The benefits of mindfulness are plenty and have been clinically proven to improve a wide range of clinical disorders, including chronic pain, anxiety and depression.
It is a practice that can help you both in life and work by improving performance, reducing stress, enhancing emotional intelligence, increasing overall life satisfaction and developing leadership skills.
Russ Harris describes mindfulness in his book, "The Happiness Trap," as “Consciously bringing awareness to your here-and-now experience, with openness, interest and receptiveness.”
Practiced since ancient times, mindfulness has only recently been embraced by Western psychology with more medical practitioners recognizing its importance for psychological health.
Several years ago, following a near death experience, I began to practice mindful mediation and it resulted in a change of perspective, mindset and attitude towards life.
In my late teens I was so focused on physical health, I was going to the gym like a machine six days a week and following crazy diet rules. In the process, accompanied by other stressful things that were going on at the time, I lost my mind and my nervous system completely crashed down.
While searching for help, it’s easy to lose sight of the power within ourselves. Of course it is important to get outside help, and in some cases, it's essential. However, it is just as important to clear our minds of the junk that is getting in the way of harnessing our own ability to be truly healthy and happy.
So I made the decision to become more mindful. By changing my mindset, my perspective and therefore my attitude towards life, every aspect of my life changed.
Once you become more aware of what is going on within and you are open to helping yourself, it becomes easier to deal with what’s going on and be in control of the way you want to live your life. You don’t have to put aside 10 minutes for active meditation, wake up at the crack of dawn to practice yoga five times a week or drink kale juice every morning in order to get the benefits of mindfulness.
If it is understood, it can be applied in small ways every day in our actions, no matter where we are or what we are doing. It can take some time to master, so try to be patient. You can start with a few basic steps:
1. Start by focusing on your breath. Pay attention to the way you breathe for a minute. Are you a chest breather? Try breathing deeply from the belly, allowing it to rise and fall slowly. Notice your mind become calm and still. When you feel stressed, try it. In that stillness, you are able to bring awareness to the here-and-now.
2. Treat yourself to a deep, therapeutic massage every now and then. When you are in deep relaxation, your breathing becomes deeper, bringing you to a state of homeostasis. It helps with being more aware of the present moment.
3. Yoga is a great form of mental and physical exercise that can also help to consciously bring awareness to the present. By focusing on breath, it becomes a moving meditation, and if done properly, it can be a deeply healing experience.
4. Become aware of your thoughts. Are they constantly judging, comparative or overall negative? This is not productive and will only cause premature wrinkles. You have control over the way you choose to respond to things. Thoughts lead to actions and actions lead to habits; make them positive.
5. When doing a task, concentrate on it solely. Do not let your mind wonder and think too much about things that haven’t even happened yet.
6. Tackle each task one at a time. Do what you can at the moment, and if you can’t do something right now, it’s okay; let it go and come back to it later.
7. Don't constantly worry about things that are outside of your control. Instead, put your energy towards other productive things that are within your control.
8. Learn what helps you to relax. For me, it’s a quiet day at home, mentally and physically switching off. For me this is important to recharge and get focused for the week ahead.
9. Stop punishing yourself for eating that chocolate bar or not going to the gym yesterday. Take it easy on yourself. If you are generally healthy, your body and mind are going to naturally crave what they need; don’t fight it. Eat that chocolate if it makes you feel good! Allow yourself to be lazy if that's what your body is telling you it needs.
10. Start appreciating life for what it is and what you have, instead of focusing on what you don’t have. Where you are now is exactly where you are meant to be.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It