Mindfulness: developing it, living it
In its basic form, mindfulness is the ability for a person to maintain a moment-by-moment awareness of their feelings, thoughts and surroundings. It involves allowing our thoughts to happen without judgement, and through practice, the mind begins to slow down our racing thoughts. It helps put us in the driver’s seat of thinking, and is a form of rest for over-stimulated minds.
Mindfulness is what people mean when they say we should “be more in the present” or to “live in the moment.” Clearly, it’s very hard to not think about the past or the future, but a state of mindfulness means that we currently enjoy, appreciate and value the present moment by focusing on the here and now.
Sometimes anxiety, stress or fears stop us from focusing on what is in front of us. Although it is difficult to achieve this all the time, being mindful means we spend periods of the day when we know exactly what is going on in our minds. It is the filter for what emotions, information and thoughts later go into our minds.
Mindfulness starts with learning to recognise the inner conversation that is going through your head each day. We have thousands of thoughts every day, and many of these thoughts are unordered, anxious or cluttered. Some of these thoughts are self-critical and highly negative.
Mindfulness is being able to analyse what we say or what we do as it happens; as if we were a separate person observing our actions. This valuable skill allows us to pause before getting angry, or to make a more deliberate decision when confronted with a choice. It also slows down that rushed feeling many of us face.
How can you develop mindfulness?
Next time you are in traffic and are tempted to yell at the other driver, stop yourself and consider if that will help. When somebody bumps you in a queue, don’t instinctively bristle but instead imagine a reason it may have happened. It will feel good when you do it repeatedly and you’ll make better use of emotional energy.
Another way to develop mindfulness is to become more present in everyday activities. When walking along the street, do you notice the people, or what is happening around you? Or is there an internal movie playing in your head that you are watching that stops you from realising what is happening around you.
When doing simple tasks like entering your passwords, or climbing the stairs, try to bring your thoughts back to what your body is doing and focus on each action.
Deliberate Mindfulness –Meditation
Mindfulness is often associated with meditation, a practice of silence and stillness to clear the mind of clutter, but it doesn’t need to be. Nevertheless, one of the most popular and powerful tools for calming our minds and becoming mindful is to meditate.
This ancient practice doesn’t have to involve sitting on our heads or going to classes. Meditation is one of the most useful tools for dealing with a complex, information-overloaded and fast-paced world. It forces us to stop for periods of time each day and be still. The busier you are, the more benefit you will get from regular stillness.
Meditation is simply being alone, quiet and reflective. It is being still and silent, whilst being awake. Most people who meditate sit cross-legged and try to focus on the sound and feeling of the breath going into their noses or mouth. Others stretch or sit, whilst it could also be done fishing, walking or with a guided smartphone app.
One of the best ways to achieve mindfulness is to realise when we are getting stressed and to breathe slowly and deeply. It’s the most important thing we do as humans, but many of our breathing patterns become shallow when we aren’t thinking about them. Mindful people breathe better, which helps them think better.
Sometimes we hold our breath when tense or whilst doing something important or that requires concentration. If we take long, slow and deep breaths and imagine the air coming in and going out then we are on the road to mindfulness. This will also help us to avoid getting angry, anxious or panicky when not necessary. You can do this when meditating, eating slowly without distractions, or even at briefly at work.
Try to find the time to meditate for five to 10 minutes each morning or evening. Simply find a place, sit and avoid distractions. Be still. Let the thoughts run into your head and then out again. Without judging what comes in, you’ll notice the stream of chatter in your mind. Don’t try to not think, just let the thoughts come in and out.
If you can’t dedicate a specific time, then turn everyday activities into a mini-meditation. Brushing your teeth, standing in the shower and loading the dishes are perfect activities to focus on, to become silent, and focus your attention.
Hadleigh Fischer runs Resilience Agenda, an Australian mental fitness brand that encourages and provides tips on developing better habits and improving your wellbeing. Their stylish 2019 diaries, which come in five different colours and house new and updated text, are out now. The Dad Website readers can enjoy a 15 per cent discount by using ‘Dads2019’ as a coupon code.