What is Mindfulness?

Should you be doing it? Is it actually worth squeezing into your already busy schedule? In the simplest sense, mindfulness is about being present and accepting your thoughts and feelings.

Stone on raked sand; zen conceptStress has a way of taking up too much space in our heads, lingering after a bad commute and building up the more we think about all the stuff we need to get done. Mindfulness works to counteract our daily stress. It helps you focus your attention in the “right now,” so that you’re not worrying about what’s already happened or what might happen next. To really make the most of the present moment, sometimes you need to take a second to fully recognize it.

That means taking stock of not only your surroundings but how you fit into them.

What do you see? How does the air smell? Are you breathing calmly? Are any of your muscles tense? What’s the temperature and how does the breeze (if there is any) feel on your skin? By checking off this imaginary list, you’ll immerse yourself more fully in your environment and have a stronger sense of how your body feels in it.

The next step is accepting the thoughts that pop into your head, and then letting them go — without being judgmental or freaking out.

This might be the more difficult part of being mindful, but it’s key when it comes to reaping the benefits. Think of your thoughts as the debris you see floating along a river. Some of it might be positive and some of it might be negative, but either way, you’re not going to swim out to grab it, so you just watch it pass by. This will help you acknowledge your thoughts without getting “locked in” — aka getting swept up in that river of feeling.

As you practice observing your thoughts and feelings without judgement, you’ll get better at controlling your reactions to them, even when you’re not practicing mindfulness. So you won’t get as angry or sad or worried by something as quickly. And in turn, you’ll become more patient with yourself and other people.

Mindfulness can involve meditation, but it doesn’t have to.

While mindfulness is a form of meditation in that you’re focusing on your breathing and the present moment’s sensations, you can be literally anywhere or doing anything while also being mindful. No matter what the activity it is, you’ll be more engaged because it’ll have your full attention. If you’re commuting via subway, riding an elevator, or sitting at your desk at work, stop for a second, focus on what you’re feeling, your breathing, your muscle tension. Look around. What do you see? What do you smell right now, as slowly as you can? What do you notice about your surroundings?

Mindfulness can really help teach you how to accept thoughts and let them go.

Adapted from Buzzfeed Article – Here’s How To Be Mindful; Even When Life Is Stressful.