Are you confused like me? Mindfulness, I find is a ‘catchphrase’ often used but no-one can give a clear definition of. If that’s you too, here’s my best shot at explaining Mindfulness and why it’s such a good thing.
My earliest understanding of the word “mindful” is from my mother Carmel who would remind me to be “mindful of other people”, especially their feelings. So from my mum’s use of the word, my understanding of being “mindful” was to be aware of others, myself and the environment we share. A clever woman my mother, as to be aware is to be present, and being present is the theme which runs through the techniques of Mindfulness. While I give my mum credit for introducing me to the concept, she can’t take all the credit as the practice of being Mindful has literally been around for thousands of years.
What is Mindfulness?
I like the definition of Mindfulness provided by Psychology Today…
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.
Benefits of Mindfulness
The physical benefits to your health of Mindfulness are enormous. The list of is impressive…
- relieves stress
- lowers blood pressure
- reduces chronic pain
- improves sleep
- relieves digestive complaints
The benefits for your mental health are equally are spectacular. Mindfulness is successfully used as a treatment for…
- anxiety disorders
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
- eating disorders
Mindfulness also contributes significantly to an improvement in your well-being. People who practice Mindfulness often enjoy…
- more joy, hope, pride, and enthusiasm
- better self-esteem
- deeper and improved connections with others
- more satisfaction, pleasure, and happiness from life
- an increased ability to focus on the now, with less worry about future and regret from the past
- more resilience when dealing with negative experiences
Enjoy the benefits now with this simple Mindfulness tool
I am currently reading Thrive by Arianna Huffington and in it, I’ve found a very simple and effective tool for practicing Mindfulness on a daily basis…
- First, choose a something you do every day. I’ve chosen to brush my teeth but you could use drinking your morning coffee, taking a shower or preparing breakfast for example.
- Then, the exercise is to simply pay attention to what is happening while you do your chosen activity. Tune in to your five senses of smell, taste, sight, touch, and hearing whilst you perform your activity.
- That’s it. This simple act, when done consistently, will allow you to enjoy the benefits of Mindfulness.
Important tip: When your mind wanders as it will while you do this, simply notice where it goes, and gently lead it back to the sensations of your chosen habit. Leading your mind without judgement or criticism is a key to success with Mindfulness.
So how does this work?
According to the neuroscientist, Dr. Shanida Nataraja, westerners use the left hemisphere of their brain too much.
- Left Brain
The left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for analytical, rational and logical processing like forming strategies and calculating equations.
- Right Brain
The right hemisphere of the brain is responsible for emotions, non-verbal awareness, abstract thought and spatial perception.
Our modern day, western style of living is dominated by left brain thinking that stimulates the nervous system and releases adrenaline. These hormones then prime the body for a hectic “no time to lose” and “got to get things done” approach to life. As you may know, this type of life isn’t very enjoyable and is not what you’d call peaceful. In fact, it contributes to a build-up of stress hormones which ultimately make you sick, exhausted or worse, dead.
On the other hand, right brain thinking stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. These hormones focus on making you feel good and are responsible for your repair, recovery, and rest. Ultimately their role is to restore balance and to keep you well, vital and happy.
So, Mindfulness, as in the simple practice above, actively turns on your right brain – the part of you that wants to look after you, care for you, love you. John Lennon said “all you need is love” and maybe Mindfulness can be best described as an act of love for oneself, and from this, the benefits flow.
It is easy for me to encourage the use of Mindfulness as the practice is continually being quantified, both scientifically and socially. As heart disease, depression and anxiety are becoming more common, it appears Mindfulness can play a significant role in reducing this disturbing trend.
It is fair to say I am intrigued by the concepts of Mindfulness and am looking forward to studying and sharing the topic more in the future.