What Does Mindfulness Mean?
According to the Oxford dictionary, mindfulness is:
- the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something
- a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
There are many different approaches to this phrase, many of which have stigmas attached to them. When essentially being mindful means being aware and being present.
Mindfulness is most commonly associated with the practice of meditation. There are several different forms of meditation techniques, however, they usually involve focusing your attention on both internal and external factors in the present moment.
The Myths About Mindful Meditation
To a lot of people, alarm bells start ringing when they hear the word meditation. There’s an abundance of misconceptions when it comes to this subject.
Some people may be put off by its association with religion, therefore they automatically disregard its value. meditation is not a religion! It is simply a mental practice, giving you the ability to train and develop your mind. There are plenty of atheists and agnostics that practice meditative techniques. It’s something that should be considered universal and arguably fundamental to our progression as a species, but that’s a different controversial discussion.
A big misunderstanding is that meditation takes too much time. The practice itself can be as long or as short as you make it. People are too concerned with the idea of ‘wasting time’. When in-fact, you’re likely to boost your productivity by taking as little as 10 minutes out of your day to meditate.
Meditation is not complicated or difficult. It’s not a binary practice, there is no winning or losing. It’s a potentially enriching experience that can have many physical and mental benefits. Don’t worry about the idea of clearing your mind, you don’t have to try so hard. A lot of practices will tell you to let your thoughts happen, simply observe them. Think of it as though you were taking a backseat in your consciousness.
And no, you don’t have to sit cross-legged on a yoga mat, surrounded by burning incense whilst listening to whale sounds.
So many people think by meditating that you have to adopt some specific type of lifestyle.
You can meditate almost anywhere, on the train, walking to work or sitting at home, it doesn’t matter.
The Benefits of Mindfulness & Meditation
“Large population-based research studies have indicated that the practice of mindfulness is strongly correlated with greater well-being and perceived health”
Within a westernised society, it’s all too easy to fall victim to a system that promotes fear, selfishness and greed. Statistically, over 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression. That’s 5% of the global population. Meditation is proven to be an effective way of dealing with anxiety and depression, as well as managing stress and overall maintaining a healthy mind.
Meditation can open you up to new perspectives and boost your creativity. We often all hit a mental wall from time to time, whether it be with our work or our passions. By practising mindfulness, you will discover an increase in your efficiency and ingenuity. It’s like exercise for your brain, the more you practice the more benefits you’ll see.
How To Be More Mindful
- Give yourself a break! Mindfulness is about observing without criticism. Learning to be more compassionate with yourself and consequently others.
- Remind yourself throughout the day to notice your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. Use your senses to take in your surroundings without judgement.
- Notice any habits, routines or recurring thoughts. You don’t need to be reflective but notice them as they happen.
- Be consistent. This may be the most challenging, but stick with it! Even if you feel like you’re getting nowhere, be persistent. Set yourself some guidelines if necessary. Having a scheduled time and place can help in developing a habit.
- Embrace new experiences. Try not to shy away from things that you know will benefit you. By breaking your routines, you open yourself to new perspectives.
- Detach yourself from your emotions. You are not your emotions, you are simply experiencing them. A lot of people will say “I am sad” or “I am anxious”. You are not sad, you experiencing the emotion of sadness. By identifying with your emotions you are giving them power.
- Stop being a slave to time. Yes, it is important and often necessary to set yourself limits, however, you should see time as a practical tool, rather than another irrational worry.
Overall, mindfulness and meditation is something that everyone should consider. If you’re living a completely happy and care-free lifestyle, then maybe it’s not for you. However, for the many that are discontent or just want to improve their mental well-being, this practice can be hugely beneficial.
To find out about the benefits of Conscious Breathing, click here.