Mindfulness is a huge trend and buzzword right now. You’ve probably heard about it in magazines, at the gym, at work, and in your friend circle. It seems like everyone is trying to practice mindfulness these days.
You’ve probably got visions of the perfect yogi, meditating in some forest somewhere for hours. Thankfully, that’s not necessary for a successful mindfulness practice. Go ahead and take a deep, relieving breath. This article is all about making mindfulness part of your life in a real and practical way. Gongs, incense, and yoga pants not required (unless you really like them).
So what is mindfulness really and why should you even care?
Mindfulness is slightly different from meditation. It’s more of a way of being. You’ve probably (very) recently been having a conversation with your friend and suddenly realized you’d tuned out and not heard what your friend had been saying for several minutes. These experiences are the products of our modern society. We aren’t very good at being in the present moment and spend a lot of time in our minds wandering away from what’s happening in front of us.
The practice of mindfulness is all about finding your way back to enjoying life as it unfolds before you. It incorporates a practice that is quite similar (and can be the same) as meditation, but the goal is to bring mindfulness to every aspect of your life, not just the moments when you’re sitting in stillness.
Why Should You Practice Mindfulness?
Most people feel like life is racing by and they’re missing so many of the good moments. Remember the last time you looked at the calendar and your jaw dropped as you realized how quickly the year was flying by? That speed has a lot to do with being constantly distracted and mindfulness can help you “slow down” time. This could help you truly enjoy each moment of your life as much as you can.
Mindfulness has many other benefits, such as:
- Clearing your mind so you can think more effectively and efficiently
- Making you a better strategist at work
- Allowing you to be a more present partner, parent, friend, and family member
- Making you a better listener and wasting less time with repeated explanations
- Helping you to tune into your pain and transform it into something more manageable
- Helping you to better understand and manage your anxiety and depression
- Allowing you to better tune into yourself so you know how you feel and what you want
- Giving you space to experience joy again.
Sounds pretty good, right? Just about everyone could significantly benefit from a mindfulness practice in their lives.
How Do You Get Started?
It seems overwhelming and elusive to think about becoming more mindful. How on earth do you do that? Here are a few suggestions that are small steps you can practice daily.
- Choose a time and a place, then make it a habit. Just like creating a bedtime routine triggers your mind to get sleepy, so can creating a mindfulness routine trigger your mind to become more calm.
- Make your practice short and sweet. If you know you only have to do it for 10 minutes, you’ll be more likely to do it and not procrastinate or dread it.
- Don’t feel the need to demand an “empty” mind. That’s not the point of mindfulness. Just learn to be a quiet observer of your mind. See the thoughts traveling through, but don’t get too invested in them. When you find yourself lost on the thought train, just take some deep breaths and become the observer again.
- Join a class if you do better in a group. Sometimes social pressure helps us to be accountable to our goals and complete what we set out to do. Holding quiet space for other people might help you to also take your practice more seriously.
- Start your session with a goal. Find something to focus on. Maybe it’s your achy back, your foggy mind, or your anxiety that’s racing out of control. Give yourself permission to sink into stillness while turning a quiet focus on that specific issue. Let the stillness melt that issue so it’s more quiet, too.
- Download a mindfulness app on your phone. There are several excellent apps that have been created to help you through the initial rough phases of practicing mindfulness. Headspace is a really great app to try (and there are many others).
- Be realistic and be gentle to yourself. Mindfulness doesn’t happen overnight, or in a week, or even in a month. If you quit for a month, you’ll have to develop it again like a muscle. It’s something that takes consistent practice always. Don’t guilt yourself into it. Just jump back on your habit and start again.
- When you’re ready, take a class to learn more about it. Once you’ve established a practice and are ready to add more advanced meditation skills to your mindfulness practice, you’re ready to take a class or workshop. Find one you like and join up!
- Read books and articles about mindfulness. You’ll learn great tips, find ways to deal with aspects that frustrate you, and you’ll spend more time thinking about how to be more mindful.
- Once you’ve established a practice, share it with your friends and family. Everyone can benefit and it’s always really inspiring to hear how mindfulness has changed someone’s life. If a friend is interested, share your tips, tricks, and resources to help them get started.
You have so much to gain from practicing mindfulness and you can get started at any time or on any day. Find something easy that feels doable, then make it a daily habit until you love it and look forward to it.
Keep going and commit to doing it for life. You’ll enjoy your daily existence more, understand yourself better, and have a better relationship with your mind and body.