Updated: Mar 2, 2020
You've most probably heard about Mindfulness and how it can improve your life, but what is it exactly? Do you have to follow a MBSR or MBCT Mindfulness training before understanding it? Or can you feel te benefits by practicing it at home?
In this blog I will explain what it is and how it can benefit you in your daily life.
So... What exactly is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is being able to be fully present in a moment. In this moment we allow ourselves to fully engage with what we are doing. This means that we do not get caught up in thought patterns or emotions that we are (un)consciously putting us in a situation that might have already passed or what might happen. With Mindfulness you try to quiet the 'Monkey Mind'. When thoughts do come up, we fully embrace the thoughts, don't judge them and then let them go without getting attached to them.
Mindfulness is a skill, it is something you have to practice. By meditating you can practice being mindful. Do you have to meditate to become mindful? For me, yes, meditation really helped me to become more mindful. This might be different for you though. I do have to say that meditation and Mindfulness go hand in hand. By meditating you train yourself to calm the mind down and be present. That is exactly what Mindfulness is: being in the moment. Just being and accepting all that is. These skills can be very handy in stressful situations or stressful communicative situations with other people.
Mindfulness and meditation go hand in hand
So, when you practice Mindfulness you don't just do this during your meditation and then go on with your day without being mindful. No, Mindfulness is really a way of life. Meditation is just the practice of being more mindful. By practicing Mindfulness you actually have the ability to step away from a certain situation and be in the present moment. Are you already doing this? Cool! You have been practicing Mindfulness without actually realizing it!
Do you have to be spiritual to practice Mindfulness?
No! Although meditating can bring you in to a transcendental state, within Mindfulness it's all about being. Anybody can do it and benefit from it.
Does this mean you will never have stress again?
Nope! It just means that you can observe your emotions, feelings and thoughts without judging them. By doing that you can make a more conscious decision as to which step to take next or which direction to go in now. We can choose how we respond! How awesome is that?
Why would you practice Mindfulness?
Well for starters, by practicing Mindfulness you can learn to manage your stress. You can actually choose if you want to be stressed or not, how cool is that? Mindfulness also gives the chance of increasing focus, empathy, happiness, patience and energy.
How do I practice Mindfulness without doing a special Mindfulness training?
There are tons of Mindfulness meditations (guided) on YouTube. This way you can really learn how to be mindful during a meditation. A channel I really recommend is The Mindful Movement. Check their YouTube channel for great meditations. Via meditation you raise your consciousness and you are aware of everything around you without judgement.
2. Body scans
Doing body scans can increase your focus on one particular thing that you are doing. When you follow a body scan you focus on one part of your body. Usually you start at your left big toe and work your way upwards until you have been passed every part of your body. When you focus on your toe, you really feel it. Focus on feeling the toe without judging what is happening within the toe. You do this with every single part of your body, even your hair. It is possible that you fall a sleep. It is not the chore goal of the practice, but if it happens, don't judge it! You apparently needed that sleep. You can also follow a guided body scan on YouTube.
3. Focus on the thing that you are doing
Choose one thing out of one of your daily rituals to learn to focus on one thing without judgment. An example can be brushing your teeth. When you brush your teeth, feel every sensation that comes with brushing your teeth. Smell the toothpaste. Look at the toothbrush and the toothpaste. Feel the sensation of the brush on your teeth. Focus on the movement your hand makes when you're brushing. Focus on what your tongue is doing. By focussing on all of it and letting your thoughts pass without judgement, you can become more mindful of the things that are happening in the moment, right now.
4. Practice yoga
By practicing yoga (I don't really mean power yoga, more hatha or yin yoga), you get to also stay in certain positions for a longer period of time. When doing this, you can really focus on what you are feeling and what your body is doing, also without judgment. This can ground you and bring you back in the now.
5. Sit in a feeling
Yessss, I know the struggle. Very often in the Western World we tend to push our feelings away. Why? Well why would we be influenced by those stupid things. It won't bring us any further. Well instead of pushing your feelings away, it might be good to try and sit in the feelings and observe what you feel and what your automatic response is to those feelings. When you feel pain, do you push it away? Do you become angry? Do you start crying? You don't have to judge what your response is, it is just a good way to get to know yourself better. This way you might get to know your responses and you know how to handle certain situations more calmly and more mindfully. I do have to say, I have a very hard time doing this. It is not easy, so don't be hard on yourself.
6. Go in to nature
Everything in nature is designed to just be. It flows and it goes where it wants to go. Have you ever seen a tree be hard on itself? No! When a plant can't go in one direction, it will effortlessly go into another direction. It always finds another way to grow. Us humans always ponder about everything. We feel fear and are afraid that things might go wrong. That is how we get caught up in that toxic thought pattern that we end up spinning around in and that is what causes stress.
Plants and nature just are. It just happens. It's effortless. The same goes for a lot of animals. Have you ever seen a dog or a cat chill? They can just be all day, no problem! And they go and do something when they feel like doing it, otherwise they don't. They're not hard on themselves like we are.
Am I saying that we are the same as animals? Well, we are animals. But we have the ability to put things into perspective and see a deeper meaning in life. I think that this ability can be a handicap, but it's also a great gift. We can do so much more in life. But we do need to look at our little furry friends because they can teach us a lesson in chilling and being. Nothing wrong with that!
Visualizing can teach you to focus on one thing without distracting yourself, which evidently leads to being present and in the moment. You focus on one thing that you would like to happen for yourself. I'm going to use an example used by a man in the documentary 'Heal'. He talks about the power of the mind and how that can heal you. He had an accident and his whole spine was shattered. They said he would never be able to walk again but he didn't want to spend his life that way. So what he did, was visualize his spine healing. He pictured every piece of spine in his mind and put them back together again. This costs a hell of a lot of effort to complete. Every time he lost focus, he would start at the beginning again. At a certain point he actually started feeling things in his back. Eventually his spine healed and he can walk again, something that was thought to never happen.
Be nice to yourself
Mindfulness isn't something that just happens. You will have to practice and living a completely mindful life is not possible. You don't have to be perfect. You just have to set an intention and it might improve the quality of your life. Don't be hard on yourself. Just practice it and every time you forget to do it, come back to the moment. Kindly remind yourself of that.