Mindfulness is somewhat of a trendy topic these days, but underneath all the publicity it can have profound benefits. Many of us will suffer from anxiety and depression at some point in our lives. Usually they serve as natural reactions to challenges we have to face or problems we need to overcome. However, at points it can feel as though our own minds have turned against us. We can be plunged into our own personal idea of hell as we force ourselves to overthink, dwell on the past, or worry about the future. Mindfulness is a great way to come back to the present and free ourselves from our negative thought patterns.
So What is Mindfulness?
In theory, mindfulness is a pretty straightforward concept. It suggests the mind is fully involved in what is happening, the space around you and anything you might be doing. This would be easy if it weren’t for our mind’s tendency to habitually change direction every few seconds. As our mind takes flight, we lose touch with our surroundings, and soon enough we are engaged in obsessive thought activity that could result in feelings of anxiety or depression.
Below are five facts about mindfulness, explaining how it can help us work towards being the best versions of ourselves.
1. It Frees the Mind
Usually our minds are full of thoughts. We are constantly planning, reflecting, wondering, or worrying about the future. Imagine what we could achieve if we could give our minds a break from these patterns. Mindfulness forces us into the present moment. When we are fully present, our mind is full of experience, and subsequently, there is no room for worrying or self-deprecation. When the mind is free, we are able to get outside our comfort zone to see the world in a new light, uncover new thoughts and cultivate the best version of ourselves.
2. Puts You in Touch with Your Experience
As far as anyone knows, you only have one life to live. This life can be joyful, beautiful and full of wonder – but it is up to you to make it so. If you are walking through the park and your mind is busy running your usual thought patterns, chances are you are going to miss the magic unfolding all around you. Mindfulness is taking time to listen to the birds and see the changing colors of the seasons. It means smelling home-cooked food and really listening to the music that surrounds you. Learning to be in touch with your experience is a valuable lesson. It leads to a rich purposeful life, full of inspiration. Sometimes it may be easier to plug into your smartphone or fill your mind with its usual chatter, but doing so sacrifices your opportunity to connect with the world around you and enjoy the simple things in life. Our lives are not the big events that happen to us, but rather a collection of small everyday occurrences. Learning to find happiness in the small things leads to a more content and joyous way of being.
3. Gives You New Ideas
Beneath the anxieties and stresses that usually encompass our internal worlds, are a plethora of unexplored ideas and visions just waiting to be uncovered and investigated. Practicing mindfulness clears away the mental chatter and makes way for new creativities to emerge. Contrary to popular belief, creativity is not a trait or a skill; it is a state of mind. This state of mind comes to us when we our relaxed and inspired. One great way to achieve this is through the use of mindfulness. Mindfulness gives us constant inspiration by allowing us to see the world around us clearly, and it relaxes us by freeing us of our habitual thought patterns. When we are mindful, we can find creative solutions to our problems, become more productive at work, and maybe even find motivation to acquire a new skill.
4. It Involves Curiosity, Openness, and Acceptance
Mindfulness is not just about rooting your mind in the present moment; it is about approaching the present with childlike curiosity and exploring what it can bring you. Sometimes this may be physical, but other times it may be a thought or feeling that arises as a reaction to what is going on around you. It is important to be open to whatever may show up, accepting and listening to what it has to say. In each moment lies hundreds of lessons waiting to be learned, and mindfulness brings us closer to unearthing them.
5. It Improves Your Ability to Focus
The phrase “practice makes perfect” also applies to mindfulness. At first, you may find that you can only stay present for a second or two. This is completely normal. In fact, research has shown that the average ‘uninterrupted now’ moments, typically last between 1-10 seconds. The important thing is – without judgement – to calmly bring yourself back to the present each time you notice your mind has wandered. As you strengthen the muscle of the mind, your ability to focus will also improve. You will notice you have greater control over your concentration, and will be able to divide up your mental energy effectively and accordingly. This will improve your productivity levels, making it easier to hold an engaging conversation or even enjoy a good book.
The best thing about mindfulness is that it is highly accessible. It is completely free and requires no equipment other than yourself. You can practice mindfulness anywhere, at anytime, completely at your own discretion. During wholesome activities such as cooking, reading, walking, or spending time with friends and family, are the best times to cultivate mindfulness. Bring your mind back into reality and focus on whatever task is at hand. Soon, you will feel the pressures and stresses of daily life drift away from you as you fully immerse yourself in the bountiful experience we call life.