Life throws many curveballs, and while we can’t always fully control how we initially feel in situations, we do have the power to choose how to react.
That’s where mindfulness steps in.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of our current physical, emotional and psychological state, without judgement. Mindfulness helps train your brain to readjust the way you think, and is proven to reduce stress and anxiety levels, fuel positivity and improve focus. By incorporating mindfulness into your daily life, you are likely to experience a more positive outlook.
What are the effects of mindfulness?
Mindfulness doesn’t necessarily eliminate stress or other difficulties. Instead, you can become aware of these unpleasant thoughts in challenging situations, giving you a better chance of reacting calmly and empathetically. Mindfulness doesn’t mean we won’t feel anger or other negative emotions but it does empower us to choose how to respond to those emotions.
How do I do it?
With such a huge positive return, it’s surprising how simple practicing mindfulness can be. This is because we all naturally possess the ability to be mindful, meaning that it becomes easier through practice. To be mindful, you can engage in a meditation session, take a simple breath before you answer your phone, or take a moment before completing daily tasks. You are practicing mindfulness if you’re bringing awareness to your current thoughts.
Where do I start?
With so many ways to practice mindfulness, it’s easy to incorporate it into your everyday life. Below are five ways to start practicing mindfulness if you’ve never done it before:
1. Schedule time
To successfully implement mindfulness into your daily life, you need to make it a priority. You must consciously practice it, before it becomes a natural way of life. Schedule some time each week to practice mindfulness, whether it’s for five minutes on the bus on your way to work, where you list three things you’re grateful for, or an hour a day with a meditation cushion. Whatever time you give, commit to it. Put it in your calendar as a repeated entry and treat it like any other commitment; make it uncompromisable.
A useful way to start your mindfulness journey is to practice meditation. This is essentially the training for learning mindfulness. Meditation helps you initially become familiar with the present over a limited time period. By using mediation to practice stillness of the mind and body, your mindfulness muscles will develop and, over time, it will become easier to be present throughout the day. Many women enjoy mixing this mental activity with something physical like yoga.
3. Be guided by an app
Most people feel a little strange when they first practice being mindful. Sitting in silence with your innermost thoughts can be daunting and our minds tend to resist. Using an app to be guided through the basic steps of a mindfulness mediation is a great way to get the most out of the experience. With a plethora of different apps catering for different needs, its worth a bit of trial and error to see which one works for you. Headspace, Calm, and Smiling Mind are a great place to start.
4. Take a breath
The power of a breath is invaluable. When you stop and pay attention to your breath, you are taken out of your mind and into your body. It momentarily frees you from your churning thoughts or stresses, providing perspective and reminding you of who you are. A single breath brings you back to the present and gives you new energy for the task ahead. This simple mindfulness technique can be practiced multiple times a day when you’re feeling overwhelmed or even before daily actions such as answering your phone, turning on your computer, or opening a door.
5. Accept failure and avoid judgement
Although mindfulness is a learnable skill, it’s a hard one to master. Accept that you’re not going to be perfect after a month or even a year of practice, because mindfulness is a lifelong practice. You don’t have to resist your mind’s instinct to wander. Be kind to whatever thoughts arise, practice recognising this, and gently return the present.
Mindfulness, when practiced regularly, can boost performance, satisfaction, and happiness in all aspects of your life. Start with five or 10 minutes a week and, as you become more comfortable in the practice, increase this time. With repetition and practice, mindfulness will become more natural, eventually becoming ingrained as your way of life.