I’ve heard a lot of people talking about mindfulness lately.
In fact, I’ve had some friends who have started practicing mindfulness, in an effort to manage stress, anxiety, and depression. Especially with the kind of year we’re currently having, it seems like a lot of folks are looking for effective ways to deal with stress.
Mindfulness can decrease stress, increase focus, lessen depression and anxiety symptoms, and make us happier? Sign me up!
But what is mindfulness, exactly? How can it do all of those things?
Here’s everything you need to know to get started.
Mindfulness: Let’s Look at the Basics
It’s not uncommon for people to assume that mindfulness and meditation are the same thing. While meditation is an effective way to practice mindfulness, they’re not one and the same.
Mindfulness practice is all about living in the moment. It’s about staying present and fully engaged, free from distraction or judgment, and not leaving the moment.
So, what’s the difference between mindfulness and what you’ve already been doing by being alive?
Mindfulness is more than just being physically in the moment. It’s about being there mentally. And no one is born more mindful than others. It’s a state that is brought on through practice.
We’re all constantly dealing with so much. You’ve got a deadline tomorrow, you’re still reeling over something that happened last week, and you have to pick the kids up at school this afternoon. It can be extremely difficult to be mentally in the moment when your mind has so much going on.
Mindfulness aims to clear out all that junk, and let you experience the present moment. It involves awareness, and impartiality about what we gain from this awareness.
The practice is steeped in Eastern religions, most heavily Buddhism. The Buddha taught that mindfulness was the key to spiritual awakening.
But this practice isn’t limited to certain religions. At the core of this practice, it is a secular belief about living a different way of life. You don’t have to believe in any religion to see the amazing benefits it can bring you.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
These days, we’re constantly going — kind of like the Energizer Bunny. We’re so busy that we’re not even actually focusing on what we’re doing right now. Instead, we’re using half of our brainpower to focus on what has already happened, or what’s coming next.
That means that we rarely experience the present to the fullest extent. Besides, as you can imagine, all the extra mental load is pretty exhausting.
That’s why practicing mindfulness and being more aware has plenty of health benefits.
Mindfulness will absolutely help decrease stress. The practice can also increase your ability to relax, increase your appreciation, and increase your capacity for compassion.
But perhaps even more importantly, mindfulness has been proven to help people lessen depression and anxiety symptoms. It’s like lifting a weight off your shoulders.
How it Works
Ultimately, it is about changing your mentality. You are more than your thoughts and you can control them. That means you can clear your head and be completely present.
Experience your day without judgment, and if you see yourself drifting away, consciously return your focus to the present moment. Sometimes this is exhausting when first starting out, so start small.
Turn the TV off and settle into a quiet spot to read that book you keep putting off. Anytime you feel your mind drifting off the page and onto your tasks for tomorrow or the events of the day, pull yourself back to the present.
Instead of half paying attention to social media and half paying attention to your kids tonight, vow to focus on one thing. Put your phone down and give your kids your full focus. Engage them, and really listen to them.
Or, try meditation. It’s a great way of practicing being more mindful. Start small, with just 5 minutes every morning or evening. Increase your time gradually. You can also find plenty of guided meditations online if you need help with putting yourself in the right frame of mind.
You’ll notice a world of difference when you focus completely.
The longer you spend consciously moving your mind to the very moment it is in, the easier it will become.