You’ve probably heard the term mindful or mindfulness. It’s getting a lot of good press lately. So, what’s mindfulness all about and why should we bother?
First, there’re a few different ways the word mindful or mindfulness can be used, so let’s get clear on we’re talking about. The word mindfulness can refer to mindfulness meditation, which is based on a Buddhist meditation; mindful can be a character trait, such as, ‘Bob is always so mindful of other people’s feelings.’; and it can be a practice of a moment to moment awareness of what you’re experiencing emotionally and physically without judgment. We’ll be discussing this last definition.
What does it mean to be mindful in this way? It means to observe what you’re feeling, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, and hearing without assigning a judgment of good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, or fun or boring.
To practice mindfulness in this way, it is much easier to start with experiences that are already fairly neutral for you. Most of us don’t think too much about brushing our teeth, but this can be a great place to start. It’s very experiential and something we do a couple of times a day. Start with how the toothbrush feels in your hand. How does the toothpaste smell? How does it taste? What do the bristles feel like on your gums? What are you seeing as you brush your teeth? What do you hear? Are you aware of any emotions as you’re brushing your teeth? The point of this exercise is to start observing these things. Once you can brush your teeth mindfully, you can add in other activities.
The real question is, ‘Why should we bother?’ According to the American Psychological Association (APA), there are many benefits of being mindful. These include:
Have thoughts that go around and around in your head like they’re on a loop? That’s rumination and can be eased with mindfulness. Stress? Does that even need to be a question in our society? You can reduce stress with mindfulness. There are many benefits and there are more to be found if you’re looking.
According to the APA, in addition to these benefits, being mindful has other side effects. These include:
These are pretty great as far as effects of a simple practice go. I’ll also add that finding more gratitude is another effect many people find of mindfulness.
Does this mean that mindfulness will make your life a piece of cake? No, absolutely not. What it does mean is that you will be more clear-headed and focused; less stressed; and more compassionate in your day-to-day life. That will certainly improve the quality of your life.
There are additional ways to increase your mindfulness. You can join a meditation or get a Reiki session. These are great ways to increase mindfulness in a very focused way. In a meditation, you’ll often focus on chanting a mantra, which helps to increase focused attention. Some meditations will follow up chanting with a mindfulness meditation, which, as its name implies, is a practice of mindfulness. A Reiki session can help you handle stress better, be more relaxed, worry less, and/or being less emotionally reactive. If you’re having a hard time with your mindfulness practice, having a Reiki session can help get you in a good frame of mind to continue your practice.
Please do notice that I’m using the word ‘practice’ a lot through this article. Remember that mindfulness is a practice, something to continually develop and work at. Be gentle with yourself through this practice. Enjoy mindfulness, its benefits, and its wonderful effects.
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