Perhaps being aware of what happens around you every day is a concept that has been taken for granted. Nobody seems to be paying attention to this natural gift, and it is about time that it be given its due importance. Simply defined, mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. Maybe a crash course on the subject can enlighten us of its importance and the numerous benefits which can be derived from it.
Mindfulness can be pictured or defined in different ways, but the common denominator to all these definitions is awareness to present situations. One could describe it as a guided meditation where you bring your mind to focus on the present moment. Others would say that mindfulness is a psychological process where an individual is supposed to bring attention to whatever is happening, within him or around him.
Mindful meditation can teach people to acknowledge their thoughts without having to be judgmental, and the best part of it is that one can practice it anywhere and anytime. If a person can master the technique of controlling his mind, life will become much easier and smoother.
Mindful meditations have always been associated with mysticism and rightly so because this practice is part of many religions. Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians have this incorporated in their beliefs as its practice is veered towards the spiritual enrichment of the person.
The goal of this practice is the individual’s wellbeing. The recent evolution of mindfulness has made it a completely secular concept, less spiritual and is regarded nowadays as more of an exercise.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
But even without the spiritual factor, mindfulness is becoming more effective in the betterment of an individual’s persona. By purposely focusing on the present and accepting such without judgment has improved the wellbeing of many. Even scientific studies conducted led to conclusions that mindfulness is an important element of happiness. Consider these concepts:
It Improves a Person’s Well Being
Anyone who wants more support to the many attitudes that contribute to happiness should increase his capacities for mindfulness.
Mindfulness without having to be judgmental will offer different things. It will become easier to enjoy life’s pleasures as they happen. It helps one become completely engaged in each day’s activities. And it makes one more prepared in facing adversarial events.
By concentrating on the present moment, those who practice mindfulness are less likely to be troubled by future worries or regrets in the past. A common problem for many is a preoccupation with self-esteem and success. Those who practice mindfulness concentrate only on the here-and-now and are not affected by success and such can even connect better with others.
It Improves a Person’s Physical Health
As the saying goes, “healthy mind, healthy body.” The benefits of a greater wellbeing should be enough incentive to practice mindfulness. But studies have shown that the practice can also immensely improve physical health. Here are some health benefits of mindfulness:
- It’s an excellent stress-reliever.
- Effectively lowers heart diseases and blood pressure.
- Reduces the risk of chronic pain.
- Improves sleeping patterns.
- Eases gastrointestinal problems.
It Improves a Person’s Mental Health
The importance of mindfulness meditations has also been emphasized by psychotherapists and have used for treating many mental problems. These include:
- Anxiety disorders
- Conflicts between couples
- Drug abuse
- Obsessive-compulsive disorders
- Various eating disorders
The great beauty of practicing mindfulness is dealing with experiences. Scientists believe that the practice works because people are taught to accept all their experiences, whether they be good or painful, rather than reacting to them with avoidance or aversion.
To get the best benefits of mindfulness, this should be paired with the guidance of psychotherapists. Especially those involved in cognitive behavioral therapy. The combination should prove ideal because meditation and such therapy have the same objective of helping people get perspective on thoughts which are self-defeating.
Tips to Help Improve Your Awareness
The only time and home we have is the present. Life is here, life is now, and we should, therefore, make the most of it. Thinking about the regrets of the past or the worries of the future will always make one feel insecure and afraid. Why fret so much about these when only the present matters? One cannot experience happiness with what has past or what is yet to be. Live for the moment, live for the present. Mindfulness will make all the difference by reminding you constantly that the present is all that matters.
Mindfulness will bring together the mind and body. A healthy mind in a healthy body and together, one is established in the present moment. Meditation will help reconcile mind and body and as a result, the person will be able to recognize the happiness in and around him. Here are some pointers to improve awareness:
A little time spent for meditation will prove its worth. Five minutes minimum, just sitting quietly and following breathing will make one feel more aware and focused for the whole day.
Focus on Tasks One at a Time
Multi-tasking is good for computers but not for people. Studies have shown that multi-tasking jobs will take more time to finish and are more prone to errors. Consider doing one job at a time and take breaks whenever possible.
Take Your Time
If there’s a task at hand, might as well enjoy the job. Enjoy the process, whether drinking a cup of coffee, making a report, or doing household chores, just take your time. Purposeful and contemplative attention to everyday chores will promote a strong focus and can prevent one from becoming overwhelmed.
Practice Mindful Eating
One cannot fully enjoy the experience of eating if so many distractions are going on. Savor meals by eating slowly and tasting every spoonful, without the usual distractions of TV, computers or newspapers. One may even find out that what he’s eating is good, not just for the taste buds but also for the body and soul too.
Minimize Computer and Phone Time
A person needs to discipline himself when it comes to computers and mobile phones. Technology has afforded us access to all media at a fingertip distance away. Set boundaries in using these gadgets. Give ample time for social networking and for the night time, keep mobile phones out of one’s reach.
