What is Mindfulness?
Have you ever driven home from work listening to your favourite radio station, only to forget everything the host was talking about within a mere few minutes? Perhaps you’ve spent a day at work, to then find yourself sitting at home in the evening, unable to think of any stand-out moments of your day to tell your partner about. These are examples of living mindlessly, otherwise known as being on ‘autopilot’ and we are all guilty of it.
Living life in autopilot mode means we aren’t fully absorbing our surroundings and all the associated information available to us. This leads to a state of inactivity and unawareness that has the potential to increase feelings of instability, fear or anger.
"Mindfulness improves our ability to focus and make decisions." - Frontiers in Human Neuroscience Journal.
Ask yourself: When is the last time you sat and had a cup of coffee in silence? When was the last time you drove without listening to music or the radio? When was the last time you took a walk, just to enjoy the scenery? We are missing out on opportunities and moments of connectedness such as these because we are simply too preoccupied by life's army of distractions.
What is mindfulness?
So what is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the exact opposite of having a full mind. Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment while acknowledging and accepting how you're feeling in body and mind. It is commonly used to aid mental health conditions, ranging from depression and anxiety to stress.
The benefits include: becoming more self-aware, feeling calmer and less stressed, feeling confident in choosing how to respond to your thoughts and feelings, coping with difficult or unhelpful thoughts and being kinder towards yourself. According to Psychology Today, mindful people are happier, more exuberant, more empathetic, and more secure.
Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness not only prevents depression but that it also positively affects the brain patterns underlying day-to-day anxiety, stress, depression and irritability so that when they arise, they dissolve away again more easily.
How can you incorporate mindfulness into your day?
1.) Mindful eating
Research suggests that eating mindfully improves digestion, regulates our appetite and helps us enjoy our food. But, how do you eat mindfully? A starting point is to slow down. Chew slowly and savour the taste of your food. Think about what you're eating and why, while allowing your digestive system to work at its optimum.
2.) Mindful breathing
A simple mindful breathing method is to focus your attention on the inhale and exhale of your breath, particularly in stressful moments when trying to calm yourself. It might help to start by taking an exaggerated breath: a deep inhale through your nostrils (3 seconds), hold your breath (2 seconds), and a long exhale through your mouth (4 seconds).
3.) Be mindful with technology
Set yourself realistic guidelines about when to use your phone and not to. If you're checking your Google alerts and emails constantly on your day off, try and reel it in and be in the moment. Similarly, leave your headphones at home and take a walk. You're bound to notice far more about the world around you without added noise.
Consider installing software or apps that monitor how much screen or smartphone time you're engaging in so you can get on top of your screen time in a productive way.