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What Is Mindfulness?

Have you ever felt stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed by life?

I imagine the answer to that is YES, YES, & YES, especially after experiencing what 2020 (the year of COVID) brought on to us. With all the uncertainty & chaos life can bring our way, you probably feel stressed on a daily basis.

Fortunately, there is a simple habit you can use to naturally calm yourself down and appreciate life a bit more– it’s called mindfulness.

“Sitting on a cushion” or “in lotus position” is one way of cultivating mindfulness, an awareness to the present moment–but that isn’t the ONLY way.

Take this moment for instance, you reading this, with full attention, allowing yourself to actually process and understand what you’re reading is in itself being mindful. 

“Nobody should be “too” busy to the point where we can’t find space for ourselves. We must make it a priority to take time away, everyday to center ourselves, to find our zen.”

Mindfulness is the practice of purposefully focusing all of your attention on the current moment, and accepting it without judgment.

This is a great place to start if you are looking for the key element in happiness.

When done correctly, mindfulness will allow for you to decrease your stress and anxiety, minimize the amount of time that you spend feeling overwhelmed, and help you appreciate each small moment as it happens. In a world of chaos, mindfulness might just be the trick you need to learn to be able to cope with the madness.

If these sound like outcomes you’d love to experience, then stick around & read through this guide to being mindful throughout the day–

“When You Master Your Mind, You Master Your Life…” -Dianne Collins

Mindfulness 101

The clinical definition of mindfulness is “paying attention to something, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn, 2003.

Paying attention” in this sense means paying attention to certain things you are surrounded with at or in the present place and time. 

On Purpose” means you intentionally decide to pay attention to something specific.

In the Present Moment” means you focus on the here and now and get rid of any thoughts from the past or future. 

Being “non-judgmental” means you are not going to compare, judge or be critical of yourself or what arises while paying attention.

Some people believe that mindfulness is completely about meditation and that can be a huge barrier towards becoming successful at living more mindfully,  especially if you are someone who has a hard time sitting still for any length of time. You would think that every time you attempt to be mindful, that stillness needs to be involved for a period of time and that’s just not the way this works.

More so, mindfulness is about dismissing your distracting thoughts and learning how to incorporate meditation as a tool to assist you while practicing your mindfulness.

With regular practice, you won’t find yourself letting your thoughts wander and you won’t get distracted by or caught up in the past or future negative thoughts, thus improving your mindfulness skills which will then ultimately help to improve your mental, physical, and spiritual health and keep you grounded in the present.

Where do I Begin?

Since mindfulness is something that you can start at any time, it is just a matter of finding time or making sure that you consciously think about incorporating it into your daily routine. 

You have to remember that you are walking around with so many thoughts swirling around in your head at any given moment in time that you can feel as if you are unfocused, in a fog, overwhelmed and your mind never having a chance to truly rest.

Mindfulness will help to unclutter and clear your mind, calm your brain and allow it to settle down for a little..

Have you ever picked up a snow globe and shook the snow until the entire globe becomes so filled that you can barely see the object inside?  That is what is going on inside your mind. 

Once you start practicing mindfulness, it will be as if the snow has settled at the bottom of the globe and you can think and see more clearly. 

To get you started practicing mindfulness, completely use these simple exercises to get a jumpstart and overall feel for what mindfulness is and how it can help you:

Try This:

First, choose something to focus your attention on

How will you focus? You can use your senses to guide you– visual, auditory, or tactile senses

Focus “on purpose” 

How are you going to stay focused in the present moment? 

How does it feel not to be “judgmental?” 

Write what your definition of what mindfulness means to you

& now let’s break each of these down to discuss the technique for each step.

Choose something to focus your attention on.  By focusing your attention you are choosing a goal you wish to achieve by using Mindfulness.  Are you taking a walk?  Are you focusing on each step you take?  Are you a runner?  Are listening to each breath you take?  In doing tasks such as these, you are focusing your attention on that task and that task alone.  You don’t let your mind wander but instead return your attention to the task over and over again.

How will you focus:  using your visual, auditory, or tactile senses.  You can use mindfulness in all areas of your life and surroundings.  We pass up so many beautiful moments by listening to all the noise inside our head and not fully appreciating the beauty of any given moment.  Before you start, decide what your intention is.  Use your eyes to observe the color of the sky, water, buildings, etc.  Notice everything about the sky, the clouds, etc.  Listen intently to trains in the distance or planes overhead.  Are they carrying passengers to a far off destination with family and/or friends?  What do those sounds mean to you?  Are you making something with your hands? What do you hope to accomplish?

Focus “On Purpose.”  By focusing intently you are making sure that you don’t let your mind wander.  That is why it is important to identify your intent before you begin.  Notice what is happening in the moment and acknowledging, but letting go, any distractions.  Try to remain aware without changing anything.  Observe and take in any and all observations.  When you become aware, you can eventually change unwanted patterns.

How are you going to stay focused in the present moment?  The world we live in is filled with distractions.  We have computers, tablets, iPads, cell phones which are all meant to create and fill our lives with noise.  We are so distracted these days that we aren’t even aware of how much the “noise” has taken over our lives.  When you practice mindfulness, you are getting rid of the noise.  You are paying attention to your thoughts, your feelings, your physical body sensations and surroundings.  It will be hard for some people to let go of these distractions but once you do, you will wonder why you didn’t set these items aside for longer periods of time. 

