This article is about mindfulness and how practicing it can enhance your life in more ways than one.
If you’ve never discovered mindfulness before, there are a few things that I want to talk you through before we deep dive into how to practice it.
What is ‘Mindfulness’?
Mindfulness is not a new concept; it has been well practiced for thousands of years. Traditional mindfulness meditation practices originated in Thevada and Mahayana Buddhism in India approximately 2500 years ago (1). So not exactly the latest Tik Tok trend.
However, with the bombardment of information through social media and your conspiracy theorist auntie/uncle from your family group chat, it’s just as important now more than ever.
The best thing about mindfulness is that it’s accessible for everyone, you don’t need gym equipment, you don’t need an air fryer, if you are willing, you can practice it.
To better explain it in one sentence, here is a quote by the ‘godfather of mindfulness’, John Kabat-Zinn.
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally” – John Kabat-Zinnhttps://www.mindful.org/
Ask yourself this?
This raises the question, during your day-to-day life, how often do you take a moment, to stop in the present moment and to think about what you’re doing?
If yes, did you do it non-judgementally?
You may think, why would I bother, Jordan?
Does it really matter if I smash my 12 pack of donuts without taking a breath?
Great question friend I haven’t met yet, it kind of does!
How it can benefit you?
I believe it can make a big difference, regardless of your goals, from eating a healthy diet, to ensuring you turn up to the gym, to enjoying your time with your friends and loved ones. It’s about helping you make the most of the moments during your day and making effective choices.
Mindfulness is a process that can increase your awareness and help you choose to respond optimally to difficult thoughts and feelings that can increase emotional stress and unhelpful behaviour (2).
In a meta-analysis of mindfulness-based stress reduction, practicing mindfulness decreases perceived stress, psychological distress, depression, anxiety, occupational distress and reduces burnout. It also improves your level of self-compassion, quality of sleep, life satisfaction, mood, your focus and work engagement (2).
Now you’ve heard all the good stuff. So, how do you actually practice it?
How to practice Mindfulness?
There are many different ways to practice mindfulness and it’s important to realise that you cannot possibly do all of them at the start. It’s also important to practice the ones that are achievable and that work for you. You can’t exactly begin your Monday with a 3-hour Puja ceremony if you’re a single mother of 3.
- The Body Scan – the body scan is paying attention to what the body is feeling. This is a great one to utilise if you are trying to limit how much you eat. By eating until you are comfortably full or 80% full, this will stop you from over-indulging yourself.
- Sitting meditation – paying attention to breathing, sounds, thoughts, bodily sensations, feelings and emotions. You can do this just about anywhere but ideally to start somewhere quiet and in your own space. By concentrating on the sensations around you it can reduce our level of stress and allow you to slow down.
- Simple movement exercises – this can include walking, yoga, or even running and swimming. The important thing is to make it relatively gentle and also concentrate on your breathing.
- Informal meditation exercises – paying full attention to daily activities e.g. brushing your teeth, eating, enjoying time with the family. Just being ‘in the moment’ can make the moments be more special and can ensure you do your best for the task at hand.
Now these are just examples and the lists can go deep. Just like anything, it can be challenging to implement them on a daily and moment by moment basis.
You need to allow yourself to not be perfect but instead be ‘good enough’. If mindfulness is the cup, then self-compassion is the saucer. They go hand in hand together because there will be times when you will be overwhelmed and busy and thinking that you’ll never get it or that a feeling is too painful. Self-compassion allows you to notice the struggle and accept that you are only HUMAN.
If you want to find out how I apply it to individuals and families, check out this article on 3 Things A Family Program Needs For Growth.
Until next time,
- Goleman D. The Varieties of Meditative Experience. New York: Dutton; 1977
- Janssen, M., Heerkens, Y., Kuijer, W., van der Heijden, B., & Engels, J. (2018). Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on employees’ mental health: A systematic review. PLoS One, 13(1), e0191332. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0191332