Mindfulness is a bit of a buzz word these days. You see it ascribed to a number of activities. Lately I have found it associated with eating, as in slow down, think about your choices, savor the experience. Sounds good!
We can also apply this to other areas of our daily lives, and not just when we are eating. You don’t have to be in a pretzel formation, chanting a certain word for this to work! The goal is simply really. SLOW DOWN. Be present, in the moment.
This is not a new concept, just newish to the Western world. The roots of mindfulness and meditation is a decidedly Buddhist concept and entered into American practice in 1979. Jon Kabat-Zinn founded MBSR -Mindfuness-Based Stress Reduction. Since then there have been thousands (yes, thousands) of studies that document both the physical and mental benefits of practicing mindfulness.
The toughest part of mindfulness is loosing the judgment component. We tend to assign “good” and “bad” to the random thoughts that flow across our minds. This is a big issue for me in particular, I can get caught up in a negative loop that will drive my mood straight into the dumps. And, fast too!
Many experts believe that mindfulness can help people accept painful experiences, after all you can’t change them, they happened. Mindfulness is a process by one acknowledges the thought or emotion, recognize it for what it is, a past memory or pain, then your thoughts move on.
Why take the time to practice mindfulness?
Mindfulness can improve your mental health
You can reduce stress and anxiety as you focus on your mental state. Recognizing and acknowledging negative thoughts is the first step. Refocusing your mind on positive and healthy events and goals will eventually become easier. You will find that you spend less time dwelling on thoughts that cause your stress levels to spike. Your overall anxiety levels will decrease. You will be slower at self judgments and passing judgment over others.
Mindfulness can improve your physical health. This is the essence of biofeedback. Through breathing one can lower their blood pressure, slow the heat rate, and reduce the level of stress hormones in your system. Those with chronic pain also reported less discomfort. All with just calm, measure breaths.
Mindfulness can improve your overall well being. Controlling the negative thoughts will lesson the power they hold over you. Being present in the positive moments of the day and focusing your attention on the pleasure in life leaves less time for the negative to take root. People who practice mindfulness report a higher satisfaction in life and deeper connection with the people around them.
Do you remember, the Mental Health Core Habits of Healthy People? One was that they surround themselves with positive people. For that to happen, you have to be one of those positive people. Practicing mindfulness will take you in that direction. Perhaps not right away. This is a practice after all, and requires some effort on your part.
There are many books, online tools and apps that can get you started. I prefer Headspace as it is free and these are guided mediations. I have found this to be very helpful in dealing with those times when life is tough, or I am struggling with negative issues.
Of course a yoga class will also incorporate mindfulness, with the added benefit of exercise! There are also numerous online classes should you want to try that out too!🧘🏻♀️