What is Mindfulness?
In recent years mindfulness has grown in popularity, so you probably already know what is mindfulness or have at least heard of it. So what is this fantastic life changing practice that social media, health gurus, and counselors keep harping about?
The concept of mindfulness is so simple, it seems stupid. The American Psychological Association says it this way: “…paying attention to one’s experience in the present moment. It involves observing thoughts and emotions from moment to moment without judging or becoming caught up in them.”
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Or how about my definition: Mindfulness is simply being present in the moment. Being aware of what you are doing, what you are participating in and observing your thoughts, emotions, and body reactions in great detail.
Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness
Slow Down Your Thoughts:
As a mom we ALWAYS have things that need to be done. School drop offs, lunches to pack, costumes to make or buy, soccer shorts to pretreat and wash, ballet classes for your 2 year old, crap, you forgot to bring the snacks again. You know the drill.
In fact many people wake up and it’s like a giant bungee cord is attached to them as they jump out of bed and go, go, go until they finally snap back to sleep at night. Or they try to. So many people have sleeping problems because they are unable to control their racing thoughts and shut off their brain. Mindfulness helps to quiet your mind.
Improves Your Sleep:
As you learn to quiet your mind at night, you will be able to fall asleep much quicker. There are many relaxation exercises that you can try before or while you are in bed.
Develop Conscious Appreciation for your Life:
When you practice mindfulness, you become aware of the minute details that you never noticed before. Instead of just seeing grass, you notice the beautiful ladybug flitting about, or the studious ants faithfully gathering crumbs.
Instead of complaining about the dark and dreary weather, you notice the cool drops on your face, the swish of the wipers, the spray of water thrown up by the tires. In fact you put some boots on your kiddos and like the Peppa Pig, you all “go jump in muddy puddles!” Being mindful can help to reduce your anxiety and depression.
Mindfulness is a stress reliever.
In 2010, a clinical study was conducted on people who attended stress reduction group based around mindfulness. After 8 weeks, they were tested using fMRI (brain imaging) against the control group that had not taken the classes.
The results were astounding. The participants in the mindfulness group had developed emotional regulation strategies different from that of the control group. In layman’s terms this means that when they watched the same film as the control group, the neurons in their brain was calmer and they processed what they saw differently than the control group. Practicing mindfulness gave them more control of their emotions and lessened their stress.
Mindfulness helps to improve your relationships.
When you think about what you just read, this makes total sense! If you are practicing mindfulness and you are more relaxed and happy wouldn’t you approach your relationship differently? Instead of letting what is going on in the relationship stress you out, you can take a step back and form healthy thoughts. Practicing mindfulness increases relationship satisfaction.
Mindfulness helps to develop flexible thinking.
You can reason that maybe your partner is tired and that’s why he forgot to take out the trash instead of automatically assuming he’s lazy. You can even communicate in a more healthy way without judgment. Your outlook on life is brighter and you feel more happy with your relationship. This is because you have been practicing mindfulness and you have developed the skill of self-observation. You have developed flexible thinking and you now look at situtions in a different way. Mindfulness helps you to be less reactive and develops cognitive flexibility.
How to practice Mindfulness
There are a ton of ways to practice mindful thinking. Just a quick google search will pop up 100s of results for you. Here are two of my favorite ways in which I practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness Coloring & Dot to Dot Books:
I’m sure you have seen these all over the place, you can pretty much find these books in whatever genre or style you are interested in. They range from pretty simple to extremely complicated. I currently have a Dot to Dot Book on Famous Faces.
Check out my connect the dot of Mother Teresa with over a thousand and twenty dots! I think this took me about 3 weeks to complete working on it steadily. These books essentially force you to focus due to their complexity. As you begin to color or connect the dots, you gradually begin to focus more and more on what you are doing.
Think about the crayon, or coloring pencil, or pen in your hand. Feel its weight. Watch how it glides smoothly over the paper. Marvel at the pretty colors and the masterpiece you are creating. Think about how your body feels as you do this activity. Are you relaxed and peaceful or are you concerned about getting it just right. Remember to observe your thoughts without judging.
