Mindfulness is a complicated word for a very simple thing! You’ve likely heard of it before, and it might be something you’ve wanted to work on. That being said, figuring out where to start can feel daunting! We’ve got the answers you’re looking for, and are here to help.
At first glance, mindfulness can seem overwhelming -- after all, where do you begin?
With the buzz of modern life, turning your focus towards the moment can seem difficult, or even shortsighted. We’re here to assure you that it isn’t, and tuning into what’s happening around you can actually have a slew of unexpected benefits.
It’s important to remember that mindfulness is a journey, it’s not going to happen overnight! There are small, more manageable steps you can take everyday to cultivate a mindset that will support you in this endeavor.
We’ll break down what exactly mindfulness is, why it’s so essential, and some important skills you can use to become more mindful. We’ll also discuss why it’s important that you incorporate this into your overall self-care and wellness routine.
Once you get into the habit of being mindful, it will stick!
What is Mindfulness?
Starting with the basics, let’s iron out a working definition for mindfulness. This word refers to the ability to be completely present and engaged in the current moment.
When we’re being mindful humans, we’re aware of where we are. In addition to this, mindfulness refers to a state of not being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on.
Take note of when you get overwhelmed for a week. Is it when you’re thinking about the past and things you’ve done that you might do differently now? Is it when you’re concentrated on the future, and trying to exert control over situations you don’t have that in? Or is it when you’re engaged in the current moment -- taking inventory of the world around you and observing the present?
Chances are you’re not getting overwhelmed when you’re in the present. For this reason, becoming more mindful and living in the present can feel grounding. The more mindful you become, the more you’ll realize that you’re not living out of fear or trying to exert control over situations anymore.
This sounds great, but we’ll be honest -- mindfulness doesn’t take a day to cultivate, and it’s definitely a learning process. That’s why it’s essential that you’re not harsh on yourself as you learn and exercise this muscle.
Once you get in a groove, you might even find you’re significantly less stressed. Being judgemental and engaging in negative self-talk can hinder your growth in a variety of ways, and it will surely hurt your journey towards achieving increased mindfulness.
Also, it’s important to remember that mindfulness is not something you have to acquire -- it’s something that’s already inside of you! Now all you have to do is tap into all that goodness -- and you don’t have to do it alone. We’re cheering you on.
What Are the Types of Mindfulness?
There are several types of mindfulness practices, and you can choose to incorporate all three of them into your day-to-day life, or you can select your favorite. This also might change over time as you grow and develop on your journey -- and it’s okay to change your mind as that happens!
The three types of mindfulness include:
Meditation: You can complete mindfulness meditation when you’re seated, walking, standing, or even moving. You can even try mindfulness meditation lying down, but you might fall asleep, so we’d suggest trying one of the alternatives first. Meditation often involves sitting down in a quiet, peaceful place, breathing deeply, and allowing your thoughts to float in and out of your mind without giving them any attention or judgement. When you meditate, you’re focusing on the present moment. You can also try guided meditation or meditation with music depending on how you feel. Some people choose to start their day like this.
Short pauses: You can integrate these into your everyday life. This is probably the easiest way to begin tuning into mindfulness, so if you’re just getting started, you might want to start here.
- Combining meditation with other activities including yoga or even sports: Once you get more comfortable with mindfulness, you can try to include it in activities that you do on the regular. You might find that this makes these activities even more enriching.
Why is Mindfulness Important?
Mindfulness doesn’t ask you to change yourself; it simply asks you to tune into the life you’re already living. It asks you to show up for yourself and for the moment you’re experiencing an authentic, engaged manner.
You will find that once you get started, you’ll feel drawn to this practice because it can make you feel in tune with the world around you.
Mindfulness is rooted in Hindu and Buddhist teachings, and is picking up traction all over the world because of its wide variety of benefits. In fact, it has even been included in some types of cognitive therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy, amongst other types.
On a larger scale, mindfulness also contributes to your overall wellness. You need to nourish six different dimensions of wellness -- occupational, physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and social.
Without tending to one of these facets, the rest of them will suffer. For example, you have to take care of your physical state of being. One way to do this is by making sure you’re getting the vitamins and supplements your body needs to thrive. Another way is by exercising everyday, or at least every week. Mindfulness can help you in both the emotional and spiritual realms.
Five Mindfulness Skills and How You Can Build Them
Now that we’ve discussed how mindfulness can factor into your wellness routine, it’s time to run through the skills that you can use to actually cultivate it! Get excited, because mindfulness is definitely a life-changer.
There are five main skills that will help you tune into your mindful self. You already have the ability to build these inside of you -- you just have to get in touch with them.
Setting intentions, and reaffirming them. Intentions are more powerful than we often realize. Intentions provide an opportunity for us to clarify what we’re trying to accomplish by engaging in mindfulness. You can set an intention for a meditation session, a day, or a mindful pause you take. One option is to journal these intentions. You can also simply hold them in your mind -- whatever feels right to you.
Cultivating awareness. Take inventory of the world around you. You can simply run through the five senses, and refrain from focusing on your internal feeling and more on the world around you.
Practice releasing negative thoughts and/or feelings. Once you’ve observed that you’re having a negative thought or feeling, don’t get caught up on it. There’s no reason to give it any more mental attention or space than it has to have. Negative thoughts are part of the human experience; it’s completely natural to feel down in the dumps sometimes! Nevertheless, you don’t have to get stuck there. Make the decision to keep going. You can do this by visualizing yourself opening a door and allowing the negative thought to leave.
Taking inventory of what you want to give your attention to. You can simply ask yourself, “What deserves my attention right now? What do I want to give my precious energy to?” Observe, and keep moving.
- Practice being kind to yourself. There is no substitute for self-acceptance. When you refrain from judging yourself harshly and instead allow yourself to show up fully in the moment, you’re going to be your most mindful self. If you find yourself being judgemental, tell yourself that there is no need to do this, and that judgement is unproductive.
We want to point out one thing: leaving judgemental tendencies behind is key to cultivating mindfulness.
The most important skill you can tune into is being less judgemental of yourself.
Thoughts and feelings are ephemeral and fleeting; there is no need to get attached! Just as they arrive, they will also leave.
When you create a space for your thoughts and feelings to be without creating an attachment to them, you’re cultivating a space for mindfulness in your life. Tuning into what’s happening in the present moment can help you do precisely this.
Human beings are born equipped with all the tools we need to be mindful. It’s just a matter of making a decision and dedicated effort to fine-tune this. There are several skills you can enact to build mindfulness. Once you’re on this journey, you’re going to find an enriched state of being. We’re excited for you to discover all the benefits of mindfulness for yourself -- you can do it!