, your friends, social networks and even the marketing agencies. We end up dividing our attention among everyone that demands it that we forget to give attention to ourselves.
Stress and anxiety are on the rise partly because we don't even know who we are anymore. It's like we are strangers in our own bodies. Mindfulness can help you regain that control and mastery over yourself that you so desperately need.
Mindfulness moves us from simply existing to actually living.
Mindfulness and Multitasking
We don't have an unlimited amount of attention. Our attention is limited and you have to divide it among the tasks that you take on at the same time. The more tasks you take, the less attention you will dedicate to each one. This can lead to accidents, careless mistakes, and STRESS.
Mindfulness encourages you to never multitask. Instead, devote your full attention to what you're doing at the present moment and really live the moment.
How can you practice mindfulness?
The practice of mindfulness is really simple. You won't need anything else but dedication and willingness to keep trying.
Here's how you can start:
- Find a calm place where you can be with your thoughts without being interrupted
- Sit up straight with your hands on your lap (no crossing fingers)
- Close you eyes
- Notice how your body feels.
- Concentrate on one body part at a time:
- How does your breathing feel
- How does your stomach feel
- Your chest?
- Your feet?
If your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back by concentrating on your breath.
- Place a hand on your stomach and feel your belly rise as you breathe
- Concentrate on how each breath feels
- Do this for as long as you want.
You will notice how after a few minutes you will feel more relaxed and ready to put up with life again.
Five basic principles for Mindfulness and how to trigger them
How to Make it Happen
Don't reject any thought or emotion. Let the thought be. Don't hold on too tight to the emotion. Let it go when it needs to.
Open the door to all your senses. Concentrate on how your body feels.
Your body can lead your mind. If your body is calmed, your mind will follow. Start by paying attention to your breath.
Awareness of the here and now
Make a conscious decision to concentrate on what is happening now.
Whatever the thought, whatever the feeling, treat yourself with compassion and don't allow this to impact the love your have for yourself.
Are there any specific positions to practice Mindfulness?
No, there aren't any specific positions to practice mindfulness. However, it is encouraged that you practice it in a position where you won't fall asleep. It is easier to become mindful if you're seated in an upright position.
Some people choose to do it laying down, but since most of our brains aren't used to this type of activity, it will just think that you're getting ready to go to sleep and it will send you right to dreamland.
So if you want to take full advantage of mindfulness, choose a position that will not make you sleepy.
Mindfulness and emotions
Mindfulness is also helpful in helping us deal with strong emotions. It can help you calm down, find the source of your frustrations, and help you be prepared to deal with the difficult situations of life in a more appropriate, less self-harming manner.
Here's how to be mindful even when difficult emotions may be torturing you:
- Find a quiet place
- Sit up straight with your hands on your lap
- Start by concentrating on your breath
- Label how you're feeling (sad, mad, rejected, a mix of emotions)
- Don't judge those feelings. Just let them be.
- Picture yourself standing at the top of a mountain, seeing how your feelings pass by. See them from a distance. Imagine you're watching a movie of your feelings and become the objective audience.
Keep doing this, until you feel more relaxed and until you feel like you have a better understanding of the emotion.
Mindfulness and R.A.I.N.
There is an acronym that can help you remember what to do to control and understand your emotions. The acronym is R.A.I.N.
- R - Recognize and label the emotion
- A - Accept the emotion
- I - Investigate how the emotion makes your body feel
- N - Non-Identification. Don't identify yourself with your emotion. Understand that you are not the emotion.
If you want to find out more about R.A.I.N., click here.
Mindfulness can seem difficult at first. As with everything that is worth it, it takes practice, but don't give up. Start dedicating 10 minutes a day and gradually increase the amount of time. You will see how calm you will feel once you make mindfulness a daily habit. Keep investigating, keep living!