You can’t turn around without reading or hearing about the benefits of practicing mindfulness. But what, exactly, is mindfulness? And how does it really help us? Let’s start with the basics.
The benefits of mindfulness range widely—from having a better memory, thinking more clearly, seeing more of what’s going on (both inside and outside of ourselves), to having more positive emotions, to name just a few. Mindfulness helps us work through stress more effectively, helping us to stay healthier not just inside our bodies but on the outside as well, our skin. The skin is our largest organ and provides a very good indication of the amount of stress we walk around with.
Mindfulness is NOT the same as meditation. It is simply being aware in the moment of an experience—a thought, a feeling or emotion, a sound, a memory…anything—without judgment. This means just noticing without adding commentary or labeling as good or bad, right or wrong. Aaah, it’s not so easy to do! It takes practice, just like building up your abs or glutes, or your stamina for running. The practice of mindfulness is the process of doing this over and over, for longer and longer periods of time. It’s the practice that brings the benefits. Keeping your mind on that one thing is hard, but it’s worth it. This practice brings more benefits than can be listed in this short blog entry.
Start inserting moments of mindfulness into your day. Before you get out of bed, just notice yourself lying down, noticing where your body makes contact with the pillow and mattress. When you drink your morning coffee or tea, take 30 seconds to really focus on the temperature and flavor, the feeling of it going down your throat. When you walk to your car, make a conscious decision to walk slowly, noticing each foot as it strikes the ground and feel the push-off from the toes as you move into the next step. Before you start the car, take a minute to notice yourself sitting, feeling your hands touch the steering wheel, listening to your breathing and feeling the breath in your body. Then, start the car and move forward into the day with less stress, a clearer head, a more settled sense of being, and better overall awareness of, and less reactivity to, whatever comes your way.