Mindfulness is a word that is used a lot these days, and for good reason too. It’s a simple practice that can improve both your mental and physical health, boost self-confidence and help you see calm in stressful situations. It definitely sounds like something we could benefit from, but do we really know what it is?
Okay, so how do you be ‘mindful’ and what does ‘being’ actually mean?
Essentially, being mindful is allowing yourself to be fully present in the moment you are in. It’s where you remove any judgment and just allow a moment to exist exactly as it is. This means that you take time to notice every little detail, from colours to sounds, and create a true sense of ‘being’.
Imagine that you are sitting on a bench in a park. Often when we take time to be still, our mind fills with things that we need to do, worries that we have or what we are going to do immediately after. It’s almost like physically we are sat there but our mind has wandered off elsewhere. This is where being mindful comes in. It requires you to take your focus away from your thoughts and back into the moment. Essentially, if we were to mindfully sit in the park we would shift our concentration to the blue shades of the sky, the temperature of the air or the sound of birds chirping. In doing so, our attention will have moved from the thoughts in our head to what we can see, hear and feel.
It is simply doing, without thinking.
How to get started
There is no single way to be mindful. It can be as simple as really listening to a friend or as intense as a 30-minute meditation. The point is that you have taken the time to be mindful, no matter how big or small this act may be. Here are some techniques that you can try to get started:
Whether it is walking, riding your bike or running try to think more about the action you’re doing. Pay attention to your breathing, the moment your feet become in contact with the floor and the view of nature that you are passing. You will be less lost in thought and have more of a chance to appreciate the world around you.
Focus on your breathing
One of the easiest ways to become mindful quickly is to place your focus on your breath. Pay attention to how quickly you breathe in, how deep the breath is and how your chest rises up and down. This will instantly ease the thoughts filling your mind and replace them with a lighter feeling.
Work through your senses
Whatever moment you are in, stop to think about what you can see, hear, smell and feel. Doing this will encourage you to remove judgment and just notice the physical aspects of the world around you.
The difference between meditation and mindfulness is that meditation is more centred on bringing awareness within yourself, whereas mindfulness often involves a focus on what is around you. That being said, mindfulness is a form of meditation so to truly master it meditating can be a really helpful tool. If you’re unsure how to meditate, you can try giving headspace a go to show you the basics.
When we are eating often we attempt to do other stuff at the same time (like scrolling through social media or messaging a friend). When we do this we don’t feel as satisfied and nourished by our meal. Take the time to eat slowly, concentrate on the taste of the food and enjoy the time out that comes with it eating.
Naturally, when we are having a conversation we spend the time that someone is talking to us thinking about how we should reply. This means we aren’t actually listening to what they have to say. To be a mindful listener you have to really focus on what someone is saying, their body language and what emotions you can sense.
Whilst it may seem simple and like it wouldn’t really do much, there are lots of benefits from carrying out this little practice:
When we are mindful, we are appreciative. We spend less time thinking about what we don’t have and create space to be thankful for the little things in life, such as a bright blue sky or a scent that reminds us of a memory.
A clearer mind
Mindfulness is appreciating a situation without judgment, which allows you to become more open-minded. The result of this is being able to find peace in moments that could easily have been filled with worry.
Having said that, it’s important to note that mindfulness doesn’t try to eliminate negative thoughts. Instead, it offers ways to think around them by giving you a moment where your struggles aren’t the entire focus of your mind.
Focusing our minds can help us to physically relax. When we feel stressed it manifests in our bodies, making us feel tense and uncomfortable. Encouraging space in the mind, where less stress is present, will tell your body to relax too.