Mindfulness...What is it? How does it work? Is it just a passing trend?
Undoubtedly you have heard the term mindfulness. Perhaps it was a course promoted through social media to "sign up for 8 weeks of meditation", a reference in your favorit podcast or your employer looking to add Self Care to your list of To Do. It seems as though everyone from accountants to zen yoga instructors are all jumping on this bandwagon...but what is it really all about?
What is Mindfulness
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the UMASS Medical Stress Reduction Clinic, defines mindfulness as
“the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”.
In simpler terms, it is noticing how you feel in the present moment by focusing your awareness and quieting the busy mind. Mindful practice (and yes, it is a practice that needs to be done consistently to master) comes in many forms such as meditation, guided visualization and yoga. Instead of thinking of it as a way to get rid of all negative racing thoughts, consider it more learning how to live with thoughts and emotions and have control over your response to them.
How does Mindfulness help?
The benefits of Mindfulness reach into many dimensions of health. A consistent practice can decrease blood pressure, decreases feelings of depression and anxiety, increases cognitive function and memory and can boost immunity.
The best thing about mindfulness is you do not need any equipment, just your breath and seat. Find a quiet spot where you will not be interrupted and can sit for 10 minutes. No need for fancy mats or pillows, the chair you are sitting in now, the floor or even your bed will do just fine. I actually take a few minutes when I get to the gym to sit in my car...there really are no rules!
Eyes closed or open? That is up to you. If your mind is constantly wondering what is going on past your closed eyes, keep them open and rest your gaze gently a few inches in front of you. Keep an active spine. If lying in bed as you prepare for sleep. lie on your back or in a comfortable position.
The thought of sitting still for 10 straight minutes may seem intimidating. Start slow. Aim for a 2-3 minute meditation. Take advantage of the many free meditations available through apps or online. A few of my favorite include Calm, FitOn, and Yoga with Adriene.
As you practice, you will learn to acknowledge your wandering mind and allow forgiveness when your find your thoughts drifting. As with any skill, the more you practice the better you will get. You may find yourself sitting for longer sessions and using it to cope with different situations and emotions. Be sure to find a time where you can practice consistently each day. It should be as important as bushing your teeth or taking your vitamins.
Do you have a mindful practice?
What is your favorite mindfulness practice?
Leave me a comment and tell me how you incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine.