The word ‘mindfulness’ keeps coming up more and more. Every day we see new books on how to be more ‘mindful’, articles and posts with ‘mindfulness’ exercises. Is that just a new trend or is it worth looking into? What can you gain from all this mindfulness? And is it the same as meditation?
What is mindfulness? It is the state in which we are fully present in the moment and aware of our surroundings, including our own feelings and emotions. And while everyone naturally has mindfulness, it is easier to access when practiced regularly.
Being mindful means being present in the moment, aware of our surroundings, using all senses to notice the sounds, smells, tastes around us, as well as observing our own emotions and feelings. The opposite of the state of mindfulness would be doing something on ‘autopilot’, following the routine, but being absent in our mind- thinking about the past or concentrating too much on what will happen in the future.
How to practice mindfulness? A common method would be meditation, setting some time aside to sit down in a room with few to no distractions, putting our focus to the breath and as various thoughts and feelings are rushing into our mind, we acknowledge them and try to bring the focus back to our own breathing. A great start to meditation is a guided session- listening to a recording in which a professional tells us step by step what to do.
Another way to start is a full body scan. Simply lay down comfortably and in your mind do a head to toe ‘scan’- contract each muscle before relaxing it completely and moving on to the next body part. All while taking deep relaxing breaths in and out.
But there are even more simple ways to get a start on mindfulness- try having a mindful dinner: notice the smell of the food in front of you, how does it make you feel? Think of the sensation of hunger in your body and how every mouthful helps diminish that hunger. Be very observant of the food texture, taste, temperature. Think of your own comfort in the chair, your posture. Take your time. If unwanted thoughts of an assignment you have to do for your boss tomorrow are creeping in, acknowledge them – observe how your mind drifted off and bring your attention back to the food.
It really is that simple to practice mindfulness. And there might come a time when the list of things to do will become so overwhelming that you will start feeling a panic attack just around the corner. This is when all this mindfulness can save you. Ready to give it a go?