What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness, in the simplest form, is just paying attention in a particular way. It is a common phenomenon that when someone is talking, you hear them speaking but you didn’t actually listen to what they were saying. We excuse ourselves by saying that we ‘Zoned out’. Did you know, we spend a huge part of our day ‘zoned out’ from our immediate surroundings? We experience, but we do not notice many of the things happening to us.
For example, while eating, most of us are in such a hurry to finish the meal and return to our ongoing engagements that we don’t notice the quantity of food we take on our plate, the texture or the variety of color in your food, nor how the food feels in your mouth. As a result, we may end up overeating or not eating enough or simply just not enjoying a meal. Most of the tasks we perform in a day are with divided attention. Although we need concentration to complete the task at hand we are constantly distracted by our own thoughts.
For example while writing this article, I am thinking of what other pending things I have to do before I go to bed, I am also thinking about what I am going to wear to work tomorrow! But I am not noticing the sound of birds chirping outside my window, or the constant impingement of the edge of the table on my wrist. Ergo, I am only half present in this moment and partly my mind is distracted by my over-powering thoughts.
Just as listening to someone requires paying selective attention to what they are saying, Mindfulness requires paying selective attention and being actively aware of your bodily processes as a result of contact with the environment you are in. This means recognizing your thoughts, sensations, perceptions and emotions as they enter your awareness in a non-judgmental way and being present in the moment fully.
WHY MINDFULNESS IS HELPFUL?
According to neuroscience research, mindfulness practices dampen activity in our amygdala (the emotion centre in the brain) and increase the connections between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex (higher cognitive function centre). Both of these parts of the brain help us to be less reactive to stressors and to recover better from stress when we experience it. Studies suggest mindfulness helps:
- Reduce rumination
- Reduce anxiety related to negative automatic thoughts
- Boosts working memory
- Improves focus in work related tasks and reduces susceptibility to distractions
- Helps to manage emotional behaviors without giving extreme responses to situations
- Improves cognitive flexibility and problem solving in daily life
- Helps maintain better inter-personal relations without frustration
HOW TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS AS A PART OF YOUR DAILY ACTIVITIES?
Mindfulness unlike meditation doesn’t require you to set aside time separately during your day. You can practice mindfulness as a part of any activity as long as you remember to notice.
7 QUALITIES OF MINDFUL AWARENESS TO INCORPORATE IN ANY ACTIVITY:
- Present moment: Being completely present in the here and now without worrying about your past or future.
- Fundamental kindness: Being kind towards yourself
- Non-judging: Judging thoughts or circumstancing as right/wrong or good/bad triggers automatic behavioral responses and can limit self-awareness. It is important to notice thoughts or feelings without categorizing them as positive or negative.
- Acceptance: Accepting you’re your thoughts, feelings and actions just as they are with neutrality.
- Non-striving: being fully aware of your experience without trying to change it
- Not knowing: allowing new learning to occur by letting go of preconceived notions or any expectations
- Letting go: letting go by giving up control and being open to change.
BEGGINERS TIPS TO START MINDFUL PRACTICE:
- Pick any one activity you perform during the day (eating, washing your dishes, winding down to go to bed, morning walk etc.)
- While performing the activity, make sure you are paying attention to the sensations in your body (touch, smell, sight, sound, body position, pressure)
- Be aware of your thoughts and emotions but do not try analyze or interpret them
- When you feel as though you are drifting away from the activity at hand and losing touch with the present moment remember to actively bring your attention back to the activity.
- Practice is key to any newly learned task, so repeat this whenever possible.
If you are having a hard time getting started with practicing mindfulness by yourself we, here at KareOptions, can help you find a healthcare professional who can guide you through the process. We can connect you with someone through a virtual platform. With some initial direction and practice with a professional, you will learn and be able to apply it by yourself in different aspects of your life.
As part of the modern culture, we often tend to overwhelm ourselves with too many responsibilities and as a result, feel stressed and anxious throughout the day. It is important to manage our body’s response to stressors so that we become more resilient to challenging situations. Mindfulness allows us to separate ourselves from the situation and notice our body’s response towards it and ultimately regulate it to respond in a better way. It also helps in relaxation by forcing us to be in the present moment and not being distracted by our thoughts and emotions which in turn reduces stress/anxiety caused by negative automatic thoughts.