It seems to be the latest buzzword: mindfulness. Interestingly for me, this makes me think of a mind full of things, which in fact is polar opposite to what you are trying to achieve. I’m not sure ‘mindfulness’ was necessarily the best choice of words but the intent behind it is definitely sound.
Mindfulness basically means paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, as well as to the world around you. It means being aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. I’d rather call it presence. But regardless of what we call it, it is a path to mental harmony and wellbeing.
Let’s face it – it is incredibly easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much. There’s chores to do, money to earn, children to raise. The to-do list is never complete. And when there is space, we fill it with Facebook or Instagram or SnapChat or some other meaningless distraction. Do we actually know how we are? How we are feeling?
Our fast paced technological lives make it easy for us to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living 'in our heads'. We become more caught up with thoughts as opposed to emotions and behaviour.
The most important aspect of mindfulness/presence is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. Human minds are easily distracted, habitually examining past events and trying to anticipate the future – so the more we can bring our minds to the tactile body sensations of the here and now, the more presence we can attain.
Why does this impact on wellbeing? The more aware of the present moment we are, the more we begin to experience afresh things that we have been taking for granted. In fact research has shown that mindfulness lights up parts of our brains that aren’t normally activated when we’re mindlessly running on autopilot.
Reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness. We often fail to notice the good things about our lives, fail to hear what our bodies are telling us, or poison ourselves with toxic self-criticism.
Mindfulness/presence encourages you to observe your emotions, to hang out with them, to never avoid them or suppress them or run from them. It makes self-destructive behaviour eminently avoidable. It helps us recognise and step away from habitual, often unconscious emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events.
There are many good resources on the net to help you to achieve mindfulness/presence. I like things to be very simple so here’s my ABC:
A is for Awareness and Attention (how am I feeling right now?)
B is for Body, Breath and Being (how well am I listening to my depth right now?)
C is for Conscious Choice (acting from presence and truth)
Mindfulness/presence is not about having the last App, or adding extra stuff to the already full to-do list. It’s a way of being. Of living. A choice, not a chore. I invite you to try it if you haven't already.