"That must be a made-up word", said a client of mine the other day. I can see where he was coming from. It doesn't sound quite right. But at the same time, you've probably heard this word a million times in the last few years. Mindfulness has become all the rage!
But what actually is it?
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of where we are, engaged with whatever we're doing at that moment, aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them, while not being overly overwhelmed or reactive by what's going on around us.
Does that answer the question? No?
Maybe a few examples of what can go on in our lives on a daily basis while we're not being mindful can help to explain further.
Do you ever find yourself doing jobs or tasks automatically, without being aware of what you're doing?
Or doing things without paying attention? Maybe listening with one ear while someone is talking to you but doing something else at the same time, like checking your phone?
Do you feel like you're sometimes running on "autopilot", maybe even driving to work in the morning without remembering your drive there?
Or have you ever had a shower only to not remember whether you already washed your hair or not?
And when was the last time you had a meal by yourself in silence, without the TV, computer screen, a book or your phone in front of you?
Don't worry if any of this sounds familiar. We're all human after all and living in the world we're living in. Very few of us - and probably no one reading this - is living in a secluded cave in the mountains.
By practicing a bit of mindfulness here and there throughout the day you can really start to feel the difference. And I'm not talking a minimum of two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. No, just a couple of minutes here and there throughout the day and you'll soon be reaping the benefits. And there are many benefits; mindfulness has been proven to decrease stress and sadness, increase levels of focus and happiness, reduce aggression and increase compassion, positivity and wellbeing. Who would say no to that?!
There are countless ways to practice mindfulness. Here are a few to try today:
Yawn, and stretch your arms above you. Try to be fully aware while doing this.
In a seated position, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Inhale and exhale through your nose, slowly and fully. Repeat for 1 minute.
While drinking your first cup of coffee in the morning, see if you can focus your attention on each sip, enjoying the aroma, warmth and flavour. Basically: "Wake up and smell the coffee!" (Or if you're not a coffee drinker: "Wake up and smell the tea/water/kombucha...!")
Go for a 5-minute walk during your lunch break and take in all the sounds, smells and sights.
As you can see, these exercises don't have to take the whole of your day, and you can do them almost anywhere. I tend to tell my clients that if they feel they can't find the time or space to do this sort of stuff, why not spend an extra 30 seconds in the bathroom doing some of these exercises?
So what are you waiting for? Why not start practicing mindfulness today and see where it takes you?