How often do you find yourself daydreaming, doing things in autopilot, without thoughts and consideration?
I’m an anxious person. I worry a lot about events coming up, or what happened at work earlier that day, and that does not help with anxiety at all, let me tell you. After realizing that 90% of my thoughts were in the past or in the future, I decided to do something about it. It was clearly not good for my mental health and my productivity. That’s when I heard about mindfulness.
Mindfulness is simple. It’s about having your body and your mind in the same place at the same time, and being engaged and fully aware in each moment. That’s pretty much it. You can practice it basically anywhere, anytime.
How to practise mindfulness:
Being mindful is about noticing what’s happening in your mind and body, and being aware of what’s happening around you. In other words, mindfulness is about observing, without judgement, what’s going on. Here’s a simple guide to mindfulness. Remember, you can practice this anytime you feel stressed or anxious and it only takes 5 minutes.
1. Pause and focus on your body. What do you see? Do you hear anything? What do you smell or taste? What do you feel?
Notice your feeling, but do not label them. These feelings are nor good or bad, they just are. You just have to acknowledge them.
2. Narrow your focus. Give each sensation and feeling full attention, from your head to your toes.
3. Focus on your breathing. How deep are you breathing? Where does the air go?
4. Acknowledge your emotions. How are you right now?
The key to mindful meditation is to not be judgemental. Don’t beat yourself up if you notice that your mind wanders, because it will, it’s a given. Just acknowledge it and bring your focus back on your breathing.
Why is being in the moment is so important?
Well, first, when you’re mindful, you’re not multitasking. You are fully engaged in the task your doing. At work for example, you will be completely focused on what you are doing, just like I am right now. I am not thinking about anything else besides this blog and each word coming out of my fingers. Being focused on the present task reduces anxiety because you are not thinking about the outcome. Focusing on the present through the practice of mindfulness can reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Practising mindfulness also trains your attention and focus. The more you practise mindful meditation, the easier it will be to focus for a long period of time.
Other benefits of mindful meditation:
Beyond the many mental health benefits of mindfulness such as reducing stress and anxiety, it can also improve your general health.
1/ Weight management
Being mindful is also a great aid to achieving your weight goals. For example, when we eat in front of TV, we’re not paying attention to what’s going on. We don’t feel our stomach and we overeat. Then we end up all bloated and slumped deep in the couch, questioning our life choices (yeah, I’ve been there).
2/ Better sleep
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that I have trouble falling asleep and getting quality sleep. Regular mindful meditation helps remediating sleep problems and improve sleep quality. When I notice that my mind won’t switch off, I quickly bring the focus back to my breathing.
3/ Manage chronic pain
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a therapy that combines mindfulness meditation and yoga as an alternative to medication. It has been found to result in significant improvements in pain, anxiety, well-being and ability to participate in daily activities.
4/ Increase brain gray matter
Another surprising finding of the mind-body practice is that it appears to increase gray matter in the brain, especially the regions of the brain involved with memory and learning processes, regulation of emotion, self-referential processing and taking perspective.
5/ Better sex life
Mindfulness meditation training (learning how to bring thoughts into the present moment) can enhance a woman’s sexual experience. For some women, self-judgemental thoughts often fill their mind during sex, preventing them from fully enjoying the moment. Being mindful will allow them to completely let go of these thoughts and enjoy the full sexual experience.
To conclude, there’s no reason for you to not give mindfulness a try. It can be difficult at first and you will probably have to refocus a lot of times, but the more you practice the easier it gets. Remember, 5 to 10 minutes a day is enough to begin with, and you will notice its effects quite rapidly. You can start by being mindful when you brush your teeth, do the dishes, or take a shower.