One of the biggest buzzwords in the yoga, health and wellness sphere right now is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of putting space between ourselves and our reactions, breaking through our conditioned responses to maintain inner peace. Whether we're working to control our temper, eating habits, or some other response, mindfulness might help.
Why Mindfulness Matters
Every day, every minute, we're faced with some situation that calls for us to respond. Our spouse forgets to empty the dishwasher. Driving down the road and having a car move into your lane without signalling. A coworker who throws you under the boss for their mistake.
Chances are, you have a conditioned response to each of these situations. As we encounter things that cause stress (i.e. increase cortisol in our bodies), it activates other parts of our bodies... and not in good ways. This can affect everything from our productivity to our heart. It can aggravate back pain and ruin our day.
Mindfulness helps us switch off of autopilot and learn how to be present and deal with these situations with helpful methods, not destructive tendencies. There's even research showing that mindfulness can rewire our brains.
Steps to Practicing Mindfulness Everyday
Everyone has the capacity to do this. Like any new habit, it just takes a little time to train ourselves to actually do it. There are unlimited ways to practice mindfulness, but here's a step-by-step method to start:
Make time for it. Think of mindfulness as a new hobby at which you want to become proficient, like golfing or writing, etc. Add a reminder to your phone to set aside 5+ minutes every day to practice mindfulness.
Observe the present as it is. A therapist friend of mine had this to say about why it's so important to focus on the present:
Those who dwell in the past are depressed, and those who worry too much about the future are anxious.
Focusing on the present moment, without judgement, removes those emotions. Take time to identify something for each of the 5 senses that you're noticing in this second. One smell, one sound, one taste, one thing you see and one thing you can taste. And then start again.
Don't judge. Probably the most important thing about mindfulness--and one of the hardest--is to not let judgement come into your mind. Judgement of others, of yourself, of the area in which you find yourself. Do your best, as judgements roll into your mind, to let them roll right on through.
Stay present. My meditation teacher described the mind as like a little puppy that needs constant retraining and reiteration when we start building a mindfulness practice. It might run away--and your mind might wander to the future or the past--but gently call it back to this moment, this second.
And that's it. This is one basic way to start bringing mindfulness into your life. If you're looking for more guidance, I recommend Insight Timer (an app for your smartphone - add me @megtalla!)
Do you practice mindfulness?