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What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness has become a real BUZZ word, but what does it actually mean?



Mindfulness /ˈmʌɪn(d)f(ʊ)lnəs/ Is 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, also used as a therapeutic technique.






Mindfulness can be practised in every moment, every day.

Be it brushing your teeth, eating lunch, chatting with a friend or cleaning the flat. It is about being in the present moment, acknowledging your sensations, emotions and thoughts in the current situation and environment.


Most importantly for your mindfulness journey, you have to be patient, understanding and loving with yourself. Good things take time! - It's like with any other habit you want to install in your life, first you'll have to put in the effort, then you slowly get used to it and eventually it becomes a habit.


Our 5 senses (sight, smell, sound, taste & touch), as well as the accompanying thoughts, are the means by which we experience the world. The senses are simply the way of how our body translates our environment, the thoughts are an interpretation of the inputs we receive. It is our mind which tints our thoughts in particular shades.

These shades depend on your unique life experience and previous experiences of how you interpreted the world around you.


Mindfulness aims to focus on the 5 senses while allowing a moment free of interpretation and judgement. Since we are used to letting our mind produce thoughts freely, practising mindfulness will be unfamiliar at the beginning, but that's fine - learning to hold your pee was unfamiliar too at one point in your life, but you learned it eventually.



The steps of practising mindfulness are irritatingly simple - focus on savouring the moment with all your senses and let your thoughts pass by. The challenge is to not get hooked up with your thoughts, and this is exactly what your mind automatically wants to do. We are just too used to our busy minds and have to relearn to live without them.



let it come, let it go, let it flow



However, how you treat yourself, you treat your thoughts - with patience, understanding and love. Also, don't get fooled by common statements like - "you have to silence your mind". No, no, no, no ...

It's not like that! Fully engaging in the present moment will silence your mind. Focusing on silencing your mind will unfold in pressure and your mind becoming even louder.


The way to mindfulness is a truthful one, one you cannot hurry up, and one you cannot trick your way through. Mindfulness requires - your attention, your love, your understanding, your patience and your honesty.

It is a highly sacred and individual process, which allows you to welcome ease into your life.



"Our intentional effortful activities have a powerful effect on how happy we are, over and above the effects of our set points and the circumstances in which we find ourselves."

- Sonja Lyubomirsky



Benefits of Mindfulness Practices


Ancient tribes have known the benefits of mindfulness practices for thousands of years, nowadays also research back up the fascinating impacts on our mind and body.


  • Stress reduction

  • Reduced rumination (daydreaming)

  • Decreased negative thinking patterns

  • Less emotional reactivity, more effective emotion-regulation

  • More cognitive flexibility

  • Improved memory

  • Helps with depression, anxiety, insomnia, hypertension, diabetes, chronic pain

  • Helps with addiction and relapse



Everyday Mindfulness Exercises



Pay Attention - Be aware that living in a city, means getting flooded with inputs all day long. Most of those don't even make their way into the conscious part of our mind, and keep the unconscious mind busy. Once you digested the overwhelm-city-factor, you can now hold on and look at it! Experience your environment in detail rather than rushing through on the way home. Acknowledge the people, pigeons, little writings on walls, smells, the wind direction changing and the sun reflecting in a window.


Skip Multitasking - Multitasking has become a social illness, driven by the obsession with more, more, more and faster, faster, faster. Being a superhuman seems to be the expectation... Multitasking literally is avoiding mindfulness. Focus on one thing at a time and on all aspects of it, tune in and experience this moment with all your senses.


Be Here - Fully engage with whatever activity it is you are doing. Washing the dishes and watching usually TV at the same time? - Switch off the TV and wash your dishes in calming silence, tuning into the moment and recognizing how the water feels on your skin and how the smell of fresh dishes makes its way around. When you chat with a friend, give them all your attention, rather than putting your grocery list together in your mind.


Acceptance & Kindness - Accept yourself and others imperfections and treat them with kindness. There is simply no reason to be unkind to anybody. You don't feel like on the same wave with your values or a friend today? That's absolutely fine, wherever it might come from. Accept what you know without putting a label on it. It is not necessary, neither helpful.


Active Savouring - Enjoy!! Get excited about the small but beautiful things/actions in your life, and celebrate them. We humans also have this great ability to step into a past moment and recall the emotions felt, making it possible to savour even memories.


Focus on your Breathing - It can happen, and if you feel nervosity or anger arising, take a moment to centre yourself again. It doesn't take more than 10 slow and deep breaths, to withdraw yourself from your current state of mind and calm any bodily reactions (like fast heartbeat, sweating,..).




Guided Meditation to increase Mindfulness




Sitting Meditation - Find a comfortable crossed leg position, straight back/long spine, bring the focus to your breathing. If thoughts should pop up, acknowledge them and let them go again, bringing the focus back to your breath.


Walking Meditation - Solely focus on the body's movement itself. The moment when your body weight shifts forward in order to take a step, and the moment when your leg moves in order to keep balance. Acknowledge the constant movement of your hips and how this makes your back feel.


Body Scan Meditation - Lying on your back let the legs and arm spread apart. From toes to head, step by step, scan through the different parts of your body. Consciously relax every single bit and recognize how your body feels, what kind of emotions come up as you walk your way up. Observe and acknowledge.



Sources:


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  2. Exercise Treatment for Major Depression: Maintenance of Therapeutic Benefit at 10 Months, MICHAEL BABYAK, PHD, JAMES A. BLUMENTHAL, PHD, STEVE HERMAN, PHD, PARINDA KHATRI, PHD, MURALI DORAISWAMY, MD, KATHLEEN MOORE, PHD, W. EDWARD CRAIGHEAD, PHD, TERI T. BALDEWICZ, PHD, AND K. RANGA KRISHNAN, MD

  3. Seaward BL. Meditation and mindfulness. In: Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-being. 9th ed. Burlington, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2018.

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  5. Shapiro SL, et al. The Art and Science of Mindfulness: Integrating Mindfulness into Psychology and the Helping Professions. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association; 2017.

  6. Lymeus F, et al. Building mindfulness bottom-up: Meditation in natural settings supports open monitoring and attention restoration. Consciousness and Cognition. 2018;59:40.

  7. Annu Rev Psychol. 2017 Jan 3;68:491-516. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-042716-051139. Epub 2016 Sep 28. Mindfulness Intervention. J David Creswell 1

  8. Blanck P, et al. Effects of mindfulness exercises as stand-alone interventions on symptoms of anxiety and depression: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Behaviour Research and Therapy. 2018;102:25.

  9. AskMayoExpert. Meditation. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2018.

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  11. Practice mindfulness and relaxation. Springboard Beyond Cancer. https://survivorship.cancer.gov/springboard/stress-mood/practice-mindfulness. Accessed June 14, 2018.





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