All About Mindfulness
In simple words, mindfulness is all about living in the present. Mindfulness means paying attention to all thoughts, physical sensations, sights, sounds and smells, things we ignore in our busy lifestyle. This is done to increase your awareness, clarity, focus and ultimately acceptance of the present. It helps you to live each moment and lead an active adult life rather than letting the time drift off. Moreover, mindfulness does not conflict with the traditions, religious and cultural beliefs.
Benefits of mindfulness
It lets you experience life as you live, through all your senses. It helps you recognize your thoughts, how your minds work. Mindfulness lets you identify the different types of thoughts you have and have a control over them rather than damaging your mental health by over-thinking.
Regular mindful meditation cuts pain perception by nearly half. According to a study published in the April 2011 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, practicing mindful meditation decreases body pains, neck, and backaches, migraines and headaches and improve the pain tolerance. This is especially helpful for the senior adults who are more prone to such aches and pains and help them lead an active life.
It enhances smart decision-making capability. Mindfulness frees your mind from judging your thoughts, removes bias, prevents you from ruminating over your past. This helps you think clearly without the influence of any negative entities.
Mindfulness improves your mood by enhancing positive thinking and reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. As per the American Psychological Association, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) that includes practicing mindfulness exercises like meditations, self-awareness and performing daily chores by paying attention to every second helps prevent depression as effectively as an anti-depressant medicine.
It helps improve focus, concentration and avoid distractions. These days it is hard to keep our focus as there are different sources of distraction that pulls our attention. And then there is ADD, ADHD, and procrastination. In another study at Liverpool John Moores University, the group that practiced mindfulness scored better for all measures of attention with increased cognitive flexibility.
Mindfulness helps us to accept us as who we are with improved body satisfaction along with improved emotional control, self-awareness, and multi-perspective thinking. It helps to avoid biased judging of oneself, body dissatisfaction, body shaming and contingent self-worth based on appearance while improving compassion and empathy. It also reduces implicit age, religion and race bias.
It helps you turn into a better person, makes you more compassionate, helps reveal you’re true selves to yourselves and reduce your flaws as a person. In addition to increased compassion and resilience, mindfulness also decreases the feeling of loneliness. This is especially helpful to the senior citizens and help them lead a happy, content and fulfilling life of purpose.
Mindfulness also improves the immune system, decreases cellular aging and inflammations, reduces than chances of heart diseases, cancer, hypertension, and diabetes. It also reduces self-destructive and addictive behavior; improves emotional intelligence, mental and physical stamina, helps you get sound sleep, helps to lead an active adult life and fosters creativity.
Exercises to practice mindfulness
Mindful Breathing: The main intention of this exercise is to make you aware of breathing. Find yourself a quiet and relaxing spot and sit on a firm and straight chair. As you breathe, try to focus the natural flow of air as you breathe in and then breathe out. Experience the sensation of breathing in your nostrils, throat, chest and abdomen. Repeat this procedure for 5-7 minutes.
Mindful Observation: This exercise intends to connect one with the beauty of nature. Pick any natural object near you, this could be a flower, a tree or even a mountain or the moon. Explore the marvel of nature in its formation, as if you are seeing it for the first time and not like you are intellectually studying about it. Allow it to form a harmonious connection.
Mindful Awareness: This exercise works similar to mindful breathing, here you become aware of your body actions. Most of us tend to do our daily jobs and chores in an automatic manner, and take the actions for granted. Practice mindful awareness by consciously involving and concentrating on your daily tasks. For instance, while having breakfast, feel the cutlery on your skin, the aroma of the coffee and enjoy each and every bite of the food. This helps to connect your mind with your body.
Mindfulness of Thoughts: Start this exercise with mindful breathing. Shift your awareness from the breathing process to the flow of the thoughts that come into your mind. Pay attention to these thoughts and accept them, do not judge them or label them as positive or negative.
Practice gratitude and make it a part of your routine.
Spend 10 minutes of your day doing absolutely nothing.
Practice self-compassion and acceptance.
Try something new every day – a different seat at your dining table, a different way to your office etc.
Live in the present; free yourself from the past and future.