Mindfulness might seem like nothing more than a passing New-Agey trend to some, but this ancient concept has been a staple in Eastern spirituality for thousands of years. Like many Hindu and Buddhist ideas, it has traveled to the West and become something of a buzzword that even psychology and neuroscience are starting to take a look at with an analytical eye.
Though its origins are rooted in the spiritual and philosophical ideas of ancient religious texts, practicing mindfulness in your daily life does not really require a familiarity with or acceptance of these texts. Anyone can be mindful, and anyone can use mindfulness to reduce some of their stress and anxiety, improve mood, alleviate pain, life life more fully, and create a better living experience with deeper serenity and inner peace. There is a growing body of scientific evidence proving it can be an effective adjunctive therapy for many chronic health conditions, so it clearly goes well beyond the psycho-spiritual.
The key to being mindful is to be present and fully aware of the moment without judgment. Most people are so often so far away from the present moment in their minds, thinking about everything from what they are going to have for dinner to the meaning of life, that they miss what the moment has to offer.
Being mindful doesn’t mean that you have to stop planning your meals or thinking about the Big Questions, but it does mean that you reel yourself back in a little and spend some time in the here and now as well. It means being aware of your surroundings and paying attention to what is going on around you.
Learning to become more mindful can help you stop worrying too much about the future or fretting about the past. It helps you see when and where it is appropriate to tackle problems, and when it is time to let things go and allow yourself to relax.
Mindfulness can also be utilized when you are carrying out tasks. Focusing entirely on the act of engaging in whatever you are doing can reduce stress. For example, if your mind is full of unwanted thoughts, pay attention to your movements. Intrusive thoughts may arise initially. However, allow your mind to notice them without resistance and let them pass. Think of them as clouds drifting past you. Not feeding them with your attention reduces them and then releases them from your awareness.
You do not need to adopt the pose of a yogi in order to benefit from mindfulness, since you can practice as you walk, or even when you are in a crowded room. Instead of falling into the abyss of endless thinking, purposefully focus on your breath as you inhale and exhale slowly. Concentrating in such a manner on a single action can stop inner chatter that deepens stress.
When practicing mindfulness during meditation, you become aware of the present moment and let go of thoughts by gently accepting them, but paying them no attention. By not feeding your thoughts with the energy of concentration, you allow your mind to empty and experience tranquility.
Mindfulness reduces clutter and needless chatter that stems from thinking too much. Reducing your thoughts can produce an emotional stillness during your everyday life, making calmness and balance easy to achieve.
When you want to free your mind of all thought, if only for a few seconds, briefly hold your breath. Doing so once or twice will help you recognize what not thinking feels like, as your thoughts will momentarily stop flowing during the second or so between the exhaling and inhaling that occurs.
Simply remembering the tranquility of not thinking will help you revisit the experience. Soon, you will be able to enter the realms of no thought for a moment or so at a whim, without the need to manipulate your breath. Your brain will develop neural pathways that aid tranquility the more you practice mindfulness.
When done correctly, mindfulness should be seen as less of a constant practice, and more of a way of being and living your life. It may take a while to get to a stage where it comes naturally to you, but, once it does, you’ll be glad you gave it a try.
If you would like to learn the basics of mindfulness, which can be achieved in less than an hour, and 15 different techniques that you can apply to your life immediately, then you may want to take a look at my eBook, Meditating for Health. Additionally, you can also learn how to use mindfulness to manage chronic pain of all kinds, in my other book, Mindfulness over Chronic Pain.
Learning to be more mindful is a simple, easy, affordable, quick, but powerful technique that can enhance your health and transform your life.