Mindfulness originates from Buddhism but it has become increasingly popular in the West.
It has recently been used to treat patients with depression, chronic fatigue, cancer, stress. And has shown promising results.
These include: an increased ability to relax, greater energy and enthusiasm for life, heightened self-confidence and an increased ability to cope more effectively with both short and long-term stressful situations.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is becoming aware of what’s around us here and now.
In fact, it’s the exact opposite to what we normally do: going through our endless tasks, thinking about what we did or didn’t do, worrying about what is still to be done. Mindfulness is escaping from our thoughts about the past and the future in order to concentrate, body and mind, on the moment.
Why do it?
It does sound like a very counter-intuitive thing to do. Yet, what’s the point of going through life worrying about our to-do list? Have you ever found yourself playing with your children while worrying about something you need to do at work. If you have, you’ll know you were only just half-present for your children and it probably didn’t help your work very much either. That nice moment with your children has now gone and is lost forever.
Mindfulness teaches us to live in the present, to have more vivid experiences, to be more fully present in our life, to focus on other things than our worries, to accept ourselves and our life as they are, to become aware and enjoy things around us, to enjoy each moment, to enjoy our life. To be here and now, body and mind united, means that we stop thinking about what is causing our stress, we start enjoying what we are doing right now.
Ideally, we’d always live in this awareness state. Realistically, we’ll return to our problems and worries but, chances are, our mindfulness moments will have brought new perspectives that might well help us solve the issues we face.
How do we reach mindfulness?
I hope I’ve convinced you to try mindfulness. Here is how to do it.
It doesn’t matter what we are doing, it could be washing dishes, walking, cleaning, playing with your kids, cooking, eating, making love, exercising or doing nothing.
- Focus on your breath.
- Focus on the sounds around you, all the things you see, all the things your body feels.
- Pay attention to the voice inside your head, that constant chatter in our mind. Often that voice carries negative thoughts and comments, doubts, worries, judgments.
- Choose to let go of the thoughts that are unhelpful.
- Release your mind from its constant chatter and turn your thoughts to what surrounds you and what is happening right now in the present.
The objective is to learn to experience this awareness during the day as you go about your daily tasks. Pick an activity (start with something you enjoy to make it easier) and decide to be mindful as you do it.
If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the awareness of your breath, your body and things around you. Notice how much more enjoyment you got out of it.
If you’re hooked and want to know more, here is a great little book on the subject (we include two links – the original version which you can now pick up at a really good price and the newer updated version):
We have also found (thanks to one of our Readers – thanks Andy!) a great video on the subject – a session given to Google staff and led by the same guy, Jon Kabat-ZIn, well worth a look..