When it comes to the quest for success, be it in your career, as a business owner or even a parent, it is all too easy to be so focused on future plans and objectives and where it is you want to get to that you simply forget to pause and take stock of the here and now. However, making a conscious effort to bring your attention to that which is happening in the present, including your thoughts and feelings, can have wide-reaching benefits especially when it comes to your mental wellbeing and resilience.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be summarised in its simplest form as having a direct, by the moment awareness of what is happening in and around us, both physically and emotionally. It is about becoming aware of the world around us through the activation of all of our senses, accompanied by an awareness of our thoughts and feelings. In doing this, we change our perspectives, which can help us to transform ourselves and our lives.
There is, in reality, far more to mindfulness than that, and we will be exploring this in more detail in future articles.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
First and foremost, mindfulness allows you to simply enjoy being present – something that we all too easily forget to do in the hectic, modern world. As a result, you are able to become attuned to everything that experience, which can give you a tremendous sense of being truly alive.
As you become more mindful, you are able to develop a deeper awareness of your stream of thoughts and feelings. Once you begin to do this, you can then detach yourself from them and gain an outside perspective on the negative patterns of thoughts that you become entangled in.
This awareness can help you to develop a healthier approach to the challenges you face in your day to day life, which in turn can help you to recognise and deal with stress, anxiety and triggers of depression at an early stage.
How can I practice mindfulness?
There are many ways in which you can practice mindfulness, all of which are incredibly simple to adopt. Here are some methods you can try.
Notice the everyday
Using all of your senses, make a concerted effort to really notice even the smallest of experiences in your daily life. Notice all of the sensations when you eat – pay attention not just to smell and taste, but to the textures and even sounds as you eat. When you dress, touch your clothing and feel the texture. Allow your thoughts to focus on the feel of the clothing on your skin. Apply these same ideas with other routine activities such as washing. This conscious awareness breaks the pattern of ‘autopilot’ and allows you to be truly present. This can also help you to practice gratitude, as discussed here in an earlier article in this series.
Establish a routine
Even when you have made the decision to practice mindfulness, it is still easy to find yourself suddenly consumed by the hustle and bustle of the everyday that you simply forget to actually do it, and suddenly becoming mindful every waking moment is not practical in reality. To solve this, build a time for practising mindfulness into your daily routine. This might be during your first hour of being awake, or for half an hour during lunchtime. As you develop a routine for mindfulness, you will find yourself gradually beginning to practise it more and more often as a natural habit.
Shake things up
Shaking things up to change your perspective is a fantastic way to practice mindfulness – and can also be a fun exercise. On a train for example, if you always sit facing the direction of travel on your daily commute, switch to sitting with your back to the direction of travel and observe all that is different. If you have a favourite table or seat where you have lunch, choose a different spot – or even a new location altogether. You might even decide to order a coffee you’ve never tried before next time you go to Starbucks.
Observe your thoughts
Make an effort to observe specific thoughts as they come and go. Try to see thought processes as if they were something tangible, like a tube train or a bus. As you become more aware of your thoughts, you will be able to start observing what causes different thought processes to occur. From here, you can slowly move towards eliminating negative thinking patterns entirely.
There are many other methods that can help to practise mindfulness, including creativity, yoga, meditation and even exercise.
Mindfulness is not for everybody, but whether used alone or in conjunction with other techniques, it can be a powerful tool for supporting transformation.