Despite its origins in the East, you’ve likely heard of mindfulness. Whether in a yoga studio, the pages of a self-help book, or perhaps from a friend that practices meditation, mindfulness has gained popularity in the West. So what is it exactly? Well, all of the above examples are practices that fall under the umbrella of mindfulness. As described by the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Jon Kabat-Zinn “mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way…”(1994).
So back to our first question, what does this mean? Paying attention in a particular way could mean focusing on your breathing (as done in meditation), it could be focusing on the physical sensations in your body during yoga, or it could be simply turning your attention to a particular sight or sound in your environment. The key to mindfulness, is that you are paying attention to the present moment.
How Does it Work?
Now it may sound like mindfulness means you are focused on the present moment, and nothing else should get in the way of your attention (like what you’re having for lunch later, what’s on your to-do list, or that annoying itch in your nose) but I’m here to tell you it’s actually much easier than that!
Mindfulness does not require you to stop thinking or to clear your mind of any thoughts, nor does it mean that if your thoughts wander, you are doing it all wrong. In fact, it’s the very opposite. In practicing mindfulness, you welcome and allow your thoughts to enter your mind, and do not resist their presence. You acknowledge and honour your thoughts. You practice non-judgment, curiosity, openness and patience, allowing your thoughts to be whatever they are. And just as you allowed your thoughts to enter your mind, you allow them to leave your mind, gently bringing your attention back to the present moment again.
The beauty of mindfulness practice is there is no right or wrong way to do it. There is no good or bad method or strategy. We each have our own unique experience, which makes mindfulness a celebration of time set aside especially for your mind.
You may be wondering: what’s the point of mindfulness? Good question. The research and scientific evidence on the impact of mindfulness has proven a range of benefits, including: reduced stress, reduction of anxiety and depressive symptoms, help with sleep, better emotional regulation, a greater sense of self-awareness, and strengthened focus/concentration. Of course the results vary for each of us, but with so many potential benefits it’s certainly worth a try.
Some examples of mindfulness practice include:
- mindful eating
- mindful walking
- body scans
- grounding exercises
Similar to playing a sport or an instrument, the more you practice the better you get. The same applies for mindfulness. The more you practice mindfulness, the easier it becomes and the better you get. Having practiced mindfulness myself for many years, I can vouch for its tremendous benefits and the positive impact it can have.
Check Out These Resources:
There are a number of online tools such as apps, podcasts, and YouTube videos that can assist with getting started on a guided mindfulness practice. Here are some you might want to check out:
To learn more about mindfulness resources and how to develop your own practice, please feel free to contact me directly.