02 Apr The Benefits of Adopting a Mindfulness Practice
We live in a society that is perpetually multitasking. Whether you are walking the dog and reading your email or cooking dinner while texting, many of us are never really fully present in the moment. You may wonder why this is problematic. Research shows that living life in this way prevents your brain from having the much needed break it needs to reset. Additionally, living your life on autopilot or in a multitasking mode, can increase the risk for mental and physical health problems.
Research also shows that being mindful can have noticeable benefits, such as alleviating chronic pain, migraines, and helps in treatment of depression and anxiety. It can help you get unstuck from various negative thinking patterns, enhance focus, and increase motivation. In fact, mindfulness practices are now showing up in classrooms, Fortune 500 companies, and within athletic teams, not just in therapy offices or meditation centers. Various studies have linked mindfulness practice to improvements in attention, eating and sleeping habits, weight management, and recovery from substance abuse.
If you have been living with the same thought process, day in and day out, it can be difficult to break out of your comfort zone into new ideas or habits that may enhance your life. When one becomes mindful of their thoughts and feelings, they build awareness and can slowly start trusting what their brain and body really need.
You may be thinking, how can I listen, or even trust my thoughts? This is a completely reasonable question, and this change definitely can sound, and feel, impossible. The truth is, it takes practice. As we grow to hear our thoughts, without judgment and recognize the ones that are not serving us, we can begin to trust ourselves more. Mindfulness tools are scientifically proven to calm down your mind and slow down habitual thinking patterns, those that often lead to insecure and negative thoughts.
Adopt a Mindfulness Practice
Mindfulness training allows us to encompass each experience as it is, without judgment or prejudice. It’s a process. Over time, we will be able to see, experience, or explore things that make us uncomfortable or that we don’t like without adding additional negative thoughts or conditioned behaviors. Adding in small doses of mindfulness is an awesome tool to get us in a calmer state of mind. It’s a way of paying attention to whatever is happening in our lives, which brings us more control. When we slow down, we actually make better decisions and feel more confident in our choices.
This doesn’t mean you have to hit the yoga mat. Rather, mindfulness can be a quick tool that you can use in your office, car, or walk to work. It allows one to recognize the moment and step away from habitual, often unconscious emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events. It will not eliminate life’s pressures but, with practice, it can help us respond to them in a calmer manner that benefits our mind and body.
How-to Practice Mindfulness
• Notice the experience: Chose one sense to be aware of (sight, smell, taste, hear, feel).
• Allow yourself to focus on your breathing and/or the experience fully.
• Allow thoughts to come up, avoid judging them, just refocus, as best you can.
• Attempt to allow yourself to fully engage in the experience.
• Stay focused on the moment and the experience.
• Try to let go of any negative thoughts about yourself or the experience.
Judgments will arise, along with thoughts about the day or what you “need” to be doing, and can take you away from the experience. Notice them and let them pass, focusing your attention back on the moment.
Try These Mindfulness Techniques
1. Walking with the senses: notice where you are: the temperature, the scents, what is around you, what is unique about the situation, the colors, the people, and focus on what is happening in the moment.
2. On your way to work: listen to music and try to focus on one instrument or voice for the entire song. Notice how this changes your experience.
3. While doing chores: wash one dish at a time. Try and stay present on the action: how the water feels, notice how the soap looks, how the water washes off the mug. Try to stay focused on one element at a time.
4. Try a guided mediation. You can search Podcasts or YouTube for quick guided meditations. This helps you get in touch with your body. Do these during break at work or anytime your needing to get centered.
5. Eat with your senses. In autopilot we tend to rush with everything, inhaling food at our desk or in front of the TV. Instead, pay attention to each bite, the texture, tastes and feelings that come up. You are likely to enjoy it more and even eat less.
6. In your head, play a game. Think of every food item that starts with H or all the cities that end in E. Focus on this for a few minutes and see if the thoughts you had before are as strong.
Overtime, you will find that incorporating mindfulness into your everyday life will help you feel more confident, less stressed, and in control of your life.
-Emily Roberts, MA, LMHC Licensed Mental Health Counselor