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Mind Full or Mindful: Mindfulness Benefits

Today we are going to explore the question: “What is Mindfulness?” Before you read any more of this blog, take a look around you. What do you notice? Without moving from where you are, what do you see? Can you see the sky out of a window? Or maybe there’s a pen or a book laying on the table beside you. Take a moment to observe what is in your vicinity. 

Now, what can you touch? Can you feel the support of the chair holding you up? Or the smooth surface of the keys on a laptop? Are your arms resting on armrests or on a table? What does the clothing that is touching your skin feel like? 

What sounds do you hear as you read this? Maybe music is playing through your headphones or in your car, or there is a soft murmur of people talking near you. Are there any lingering smells that you can pick up on? Maybe the taste of your morning coffee is still lingering in your mouth which now makes you feel self-conscious about your last in-person meeting. 

Mindfulness is…

If you took a moment to notice any of these sensations, you are practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state of present-awareness. It’s paying attention to what’s happening here and now, without judgement. In other words, it’s a way to show up in this moment by allowing your senses to give you clues to your current state of being. It’s accepting this moment, just as it is. 

Mindfulness is an approach that has received a lot of attention in recent years due to recent studies that have equated it with being as effective as some antidepressants. Mindfulness can help slow down our thoughts so that we can tune in to what our body and mind may be telling us. 

Mindfulness is not…

Mindfulness does not mean that we are always calm or happy, but when practiced, it can make us feel that way. Mindfulness is also not the same thing as meditation, although they can be interrelated. Meditation gives us the opportunity to bring all our attention into focus internally, or what you might experience when you are concentrating. Mindfulness is bringing attention to what’s happening within and around us, in this moment. 

What are the benefits? 

According to this research, some of the ways that  mindfulness can be beneficial include: 

  • Emotion Regulation: When we are “awake” to the present, it’s difficult for our minds to wander to our future worries or our past ruminations. Additionally, when we are able to practice accepting our feelings as they come, we decrease our reactivity to the emotion. In other words, the emotion does not come out “as messy” because we are not afraid of the emotion to begin with, giving our brains a chance to integrate it as part of the human experience. 
  • Neuroplasticity: The physical structure and composition of our brain can change based on mindfulness practices, improving our concentration, mood, and memory. 
  • More flexibility and less reactivity: Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt triggered by another person or topic. My guess is that’s most of us. Mindfulness can help us choose, in the here and now, how we want to respond, giving us more adaptability to the world (and people!) around us. 

How can we practice? 

While mindful practices can look different for everyone, there are a few simple ways to get started. Consider the following options for different times of day: 

Morning Mindfulness: 

  • Start your day with an intention:  How do you want to feel or show up today? “Today I want to feel peaceful…or productive…or take time for gratitude”, or “Today I am going to focus on getting my project finished.” 
  • Affirmations or mantras: Similar to an intention, this is a simple reminder to yourself of who you are or what you believe. “I am enough” “I am brave” “I have what it takes”. It could also come in the form of a quote or scripture that you want to come back to throughout your day. 
  • Mindful Routines: Maybe this looks like making your bed, while paying attention to the way the blankets feel on your hands, or the softness of your pillows. Maybe it’s watering your plants while focusing on the shape of the leaves, or the gentle sound of the water splashing as it nourishes the plant. 
  • Take time to make yourself breakfast. Maybe it’s more than an on the go energy bar. Maybe it’s taking time to cut up your favorite fruit and place it in a beautiful bowl. Maybe you sit down to eat, giving yourself a chance to savor the taste of each bite. 
  • Practice Gratitude. 
  • Put a timer on your phone for 5 minutes and sit quietly, taking in the sounds and sights around you. 

Afternoon Mindfulness: 

  • Set a timer for a set amount of time to focus on a task
  • Take a 10 minute walk without your phone. Listen to the sound of your feet hitting the ground, or the shade of blue in the sky
  • Take off a shoe and feel the texture of the floor with your foot. 
  • Pause to consider what you are feeling in this moment without judgement. “I’m noticing my heart is beating fast…and I feel tension in my shoulders…I’m noticing that the same thoughts keep popping in my head…I’m feeling anxious…I accept that I’m feeling anxious right now and that this feeling will not last forever.” 
  • Try a box breath. Breathe in for a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, and hold the breath out for a count of 4. Repeat for 3 cycles. Maybe notice the way your chest rises and falls as you breathe, or how you are feeling before and after. 

Evening Mindfulness: 

  • Greet your pet. How does their fur feel against your hands? 
  • Light a candle while focusing on the light that it brings to the room
  • Pull a blanket around you and notice the weight of it around your body.
  • Journal your thoughts from the day, or what you are experiencing at the end of your day. 

In summary, mindfulness can be a powerful tool that helps us be more present as we live our lives while reducing stress and anxiety about “what’s going to happen” in the future. By choosing to accept each moment as it comes, we can face uncertainty with more courage and confidence

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