Here are some pretty cool ones that I found:
Practicing Mindfulness at the Nail Salon
Do you know that you can practice mindfulness pretty much anywhere? Here’s a real life example for you. It was the day before my mother in law would leave after a 10 day visit. I decided to take advantage of the situation and go get a mani pedi. After all my nails were ghastly and as it’s pretty much summer I couldn’t continue to bear the scrutiny of stranger’s eyes on my ragged toes anymore!
I was new to the area and it was the first time at this nail salon so understandably I was a little nervous on how it would go. Now let me just update you on my past experiences at nail salons. I’m normally quite tense and worried about the entire situation. The anxious thoughts kick in and thoughts such as “Is the manicurist totally grossed out by my feet? Oh no, she’s rubbing lotion all over my legs, I should have shaved!”
Not to mention one of the salons I went to in the past obviously did not get clean their tools properly and I had gotten a nail fungus from them! This salon was top notch though, they opened a brand new packet of tools right in front of you. I also have huge scars on my knee from knee surgeries and a machete chop (yea that’s another story). So I almost never pull my leggings or pants higher than my knees because I want to be able to relax without worrying about people’s staring eyes.
So these were all the thoughts going through my head as I made my way to the pedicure station and sat down. Immediately my lady began running the warm water and I made sure to quickly roll up my leggings instead. She then placed my feet in the deliciously warm water. Determined to take my mind off of me and what she was doing, I began listening to the lady besides me who was chatting merrily away with her manicurist.
She was clearly a regular and regaled all of us who were listening with her interesting tales of being a 911 operator. She was a larger black lady, polite and with the most happiest attitude ever. I responded to her stories and we even ended up discussing wheel of fortune which was playing on the TV.
I was still not completely relaxed though and I admired how relaxed she seemed. And then, suddenly in the midst of all the chatting, giggling broke out. Everyone turned an looked and then we too started laughing. The source of the giggling was this petite Asian woman who was having her hands and feet worked on at the same time by 2 different manicurists. When the manicurist began scrubbing her feet she couldn’t help herself from giggling at the tickling.
Being in the Moment with Mindfulness
I think that just simply broke the ice for everyone, at least it did for me. One lady said, “You just go ahead and laugh girl.” And with that statement, I finally allowed myself to relax. At previous sessions I was always afraid to put the massage chair back because I thought I would impede progress. Now I selected exactly the settings I desired and reclined it as far as I WANTED. I notice that the little lady was closing her eyes as they worked on her.
I followed suit, leaned back, and closed my eyes. And finally put mindfulness into action. I enjoyed the gentle massage on my legs, felt the warm water as she rinsed, and the smoothness of the lotion. I opened my eyes and watched as she carefully painted my nails one by one. I noticed how relaxed my body had become instead of being tense and stiff.
When it was time for my mani I closed my eyes as she massaged and exfoliated my arms. I notice how relaxed I felt and how focused. I notice how I didn’t care what anyone else thought of me in that moment. I watched as she dipped the little brush in polish and observed the tiny brush marks it left behind. I didn’t force myself to talk.
Instead I decided to just go with the flow and with what I was feeling. And so my mind became quiet, I became focused, and I enjoyed those moments at the nail salon. To this day, it’s the best salon experience I’ve had. All because I decided to practice being mindful.
I hope my writings have inspired you to practice mindfulness. As I said before there are 100s of different ways in which to practice it. Here is a really good site I found with lots of free downloads. It has everything from mindful breathing, mindful body scans, mindfulness practices, sitting meditations, mindful movements, and guided imagery. You can also search for mindful meditation in audio or mindful meditation scripts.
You have learned today what mindfulness is, then benefits of mindfulness, and some ways to practice it. My challenge for you this week, is to practice it for 5 minutes at a time every day. I think you will be surprised at how being present and enjoying moments of time without judgment can positively affect your life.
Cheers! Sincerely, Mrs. G
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Disclaimer: The thoughts and ideas presented are gathered via careful curation, research, and experience. As a reader you are expected to utilize your own critical thinking and judgment in deciding what applies to you and the actions you take. Thank you for reading.