Do you feel dissatisfied right now?
Do you spend your life thinking “if this or that happened” I’d be happy?
Do you feel that, for as much as you “do”, you can’t shake off the feeling that “something is always missing”?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then allow me to explain why Mindfulness can help you.
I’ve been meditating for a long time, but about 3 years ago I trained as a Mindfulness instructor.
Mindfulness is a method that I’ve incorporated into my professional practice, as a psychologist/coach, and in my life.
I could even say that there isn’t a single therapy in which I don’t include a Mindfulness exercise.
Also, I’ve spent 3 years leading both face-to-face and online groups.
Mindfulness is a path towards yourself.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the ability to be present, here and now.
And what does it mean to be present?
To place yourself in a position where you can “watch” or “become aware” and from where you can choose where to focus your attention, although in general, it’s focused on the present.
We tend to be constantly bombarded with thoughts about what to do or what we haven’t done yet, but if we delve deeper, we can think of infinite things. Such as:
- the people we need to call
- what we need to buy
- any pending work
- the things we have to do when we get home
- what we can’t forget
- plans for tomorrow or the week
- any concerns that may arise
The list would be endless, just like your thoughts.
Now imagine that each thought weighs 1 kilogram.
How many kilograms would you be carrying?
Even though a thought doesn’t have actual physical weight, it does weigh on your energy, that is, thinking constantly is exhausting, it depletes your energy.
Types of thoughts
Depending on their content, we could classify them into:
1. Positive: thoughts about things that make you excited, memories from positive experiences, etc.
2. Neutral: the typical tasks you have to do
3. Negatives: these can be about yourself, your job, or other people. And they are usually negative
In terms of the time they refer to, they could be:
- About the past: memories, reminiscences, conversations that you had or would’ve liked to have, experiences you lived, etc.
- About the future: dreams, goals, things you want or have to do in the future, whether near or far, etc.
Notice that, whatever it is, you spend your life thinking! And living either in the past or in the future.
So, don’t be surprised if you’re stressed.
Mindfulness allows you to get rid, at least for a moment,
of the weight of your thoughts, to be able to experience the life that is happening NOW.
Mindfulness and stress
If you were able to analyze your stress level, where 0 is no stress and 100 is a lot of stress, how
stressful is your life right now?
- If you have a lot of thoughts, I’d say very
- If you’re constantly “doing”, I’d say very stressful.
Not all stress is “bad”, you actually need a certain degree of stress to function, the problem is that your body’s response to stress should only last for a few minutes, and not for hours, as it does these days.
While in the past, the body’s response to stress allowed our ancestors to escape from a wild animal (positive part of stress), now we feel stress because of the large number of things we have to do, because of the talk you have to have with your boss/partner/parents/friend or because of the piles of papers you await at your desk.
Actually, the first case (the wild animal case) is a life or death situation, if your body doesn’t react by fleeing or fighting, the animal may eat you.
But what about what stresses you today? Is your life really in danger if you don’t do “everything” that you’ve planned? Is the conversation you have to have with your boss really life or death?
Of course not.
But your brain and body react as if they were.
Therefore, if you don’t want to burn out, get depressed or feel anxious, you need to learn to regain control of your body and mind, and Mindfulness can help you with that.
Mindfulness can influence how your brain manages your emotions in the face of stress.
The Origin of Mindfulness
Mindfulness was revealed, both in medicine and in society, by Jon Kabat-Zinn , an internationally known scientist, writer and meditation teacher.
As a professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, he founded the internationally renowned Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Clinic and the Mindfulness Center for Medicine, Health and Society.
John Kabat-Zinn considers Mindfulness as a way to connect with your life and, in general, as a way of being, but here’s a short video of him that you can listen to hear his explanation in his own words.
How do you practice Mindfulness?
Following the analogy of the weight of thoughts, practicing Mindfulness implies taking a bit of weight off your mind, or being able to save and conserve your energy because at a given moment, when you can be in the present, even if just for a few seconds, while you take a breath, you stop thinking.
