Is Your Mind Too Full? Why Not Try Being Mindful?
Updated: Oct 27, 2019
Mindfulness has been one of those mental health “buzz words” as of late. Practice mindfulness and find your inner peace. Mindfulness is the path to enlightenment. Practicing mindfulness will allow you to literally learn to fly… Ok, so maybe not that last one, but you get the picture. There’s a lot of people, who I have no doubt have good intentions, telling you the benefits of mindfulness, but I’ve found it’s actually fairly difficult to find out exactly what mindfulness is and better yet, how to do it. So that’s the topic of today’s blog. I hope at the end you have a better understanding of this particular buzz word and just enough info to help you get started practicing it yourself!
So, to answer the main burning question on most people’s mind; what the heck is mindfulness exactly? Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us (https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness/).
Pretty simple, right? You might be thinking a little too simple, though. If mindfulness is just being, well, mindful, how can it possible have all these great benefits and why on Earth is it so hard to achieve? But the truth is, it really is that simple. In its most basic form, mindfulness is being present and paying attention. And that’s exactly why it’s so hard to do.
We live in a world where we are told to always go, go, go. Don’t slow down if you have a goal you want to achieve. Keep pushing. Work harder! Never give up. This messaging isn’t all bad in and of itself, of course. I firmly believe that yes, if you want to reach a goal, you need to work for it. Sometimes, that means working really, really, hard for it. The problem, however, is this is the messaging that we are bombarded by Every. Single. Day. So, in order to keep pace, we’ve trained ourselves not to slow down and pay attention. Hence, practicing mindfulness is sometime extremely difficult. It takes a reworking of how you view life and is contrary to what may have become your normal rhythm.
But the benefits truly are amazing! A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin showed that only 10 minutes of breath-counting helped offset the damaging effects on concentration of heavy-duty multitasking. Still another study, from the University of California, Santa Barbara, revealed that merely eight minutes of mindfulness practice improved concentration and reduced mind-wandering. And researchers at Emory University showed there was a significant lowering of activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that triggers the fight or flight response after their subjects were exposed to stress producing stimuli.
Finally, and possibly most importantly studies seem to show that when practiced regularly over an extended period of time, mindfulness tends to make us far less attached to the ongoing narratives we make up about ourselves(https://www.mindful.org/meditators-under-the-microscope/).
So how do you practice mindfulness are start the journey to all these awesome benefits? Check out the list of tips below:
1. Just breathe—One of the most basic steps in mindfulness is to focus on your breathing. By practicing deep breathing, you can trigger the relaxation response in your body, which is basically the opposite of the fight or flight response. Take slow deep breathes, taking 4 counts to inhale, hold for 4 counts and then exhale for 5 counts. Make sure to pay close attention to the way your body feels, how your chest rises and falls, and what the air feels like as it goes into your lungs.
2. Stay grounded—Try the 5-4-3-2-1 Technique. With this technique, your goal is to focus on smaller things you may miss on a regular basis.
· Name 5 things you can see: Look for small details such as a color, patterns on objects, or something you never noticed before.
· Name 4 things you can feel: What does the fabric of your clothes feel like? Is the sun shining or wind blowing on your skin? Pick up an object and examine its weight and texture.
· Name 3 things you can hear: Pay special attention to the sounds your mind has tuned out, such as a ticking clock, distant traffic, or trees blowing in the wind.
· Name 2 things you can smell: Try to notice smells in the air around you. Pick up an unlit candle and give it a sniff.
· Name 1 thing you can taste: Carry mints, candy, or gum for this step. Pop one in your mouth and focus your attention closely on the flavors.
3. Play some mind games—Describe how to make a PB&J sandwich; Count backwards from 100 by 2s (3s, or 4s, you get the idea); Name all your family members, their ages, and month and year of birth; count how many objects you can find that start with a certain letter (for instance I currently see a cup, cat, coat, etc.)
I love all these simple mindfulness tricks, because they’re easy and super discreet. You can be practicing mindfulness and improving your well-being anytime, anywhere!
Try some of these out and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear what works for you and doesn’t. And if you have any mindfulness tips of your own, don’t hesitate to share!
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