For many of us, it is not all that unusual to go about our daily lives without giving much thought to what we are thinking or doing at any given moment. We all have those days when our thoughts are miles away and we tend to move through life on a kind of autopilot.
Have you ever driven along a familiar route so lost in thought, that you realize you don’t remember driving the last 10 km? It can be quite disconcerting!
There is nothing wrong with being ‘lost in thought’ every now and then, or daydreaming, however, there are some times when our full focus and attention is required. For example, if you are having an important conversation with a friend or family member, attending a lecture, or training at the gym.
Mindfulness is a technique that has been around for thousands of years, yet has only recently become recognized in a much wider field than just spirituality and personal growth. Mindfulness is a technique that is taught in numerous big-name corporate businesses, such as Google, NIB, and Target, to enhance productivity and staff morale. It is also encouraged in the fitness industry to help promote better results, as well as reducing the risk of injury whilst exercising.
It is not simply a technique used to induce tranquility that is normally only achievable during meditation. It is a skill that can be practiced at any waking moment and can be implemented to enhance the quality of all aspects of your life.
So what exactly is mindfulness and how does it work, you ask?
Basically, in a nutshell, mindfulness is a practice that involves becoming aware of what is happening in the present moment, instead of letting your mind wander off in concerns of the past or future. It is more than just becoming aware of what is happening around you, however, it is also about observing your thoughts and how you are feeling. This has many benefits that ripple out into all the different aspects of your life.
How mindfulness can enhance your life from a mental perspective:
- Mindfulness is used to help reduce stress and symptoms of stress.
- Practicing mindfulness enables you to step back from the emotions you might be experiencing and observe them, instead of acting reactively or impulsively. This helps you to become more aware of what triggers you emotionally both positively and negatively. As you become more aware of what triggers you, you become better equipped at steering your life in a positive direction.
- Mindfulness helps you to be more present in the experiences of each day, which enables you to gain the most out of your life.
- Practicing mindfulness will help in your interactions and relationships with others, as you improve your listening skills and your ability to reflect on your thoughts and feelings before acting on them.
How mindfulness can enhance your life from a physical perspective:
- Mindfulness encourages a greater awareness of the body and how it is feeling at any given moment. This helps to recognize when things are not functioning as well as they should, such as the digestive system, and ways in which you can help restore balance, such as changing your diet.
- Eating mindfully not only supports healthy digestion, it also helps prevent overeating and encourages healthier food choices.
- Mindfulness is a technique that should always be practiced when exercising, whether at the gym or at home! The more aware you are of your form, technique and your breathing, the greater your performance will be. This means you will gain better results and are less likely to cause injury due to overtraining or poor posture/technique.
Though mindfulness is really a mindset, it can help to use guided mindfulness meditations to help understand how to practice it. As you become more familiar with the concept of ‘taking a mental step backward and observing’, then you can use cues and prompts to start cultivating it into your daily life.
Some great ways to incorporate more mindfulness include:
- Mindfulness meditations - There are so many different mindfulness meditations to choose from, many of which are free online. So make sure you try a few different ones so that you find one that resonates well for you.
- Mindful eating - Taking your time with each meal, chewing it properly, and really appreciating the nourishing aspects of the food you eat.
- Mindful meditation walks - Taking a walk each day (or whenever you are walking to get somewhere), and using this time to reflect on your surroundings, how you are feeling physically, and how you are feeling emotionally.
- Morning affirmations - Have a positive affirmation written down somewhere you will see it each morning, for example: “I will be mindful of my thoughts and actions as I go about my day”. Whenever you see it, mentally repeat it to yourself with conviction.
- Specific cues - Make note of specific times you wish to be reminded to be mindful and present in the moment. Such as when you leave your home or sit down to a meal, or when you get out of a car.
Like any skill, the more you practice mindfulness, the more natural it becomes. Much like learning a new language or how to play an instrument, mindfulness requires a little concentration and effort, to begin with, yet in time it becomes starts to become a natural natural mindset or attitude, which will benefit you in all areas of your life.