What is Mindfulness?

Everyone is talking about mindfulness but what is it? More importantly, how is it supposed to help everything from our weight to our relationships? Read on to learn more.

Mindfulness defined.

There are different definitions, but I am going to use the Jon Kabat-Zin’s of “Moment to moment, nonjudgmental awareness”.  This means that we are experiencing what is in front of us and around us.  So often, we are lost in our thoughts of the past or worries about the future.  Have you ever watched a TV show only to realize that, as the credits role, you have no idea what happened?  Maybe you ate an entire meal only to completely forget what was on your plate.

person holding black remote control. This represents vegging out to TV because you are not present.
Photo by Nothing Ahead on Pexels.com

How can mindfulness benefit me?

Practicing mindfulness can improve your daily experiences.  Much of our pain comes from past memories or anxiety over anticipated problems.  We can not control what has happened, but we can control our minds by not giving the past so much power.  This does not mean that we bury our feelings or simply forget about past wrongs.  It does mean that we process them in an efficient way. Replaying  hurts like a broken record while we are washing the dishes does not help us.  Talking about them in therapy or with a supportive friend does.   

Enjoying your present life.

This leads us to enjoying our daily life.  Have you ever been somewhere that was supposed to be super fun but you felt down? This could be because your mind was elsewhere.  Instead of enjoying the beach, you were mulling over a past argument. That decadent chocolate cake?  It could have been prunes because your mind was not observing the experience. Mindfulness keeps us in the experience.

cheerful diverse family with toddler daughter having fun at home.  Mom and dad are using mindfulness practice to enjoy their time with their family.
Photo by William Fortunato on Pexels.com

How do I develop mindfulness?

This takes work.  Anything worthwhile typically does. There are numerous ways to develop mindfulness. Formal meditation is one way.  Again, there are many ways to meditate.  I teach clients that meditation is not a “blank mind”.  It is a way of focusing your mind on one object.  I recommend using your breath as a starting point but you can also use a mantra.  Below is a brief guide to meditation:

1. Find a comfortable spot to sit. This can be in a chair or on a cushion on the floor.

2. Place your hands comfortably on your lap.

3. Place your tongue gently behind your upper teeth. This will help keep your jaw relaxed

4. Set a timer (you can use the one on your phone or a kitchen timer). It does not matter how long you start with, anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes is good.

5. Close your eyes gently and focus on your breath. As thoughts come into your mind, let them pass just like birds flying in the sky. You can notice them but do not follow them.

6. Keep going back to observing your breath. Do not change how you are breathing.

But I can’t meditate-my mind is too busy!

I hear that a lot.  Rest assured, your mind has always been busy.  You are just seeing it now.  Meditation takes practice.  If you wanted to do a triathlon, would you just show up or would you train?  Of course, you would spend hours getting in shape.  Meditation is the same way.  Do not get discouraged or judge yourself.  Just keep trying!

Washing dishes to  build mindfulness.

Not everyone can meditate.  That is ok.  You can practice mindfulness in a lot of ways.  I use the dishes a lot.  It seems like we are always washing dishes, especially since we have been spending so much time at home since Covid. Below is the dishes method:

  1. Before starting, set your intention.
  2. Take 3 deep breaths
  3. Turn on the water and pay attention to the sound and feel of it.  What is the temperature?
  4. Smell the dish soap.
  5. Wash the dishes as you normally would but keep you mind on how it feels, sounds, and smells. 
  6. When your mind wanders off, return it to the dishes.

Mindfulness is a skill.  It can benefit you in myriad ways. Give it a try for 2 weeks and I bet you will be hooked.

Next Week: 5 ways a busy mom can build mindfulness.

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