Is it just me or has mindfulness blown up in popularity over the last few years? When I first heard about mindfulness I was intrigued, but this whole idea of “stillness” baffled me. How can I bring stillness to my life when I’ve got places to be and meetings and emails and, well, life! But what I’ve discovered is that you don’t have to be a zen master to incorporate moments of mindfulness into your daily life. Today I’m going to break down the gist of mindfulness, the benefits of a regular practice, and I will throw in some easy ways you can incorporate mindfulness into your day!
What is Mindfulness?
Bringing awareness to your thoughts and feelings, and intention to your actions (bonus points for doing so non-judgmentally).
But it is harder than it sounds. We so often go into auto-pilot mode at work and home-- going through the motions of our day without really registering what we are doing or what our experience is.
(We’ve all been there!)
But what if you were intentionally present in those moments? “Intentionally present” looks like being aware of your thoughts and tuning in with yourself. It can also look like bringing awareness to each of your five senses on purpose (What do you smell? Is it pleasant (or not)- does it remind you of anything? What do you taste? What do you hear? What colors, shapes, and textures do you see? What do you feel?-The sun? The strap of your bag on your shoulder? Notice how you distribute weight onto your feet as they hit the pavement).
How to Be Mindful Today
When you notice yourself entering auto-pilot mode (for me, it's during my commute), do a full body scan. Mentally scan your body from the top of your head to the soles of your feet, checking in to see if you are holding tension anywhere (shoulders and hands are common offenders!). To take it further, breathe into the areas of tension. If that sounds weird, try thinking to yourself “Breathe In Calm, Breathe Out Stress” (and then do it! Consciously and actively release tension from your body).
What’s Non-Judgementality? Does it Matter?
Bringing awareness to your thoughts, feelings, and actions is a muscle that needs to be used over and over to be strengthened. You wouldn’t go to the gym for the first time and pick up the heaviest weight you can find-- you have to build up strength over time in order to lift heavier. It is the same thing with your mental muscles- they need to be used to be strengthened. That is why mindfulness is often referred to as a practice- because it needs to be practiced! It is a practice that will never be perfect, but the point is not perfection. That is where the non-judgmental attitude comes in.
The human brain is made to think; to judge; to process and analyze data. Being non-judgmental is the opposite of what your brain is hardwired to do! But non-judgmentality can be powerful. Can you imagine being aware of your thoughts and feelings and not condemning them (or yourself)? Non-judgmentality allows us to transition from a place of control and constant critique to a place of observation and acceptance.
How to Be Mindful Today
Find one minute free in your day. Seriously- just 60 seconds. Go somewhere you won’t be disturbed (a conference room, the park, your bedroom) and set your timer (and turn off your other phone alerts!) for 60 seconds. During that time, focus on the present moment. Acknowledge thoughts that may come up and instead of engaging them and getting caught up, observe these thoughts and let them pass. Here is the kicker-- if (and when) your mind drifts and you get caught up with a stray thought, release it and come back to the present moment. Try not to beat yourself up or criticize yourself. The goal is to try to stay in the present moment. The goal is not to quiet your mind and hush all those stray thoughts. The goal is to try to still the judgment and transition to simply observing and being.
Mindfulness helps us slow down and reconnect to ourselves-- to our needs, our feelings, our experience. We live in an age of multitasking, where it is often encouraged and celebrated. Being busy, on-the-go constantly, and working 40+ hours per week is often the expectation. But we are not robots! We are dynamically human and have emotional, mental, and physical needs. Mindfulness helps us slow down to connect to those needs which is vital to our well-being and functioning, as well as our happiness and quality of life. Mindfulness helps us remember that we are more than our productivity, to-do lists, and work output. It is a means of practicing self-compassion. It is how we can practice being kinder and gentler with ourselves, and in turn, with others.
Which the world could use a little more of, right?
So what do you think of mindfulness? Is it something you already practice regularly? Or is it something you keep hearing about and are still wrapping your mind around? Comment below and tell me what your experience is or if you have any questions!