Eckard Tolle, the writer of The Power of Now says that human beings are addicted to thinking because it’s very hard to stop thinking, and that’s why practicing Mindfulness can help you in that task.
One way in which you can practice Mindfulness is by distancing yourself from all external stimuli, sitting somewhere where you can be alone, closing your eyes, and for example, trying to focus on your breathing and on how breathing feels in your body. Note how your chest and stomach move as you breathe, accompany the air with your focused attention.
Thoughts will usually interrupt your exercise and, without realizing it, you’ll find yourself thinking about something else, but it’s ok, that’s how the mind works until, by practicing Mindfulness, you acquire a certain degree of control over your mind and thoughts.
Allow me to make this clear, meditating doesn’t mean not thinking at all. Thoughts will come, but as soon as you noticed that you’ve been distracted by a thought, you can again focus on your breath, and then, for a few seconds, you stop thinking.
Feeling your body
Another way to be present is to be aware of how your body feels. If you’re focused on what you feel and on how your body feels right now, then in those moments, you also stop thinking.
As you read this text, pay attention to what your body is feeling right now.
- Do you notice any tension? where?
- Do you notice any tingling or itching? where?
- Do you notice any pain?
Just notice what you feel in your body right now…
In fact, being aware of how your body feels is a very good way to relax before going to bed, it can even be called Mindfulness to fall sleep, because if you can check how your body feels instead of going to bed with all of your worries, I assure you that you’ll fall asleep faster.
Focus on the outside
Another way to be present is by becoming aware of what is happening around you, the things you see, the smells you perceive, the noises or sounds you hear, the colors and shapes that surround you.
The interesting thing about this exercise is that again, you can’t focus on the outside, on everything around you, what you see, feel, smell, hear and think at the same time.
Of course, thoughts will come, but by practicing Mindfulness you’ll be able to keep your attention where you want it, or return it to what you observe around you.
Mindfulness on the move
Mindfulness doesn’t simply imply sitting and meditating, no, no, you can walk, clean the house, do the dishes or make food while being present in the here and now.
In fact, one of the exercises performed in Mindfulness is yoga. But this is a yoga that focuses on observing every feeling in your body, every muscle, when you move a certain way or perform a position or stretch.
It’s about feeling your body as you move. Thus, when you walk, you can focus your attention on how the sole of your foot feels, on how your body balances to take every step you take, how the rest of your foot feels, as well as the rest of your body.
Accept what happens without judging
All these different ways of practicing Mindfulness have one thing in common, it’s very important not to make any judgments or evaluations of any kind.
If you’re observing your breathing and you realize that you have very shallow breathing, centered mainly on your chest, you have to accept that breath as it is at that moment, because if you start telling yourself that you don’t know how to breathe, that breathing only with your chest isn’t good or that you should be taking deeper breaths to relax… then, you’re evaluating what it is and how it should be, you’ve already lost yourself in your thoughts.
Mindfulness tries to accept what is as it is, and above all, without wanting to change anything. Because the objective is not to modify anything, but to observe what IS in the present.
Mindfulness for beginners
Learning Mindfulness involves a lot of practice, and you can start here and now, if you want, simply by taking a couple of deep breaths and following the path that air is taking in your body.
When to practice Mindfulness?
Ideally, at all times.
- You take a conscious breath… you’re in the present.
- You notice what your body feels right now… you’re in the present.
- You observe what’s around you… you’re in the present.
Of course, in the beginning spending some time practicing “being in the here and now” will help a lot, because, since you’re not used to it, it’ll be easy for your mind to make up excuses, like “you don’t have time” to practice, so you need to find the space and place to sit down, disconnect a little from your tasks and dedicate yourself to Being.
This video shows a simple way to meditate for a minute:
I hope that after reading this article you’ll have a clearer idea of how much Mindfulness can help you, so now you just need to practice!