Written by Jennifer McAllister
I know you are busy, but this is worth it. Multitasking, while a useful skill in certain aspects of life, has seemingly taken over our day-to-day thoughts. Planning, working, parenting, cooking, cleaning, commuting, resolving – repeat.
We often forget to notice what is going on around us and lose sight of our connection to the present moment as we move through our busy days and lives. Mindfulness not only helps us to reconnect to the present moment, but has many mental health benefits that contribute to our overall happiness as well.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the ability to be present. It is your ability to be aware of things happening right now, without judgement. Mindfulness shifts your usual preoccupied thoughts towards an appreciation of the moment and a broader perspective on life.
Practice makes progress. Here are five mindfulness techniques you can incorporate into your life right now:
- Breathing: This is the most accessible form of mindfulness. You can do this anytime, anywhere, for as long as you need to (or have time for). There are many different breathing techniques, for many different reasons. However, you start by simply paying attention to the exchange of inhalations and exhalations in your body. Begin by noticing the subtle sensations in your body such as how your shoulders, belly, and heart rise with every inhale – and how your body grounds down further with every exhale. Breathing mindfully not only opens your awareness to the present moment, but can also lead you into a natural state of meditation.
- Active Listening: Sometimes when we interact with others, our minds will wander off with questions or an urge to interrupt. Active listening is one of the best ways to practice mindfulness. Paying full attention to what someone is saying can not only improve relationships you have but will help to strengthen mental musculature to stay focused and aware. When your mind starts to wander off while another person is speaking, simply re-focus your attention on the words without judgement. There are many other ways you can become a better listener.
- Zone in When You Normally Zone Out: Our minds tend to wander when we repeat the same motions too often such as the dishes, brushing our teeth, driving home from work, etc. You can use these moments to practice mindfulness. The first step to zoning in when you zone out is to be aware of when it is happening. That in itself is a mindful act. Take a moment to recognize your surroundings. You might be surprised by zoning in on what you are missing when you zone out.
- Mindful Movement: Yoga is a popular way to practice mindful movement, but other activities, like walking, can help too. While walking, notice how your body moves. Pay attention from the ground up. Notice how all four corners of your feet feel on the ground, how your knees bend when you take a step, how your arms swing or stay still by your side, and perhaps how your posture helps you to move differently. Focus less on where you are going. While the intention is to move your body, ultimately the practice is about finding stillness in the mind.
- Let Go: You can also achieve mindfulness by remembering to let go of the notion to always be doing something. Take a few minutes a day to just be. “Being mode” is slowing down your mind to relinquish what you cannot control and accepting your state of mind as it is right now rather than constantly going and doing.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
When we set aside a dedicated time for ourselves, to practice mindfulness each day, we begin to acknowledge our thought patterns in a more effective manner. It is essential to our mental well-being to find mindful moments, because we look at our reality through the screen of our thinking. Practicing mindfulness can positively affect many aspects of our day-to-day lives:
- Improved well-being: it becomes easier for us to recognize and savor the pleasures in life as they occur. By focusing on the present moment, we can fully engage ourselves in activities and avoid getting caught up in worries about the future or regrets about the past.
- Improved physical health: Mindfulness helps to relieve stress, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, and reduce chronic pain, among many other health benefits.
- Improved mental health: Many mental health professionals have turned to mindfulness and meditation in recent years, as an essential component of treatment for depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, and many other mental health concerns. Addressing painful emotions helps us to accept our experiences as they are.
Mindfulness is a form of self-study. By studying ourselves, we become more aware of the things we do and think that do not serve us or bring us closer to our true self. OhioGuidestone develops programs and services that help meet the unique needs of each client. Mindfulness is one of many elements we teach our clients to provide pathways for growth, achievement, and lifelong success.