Did you practice mindfulness today? Mindfulness is a technique therapists use to promote the practice of good mental and physical health. Mindfulness practice has been said to allow people to be in greater control of their thoughts and actions, rather than being controlled by them.
Mindfulness was first explored in Buddhism and has been spread across Western rituals. It is a process in which we are aware of our present moment experiences. In addition to being aware, it is the ability to maintain openness and acceptance of our thoughts, sensations, bodily states and environment.
Mindless states and mind-wandering has been proven to be maladaptive! Instead, keeping our minds focussed on the present moment is associated with higher psychological well-being (2010, Kilingsworth & Gilbert).
Can anyone practice mindfulness? … YES! However, it is a skill that truly must be practiced till mastered. I am still learning and trying to get the hang of it.
Lets explore 4 things we can do to be a bit more mindful each day.
1. Set an Intention
The most simple step to start is by creating the intention in your mind that you are going to be more mindful. You are making a commitment, so now stick to it! By creating this intention, you are more likely to be aware of your mind wandering and recognize that you should shift your awareness to the present moment.
2. Recognize shifts in awareness
Recognize when your awareness is shifting and your mind is beginning to wander. Correct yourself when your thoughts are beginning to spiral to think about anything but the present.
Many of us tend to think of the past or the future. However, studies show that thoughts that wander away from the present are maladaptive. It can be important to plan for the future, but maybe we don’t need to make “big picture” plans. Look for what we can control and work on presently, this will set ourselves up for the future success we desire.
Therefore, we must learn to recognize when our thoughts begin to shift and quickly learn to shift back and be mindful.
3. Listen to others attentively
How often do you find that when someone else is speaking you are already thinking of what you want to say next? How does that make you an active listener? … It doesn’t!
Listen closely when others speak, this will allow you to pay closer attention as you will truly be taking in what the speaker is saying. Just by listening more closely you will connect better to what is being said and will eventually become more aware of the responses you decide to form. Ultimately this will improve your bond with that person and your communication skills. Listening closely is an important skill for one to stay mindful.
4. Focus on your breath
Breathing is something we naturally do every second of every day without having to think about! When your present mindedness is lost, you may simply refocus by counting your breaths. Focusing on your breath can significantly improve your mind and body connection!
If distracting thoughts arise due to mindless thoughts, try counting your breaths as you inhale and exhale slowly.
Although these are just a few ways of keeping mindful, I do plan to return to this topic again. Let me know in the comments what you do to practice mindfulness and focus on the present!
Hoffman G.S., & Gomez F.A. (2017). Mindfulness-based interventions for anxiety and depression. 10.1016/j.psc.2017.08.008
Killingsworth MA & Gilbert DT., (2010). A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Science. 330(6006):932. doi: 10.1126/science.1192439.