How does it feel to not be judgmental?  Without distractions, we can allow ourselves to set our intention to pay attention.  When you allow yourself to focus on one thing, you notice everything about the moment and the object of your intention.  You will be in a state where you become non-judgmental.  Your mind is not cluttered and you are open to feeling sensations that you might not have felt in a while.  You are not being distracted by other thoughts, feelings or physical limitations. 

Write what your definition of Mindfulness means to you.  After you practice Mindfulness, write down what happened.  What does it mean to you?  What did you notice?  You don’t have to start practicing Mindfulness for an hour a day.  Start out slow.  Gradually build up your Mindfulness practice a little at a time.  Write down your observations each time so you can look back and reflect on where you began and where you are now.

Basics of Mindfulness

When you begin practicing Mindfulness, know that you are not doing a total “brain dump” but directing yourself to focus your attention on a chosen target.  By focusing on a target, you can bring yourself back into focus whenever your mind wanders.

No one is perfect and with all the thoughts that our brain produces each day, it is normal to have moments where you can’t help but have your mind leave the present.

The goal is to keep your focus and only notice the distractions and your emotions as they creep their way into your Mindfulness session.   Make note of any stray thoughts or emotions that arose during your session.  Were there any physical sensations you might have felt? 

Because there is no way to completely shut down other thoughts processing in your head, your mind will wander from time to time.  If you do find this happening, take a moment to stop your Mindfulness and make a note of the thought but let it go.  After you release the thought, return your mind to your intended target.

Make note of what happened when to you during your Mindfulness session.  Were you able to stay focused without many distractions?  Were you able to overcome the urge to stop your Mindfulness and go back to concentrating?  Were you able to let it go?  How did the overall session feel and what did you get from it?

The intent of practicing Mindfulness is to become more and more focused and to overcome obstacles, explore your feelings and help you to take the time to look within yourself.

Are you already being mindful?  Are you taking the time necessary to practice intently?  Mindfulness takes daily practice.  Are you finding excuses not to carve out a few moments of time in your day?  What can you do to change that?

Everyone can come up with excuses but it is the person who truly wants to benefit from Mindfulness who will find the time.

Journaling your experience will allow you to look back and see how far you have come.  Look at your objections to see how silly they really were.  Did you practice even though you might have had objections?  List three to five benefits you found using mindfulness.  By keeping a journal, it will keep you on task.

Choosing how and when you are going to practice mindfulness is just as important as the actual session itself.  A lot of people prefer to do this at home because they can carve out a little corner in their house specifically for practicing.

Again, mindfulness can be done at any time or any place.  Choosing your specific place is entirely up to you.  The place you choose where be where you most likely feel the least distracted. 

When you practice, you might want to use the same position all the time to allow for continuity.  There are also several ways to practice mindfulness that you can choose from. Lets cover a few here:

During Activities:  Even though you are busy during the day (be it at home or work) stop during the day, breathe and notice your surroundings.  You can basically be doing anything as long as you take the time to genuinely stop and become mindful.

Walking:  If you are on a walk, notice everything around you.  Notice the birds, the clouds, the trees, the children playing in the park, the colors of buildings or houses, animals.  Walk so that your arms are swaying back and forth freely (front to back), you are walking tall, eyes looking all around and your body is relaxed.

Sitting:  Sit in a chair with your back straight (if you are able) keep your hands sitting on your legs with your palms up and your feet flat on the floor. 

Lying down:  Lay flat on the floor and don’t cross your legs or your arms.  Allow your hands to fall beside you, again, with your palms up.  For comfort, you can put a pillow under your head or knees.

Yoga Position:  Sit with your legs crossed and your hands resting gently on your knees.  This is similar to the pose used in yoga and other forms of meditation.

Finding time to practice Mindfulness is probably something you think you don’t have time for in your busy, hectic day. But really you do have the time. It only takes 10-15 minutes at the same time every day.  Try to do it first thing in the morning, mid-day or before you go to bed.  And, don’t forget to journal about your entire Mindfulness session in order to keep track of your thoughts, feelings and actions during your session.

Takeaway

This was provided so that you can get a feel for what Mindfulness is & what it can do for you.

What is attempted is to bring upon awareness and to touch on just the basics.

In order to fully understand and/or go into depth on anything brought up here, do your homework and research your particular issue, or feel free to reach out to me.  With the internet at your fingertips, you can delve much further into learning even more about mindfulness anytime, anywhere.

Ask your doctor or physician about using Mindfulness to help heal yourself along with any prescribed solutions they may ask you to try.

Mindfulness techniques when used properly can help greatly help in many of the situations we may experience in life.  I acknowledge that there are times when a professional is needed and that is ok.

What you have read here, was a framework that offers you alternatives to try before, during or after other forms of treatment which may or may not be working.

Mindfulness can help quiet your mind and body and get you to a peaceful state every day if you take the time to set aside a specific space for yourself.

With mindfulness, don’t try to start out by going full force. Mindfulness takes practice and with practice comes the serenity and peacefulness you are seeking.

When you are in touch with your mind and body, and know how to control them in order to avoid some of the situations that may arise in your life, you will find yourself living in a much more peaceful state.

Namaste.