When you hear the term mindfulness, what do you think? If you’re like I used to be, you think about a Buddhist monk sitting in front of you with a slight grin on their face, perfectly content, in a meditative state.
Sure, meditation is a great way to practice being mindful, but it doesn’t have to be that involved. See, mindfulness is nothing more than focused awareness. Focus on the task at hand and awareness of what is happening here and now. It’s not thinking about the past or worrying about the future.
Mindfulness is being present in the moment. It’s being aware of our thoughts and feelings; noticing what is going on around us and inside us; observing the world without judgment.
It has been practiced for thousands of years in many cultures and has numerous scientific benefits: it can help reduce stress, promote relaxation, decrease blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol levels, anxiety and depression.
Mindfulness and Time
As we get older, time can be a huge source of anxiety as we feel it moving faster and faster. There’s an interesting rationale behind that. When we are young, each day seems different—because in many ways it is. We are learning so much, having so many different experiences, feeling so many vibrant emotions that form strong memories. We live more in the moment and pay more attention to details.
The older we get, the more common it is to come across information we already know. Since the brain is always looking for shortcuts, it tends not to reprocess this information and moves on to the next task or thought. We rarely stop to enjoy the moment. But if we take time each day to soak it all up, to create detailed images and memories, we can slow our perception of time and eliminate it as a source of stress. Forgetting about the distractions of the outside world and (social media, deadlines, getting the kids to practice on time) and focusing on the present can make life so much more enjoyable.
Simple Mindfulness Practice
Pay attention to your heart rate. Your breathing. The clothes touching your skin. The thoughts running through your head. What you hear. What you see in front of you.
Do not analyze or judge; just observe. Do this for a few seconds. Congrats! You just practiced mindfulness.
When you pay this kind of attention to whatever you’re doing—focusing solely on the task at hand and using all of your senses to take in every detail—the smallest little activities can become quite enjoyable.
Mindfulness is essential for recognizing thought patterns and eliminating toxic beliefs, with techniques such as cognitive restructuring or CBT. It’s how we become more conscious throughout our day, when most of the time we are running on autopilot. It’s how we develop greater self-awareness. Mindfulness is easy and should be practiced routinely!
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