Don’t be lethargic. Give the body the sensations it requires by just moving. Practicing yoga, walking or just by doing stretches can accomplish this simple objective.
Nothing could be more refreshing than getting in touch with nature than a walk in the woods, the beach, a mountain trail or the park. Whenever the opportunity arises, do it. Outdoors is the greatest place to recharge the mind, body, and the spirit and the experience will always keep one in the present.
Some Mindfulness Exercises
Mindfulness practice should be enjoyed and not to be thought of as an exercise to punish oneself. That would be defeating its purpose. A person should breathe at his own pace and breathe naturally. When a person sees the sunset, does he try to appreciate it? The sunset is a beautiful and natural thing. There should be no effort to enjoy it. Try practicing on these other mindfulness exercises:
It’s something we do every moment of the day and something we cannot do without. Breathing is simple and natural but when applied properly, can be powerful. Breath-in and breath-out, do it without effort and focus the attention on the process. Focus and one will feel the mental discourse stop. Then all the chaotic thinking stops as well. There is no past or future. Any projects will be blacked-out of the mind as a person focuses his attention and mindfulness on his breathing. This miracle can happen effortlessly.
A person should concentrate on his breathe-in exercises. From beginning to the end, if a person inhales, it should last 3-4 seconds. Then the mindfulness should also last for the same period. Inhale for 3-4 seconds, then followed by exhaling for 3-4 seconds. A person’s mindfulness on the exercise should be maintained and uninterrupted. If the exercise is successful, the person’s concentration will improve.
This exercise of inhaling and exhaling should be followed all the way through. Whether they are long or short will not matter if one is consistent with the pattern from beginning to end. The awareness is sustained but see to it that there are no interruptions. Distractions should not interfere with the cycle. If the person forgot to turn off the light in the other room, he should leave it until after the exercise. Without interruptions, mindfulness and concentration will be cultivated. Further on, the breathing exercise will become deeper and slower, and he will feel harmony and peace. There will be no effort doing this as it will happen naturally.
Awareness of the Body
Being aware of one’s body while breathing is another great mindfulness exercise. This brings the person to another level. Awareness will improve the quality of his inhaling and exhaling. The person will experience more harmony and peace while breathing in and out and if he can continue to practice this awareness when breathing, the peace and harmony will penetrate his body and consequently, the body will benefit.
Releasing the tension in the body is an exercise for mindfulness. Your self will be aware when there are tension, pain, and stress in your body. The accumulation of these negative factors brought about through long periods will make the body suffer because the mind has not been trained to release them. It is therefore important to learn how to release these tensions in the body.
Tension and pain could have accumulated for a long period and because of this, the body suffers. Either sitting, lying or standing, it is always possible to release these tensions. Total and deep relaxation can be achieved in a sitting or lying position. Here is an example of how one can deal with tension while on the road:
A person may feel tension while driving his car. There is that eagerness to reach the destination, but he doesn’t enjoy the feeling of driving. Then he comes to a red traffic light. That person stops, and tension can build up by waiting for the light to turn green. If he takes the red light as a sign that there is tension building in him, then he can use that to his advantage. Sit back and relax, even only for a few seconds. Practice your mindful breathing to release that pent-up tension. Do this until the light turns green.
Walking While Meditating
Breathing is always associated with mindfulness exercises. Breathing is a natural process, and mindful breathing just makes a person more aware of enjoying the effortless experience. This is also true with mindful walking, where every step is made enjoyable by making one aware that each step taken helps him get in touch with the wonders of nature.
There is no effort involved in walking meditations because it is enjoyable. Does anyone need effort for enjoyment? Of course not. Take a walk in the park, a mountain trail, the forest and enjoy what nature has to offer for free. Walking meditations will make a person one with nature; he will feel more alive. The experience could bring healing, joy, and peace because every step becomes a miracle.
The Best Possible Time for Anyone to Practice Mindfulness
The general perception of meditating is that it is performed in the early hours of the morning, that it is a requirement to sit with the legs crossed, that it be done in a quiet and peaceful place. The person should close his eyes with his hands, on his knees and that he breathed deeply. If one could do all these, then that is fine. But not all are compulsory when a person wants to practice mindful meditation.
The great thing about mindful meditation is that one can practice it anywhere at any time. A person can do it in between work hours or while bathing, eating, singing, dancing or some other activity. Crossing one’s legs for meditation is so 60’s and hippie. With mindful meditation, one can just sit in a comfortable position and see to it that the spine is straightened. If the person sits on a chair, he should straighten his back with his feet placed flat on the ground. If he sits on the floor, he may need back support. A pillow behind will do just fine.
Once the person is in a comfortable position, he can focus on his breathing. If the person can do this during work, he may discover that his focus on work will be better. A person can even practice mindful meditation in installments. He can set his mindfulness sessions for 15 minutes a day. Take 5 minutes early in the morning, 5 between work hours, five at night and so on. The important thing here is to do it with total devotion to get the best results.