Have you ever let your mind wander down such a negative path, about something that hasn't even happened, that you have experienced anger, depression, or sadness? Have you ever caught yourself being quarrelsome or irritated with someone and realized that the event wasn’t real and was taking place solely in your mind?
If the answer is yes, perhaps you should be asking yourself ‘Who needs mindfulness?’ YOU do!
The average person thinks about 50,000 thoughts every day; your mind constantly wanders and entertains itself with unnecessary observations. This constant mind chatter can cause added stress and anxiety; much of the time leading you to worry about things that aren’t ever going to happen, but your mind convinces you they will.
Your challenge is to find a way to enter into the quiet that is buried deep beneath those thoughts.
You might be saying to yourself that you’ve got too much going on in your life already, and that you’re too busy to practice mindfulness. On the contrary, I would argue that you have too much going on not to!
The bottom line is the busier and more hectic your life is, the more struggles and hurdles that you have every day, the more you need to practice mindfulness.
What exactly is mindfulness?
Chances are you’ve already been introduced to the idea of practicing mindfulness; it seems that the concept is everywhere. But beyond the buzz of it being the answer to stress or an alternative to anti-anxiety drugs, what is it?
Mindfulness means being and living in the present moment; taking time to become aware of your surrounding environment. Your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations are in tune with what’s happening around you on purpose. Take time to experience the sights, sounds and smells of nature, the mundane action of household chores, or the discord of a morning commute to work.
A fundamental component of mindfulness involves acceptance; give yourself the choice of what you are bringing to mind. This means that you must consciously pay attention to what you are thinking and feeling at any given time instead of allowing your mind to rehash your past or imagine the future.
You should have a deep and connected appreciation of where you are and what you are doing. Living mindfully will keep you anchored in the present and will help you appreciate day-to-day life more fully.
Why you should practice mindfulness
Studies have shown that your mind will wander about 50% of the time. With your thoughts drifting away from the task at hand that means you’re not present for nearly half of the day! Make no mistake about it, this diversion impacts your happiness and fulfillment. Without practicing mindfulness, you are missing out on half of your life!
Research also reveals that you will be at your happiest when what you’re doing is what you’re thinking about; that you will experience your greatest pleasure when you’re existing and observant in the present moment. Being mindful trains you to focus and become more mentally fit; when you take control you can’t be overpowered by that which causes suffering and leads you away from the present moment.
Practicing mindfulness, even for a few short weeks will provide a variety of powerful benefits.
Mindfulness improves overall well-being
· Increases positive emotions and fosters empathy and compassion
· Enhances relationships, forming deeper connections with others
· Encourages healthy eating habits, helping to lose weight and savor food
Mindfulness improves psychological health
· Relieves stress, anxiety, and depression
· Fosters creativity, learning, and self-esteem
· Develops memory, focus, and decision making skills
Mindfulness improves physical health
· Elevates immune system, quality of sleep, and the placebo effect
· Reduces PTSD, chronic pain, and the need for medication
· Lowers blood pressure, gastrointestinal difficulties, and cortisol levels
While you can’t be mindful all the time, it’s important to be aware of the effect to your body that your thoughts and feelings have. By taking control and being mindful you won’t get stuck in the same old mental ruts that have caused you problems in the past.
How to cultivate a mindfulness practice
Learning to practice mindfulness is not difficult. That said, in order for it to be effective you must develop a level of consistency and make it a habit. The most important thing is to remember to pay close attention, on purpose, in the present moment, to what It is you’re doing.
Because your brain has a habit of reliving the past, and worrying about the future, it can seem like a constant challenge. Be aware of the sound and sensations of your surroundings, be aware of why you’re doing what you’re doing, be aware of your breath.
When your mind begins to wander, and it will, bring it back to the task at hand. With a bit of focus and discipline you can recognize that your thoughts and emotions are carrying you away and may be causing anxiety without good reason.
A mindfulness practice won’t knock out the stressors in your life; unfortunately, there’s a popular notion that it’s a panacea, it’s far from it. Mindfulness is a powerful tool that will help you manage those stressors effectively and imaginatively.
Work with your body and mind, rather than being at its mercy.
Practice mindfulness as preventative treatment
As you can see, the absence of mindfulness throughout your day will cheat you of the opportunity to see potential paths to happiness. The better you understand how your thoughts affect your physical and mental health, the easier it is to reduce the amount of stress and anxiety you experience due to false misconceptions.
With a little training and practice, you can learn to take control of the endless mind chatter going on in your head. Don’t allow your negative thoughts to be a self-fulling prophecy; be the one who is in charge of your state of mind.
I am a corporate wellness consultant. As a master yoga instructor, I support in-house wellness programs, seminars, trade shows and executive retreats. I help business leaders build and maintain physical and mental well-being. If you would like to learn more about offering a health and fitness program to your busy management team contact me at [email protected] or 386.871.0582
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