Mindfulness has been around in ancient cultures for millennia. Lately though, its enjoying a very welcome and long overdue renaissance. It is rapidly evolving from a niche and ‘exotic eastern concept’ into a mainstream lifestyle practice.
Things like stress, anger, happiness, amusement, sadness and other states of mind are all facts of life. Whether you live a busy, fast-paced life in the middle of the city or enjoy a simple existence away from the hustle and bustle of it all, it’s inevitable that you will experience these feelings to some degree.
Fundamentally, mindfulness is a specific and deliberate strategy. It focuses on training your mind to cope with the ups and downs of everyday life.
Mindfulness can be practiced through meditation. It can also be applied to day-to-day situations to help improve your overall well being.
Why practice mindfulness?
Consider a stressful situation. Whether it be sitting in peak hour traffic, being overwhelmed at work, or tripping over the kerb. These and others lead to stress. They trigger physiological responses in your body. Without getting stuck into the science, its these responses that make you experience stress.
One of the key elements of mindfulness is remaining present and acknowledging these naturally occurring states of mind without attempting to suppress them.
There’s plenty of scientific evidence to associate mindfulness with physiological and psychological benefits. While every individual is unique, the following are just some of the most common benefits of mindfulness:
- Stress relief
- Better sleep
- Reduced anxiety or depression
- Increased emotional stability
- Lower heart rate
- Effortless breathing
- Enhanced problem solving skills
- Improved overall well-being
5 mindfulness concepts
The overall practice of mindfulness encompasses a range of elements or attitudes. While these don’t dictate a specific technique of meditation, they will help you get in the right frame of mind to begin practicing mindfulness.
- Awareness of your emotions. This is a core pillar of mindfulness. Ask yourself what thoughts and emotions you are experiencing right now. Or, how does your body feel at this exact moment? Being curious about the ‘self’ helps to experience living itself. Otherwise, we merely go through the ‘motions’ without actually ever being present.
- Impartiality to your thoughts and emotions. This is critical to remain mentally stable and aware of the fact that they are merely experiences of living. Do not label these as good or bad. Simply observe what you are experiencing from a completely neutral standpoint. Become the ‘observer’.
- Acceptance of these thoughts, emotions and general feelings is another important aspect of mindfulness. This doesn’t mean you lay down and allow these things to overcome you; rather, it focuses on acceptance of what you are experiencing as opposed to denial.
- Letting go of the ups and downs is a necessity in life. Many of us try to clutch onto our most pleasant experiences while smothering any others, rather than allowing ourselves to accept them and move on. Again, this does not mean you should give up and avoid seeking improvement; it just means that you are allowing them to pass by without defining who you are.
- Avoid goal-setting in terms of ‘overcoming’ or ‘beating’ whatever you are experiencing. Mindfulness is about being aware of the experience itself, rather than setting out with a goal of ‘becoming enlightened’ or ‘never being angry’.
Mindfulness relies on patience, trust, and open-mindedness. Allow yourself to explore it at your own pace. Especially if you are hearing about it for the first time. Rather than be in a hurry to become an expert, nurture yourself as a beginner and let the journey unfold – mindfully!