Mindfulness: what does the buzz word really mean? And three ways to get mindful
Have you ever driven somewhere and arrived to realise you’ve got no recollection of the trip? Or looked down at an empty plate with no memory of inhaling your meal?
These situations occur when we’re being MIND-LESS, the opposite of being MIND-FULL.
So what is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness means paying attention to, and being fully aware of your present moment experience. Without becoming judgmental or reactive.
Mindfulness means appreciating the sunrise as you drive to work. Inhaling the morning air through your window. Observing your heart rate quicken and your thoughts race as you realise you’re running very late. But responding wisely to the situation rather than reacting into an anxious mess.
Mindfulness means truly experiencing and appreciating every mouthful of your meal. The colours and smells. The textures, flavours, and sensations as you chew. It means noticing when you’re full, or when you’re eating out of habit, boredom, or loneliness.
Mindfulness is a practice. It is a way being in the world. You can’t get it wrong. All you’re doing is paying attention to your current experience as it actually is.
What if your mind is really busy?
We all have busy minds – our minds think between 60-80 thousand thoughts a day!
Mindfulness is not about stopping or controlling your thoughts. Or about clearing your mind. If you could control your mind you could tell it to stop thinking, to think more positively or to not think of chocolate ice-cream when you read this line!
Mindfulness means NOTICING your thoughts (the good the bad and the ugly) and the impact they’re having on you.
By bringing awareness to your thoughts and feelings, and training your attention on the present moment, you’ll learn to respond wisely rather than react blindly.
Why should you practice Mindfulness?
Research has shown that when we focus on what we’re doing, even if that something is taking out the rubbish or doing dishes, we’re happier than when our minds wander.
There is a growing tidal wave of support for the wide ranging benefits of mindfulness for your body and mind: like lowering stress hormones, boosting your immune system, mitigating depression, and, even treating psoriasis!
Mindfulness has been shown to literally rebuild your brain in as little as 8 weeks, it increases productivity, creativity and innovation, improves your reasoning concentration and memory and even protects your heart.
So instead of asking why you would practice mindfulness – ask yourself, why would you not!?
Three ways to get mindful
Meditation is for your mind like exercise is for your body. And the list of benefits are laughably long.
There are loads of meditation apps some of my faves are: Headspace and Insight Timer. Or sign up to receive my free (short and sweet to fit your busy lives) mindfulness meditation series.
How often do we give ourselves an opportunity to pause? PAUSE is a simple acronym to help you do just that.
P – PAUSE
Take a moment (even if it’s just a microsecond) to notice the experience you’re having.
A – ALLOW
Allow your experience to be as it is. Accepting your present moment non-judgmentally and with curiosity. If you can’t leave the situation, or change the situation then your only real option is to accept it. This doesn’t mean you have to like it, or want it. It simply means you give up the struggle of resisting your situation or wishing things were different.
U – YOU
Check in with you. What’s happening in your mind? and how does your your body feel? Be curious. Are you tired? Thirsty? Hungry? Hot or cold? Stressed or bored? If you’re feeling a strong emotion, where in your body do you feel it? Are your shoulders tense? Is your jaw clenched? Is your chest tight?
S – SIGH AND SMILE
Let out a sigh, and your exhale will naturally be followed by a deep inhale. Then smile so your brain produces oxytocin, a feel good hormone: because who couldn’t’ do with a a little dose of the warm fuzzies?
E – ENGAGE
Give yourself a pat on the back for carving out a space to simply breath and be. And you’re now free to engage/re-engage with your day with increased presence and centredness. (and you’ve just practiced mindfulness!).
Come to your senses
Pick any one of your 5 senses and bring 100% of your attention to it.
You might choose sound: notice all the sounds you can hear. Notice both the most obvious, noisiest sounds and the most subtle distant sounds. See if you can hear the sound of your breath. Count how many distinct sounds you can hear.
We can only see, smell, hear, touch, and taste in the present moment. We can’t hear yesterday or tomorrow. So by bringing your attention to your senses you are bringing yourself into the present moment. And you are being mindful.
Be More YOU
With mindfulness, as with most things in life, the more you put in the more you’ll get out of it.
To see the positive benefits of mindfulness for yourself: pick your favorite practice from the list above and try it out everyday for a week!
If you’d like more support on your mindfulness journey Be More You offers a limited number of one-to-one coaching programs for people wanting a tailored introduction to mindfulness and accountability to ensure they get the most out of it. Head on over to the website to book in a free 30 minute discovery session to learn more.
Emily Mason is a Mindfulness Coach and Yoga Teacher based in Wellington, New Zealand. After a successful career as a corporate lawyer Emily decided that there was more to life that been too stressed about the next deadline. She coaches people to quite simply Be More YOU. Passionate about people truly living Emily is able to give driven people the tools to lead a more meaningful, calmer and connected life. Like me she hails from Rotorua and I’m very grateful to Emily for her guest post this Wednesday Wisdom.