Research has shown that people who practice mindfulness daily have a reduced amounts of stress, increased health benefits such as a stronger immune system, reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, increased levels of empathy, and physical changes in the brain regions that control our emotion and memory.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the act of being fully present in whatever activity you are doing. This means being fully aware of your feelings, thoughts, emotions, any other experiences, in a non-judgmental way.
Mindfulness can be practiced in many ways, which do not have to take extra time out of your day. When people think of the word 'mindfulness', they often envision meditation, and while meditation is a way to practice mindfulness, these two things are not synonymous. You could be practicing mindfulness if you a reading a book, dancing, enjoying a warm summer day on the beach, working, driving (yes, even driving), eating, and much more.
The key is shifting from a state of 'doing' to a state of 'being'
As part of our culture, we live to get things done, to check things off of the to-do list and then we find ourselves to be exhausted, burnt out, and stressed, only to do it all over again in following weeks. This type of lifestyle leads to a state of 'human doing' rather than 'human being' and to change this it's important to practice shifting our awareness one step at a time. When we are in a state of doing, we put ourselves at a disadvantage of living a fulfilling life because we fail to check in with ourselves. Living in a constant state of 'doing' can lead to a variety of physical and mental health issues.
Check to see if you are in a state of 'doing' or 'being' by answering the questions below
Do you often find yourself doing things without really thinking about them?
Do you ever say something and then later regret it?
Do you forget what you are doing while doing it?
Do you eat at your desk while working?
Do you compare yourself do others?
Do you think that you will be happier once 'something else' happens?
Do you ever tell yourself to "snap out of it"?
Do you avoid certain situations because you are not sure of the outcome?
If you answered yes to any or all the questions above, you are not alone. Most people in western society are taught to constantly keep moving. All hope is not lost, and this can be changed!
below are 5 examples of how to turn daily tasks into mindful activities to get you started:
If you are reading a book: Turn off any distractions like electronic devices. Go to a room where you will not be interrupted, if your mind starts to wander and think of all the things you have to do, gently redirect your thought to the book and remind yourself that this time is just as valuable as anything else.
If you are eating: use all 5 senses! Sit down at a table, think about where your food came from, look at the food, examine the textures, engage your sense of smell before you take a bite, take small bites and chew, think about the textures and flavors before you continue to eat.
If you are driving: Take a different roads as often as you can, no rush! Turn off the music, put your phone down, and pay attention to your surroundings, the bumpiness of the road, the cars around you, the landscape, and take note of something you have never seen before.
If you are working: Pay attention to the tasks at hand, try to refrain from thinking about all the other things you have to do. Be present in the work that you are doing.
If you are walking: Put your phone away, look around at what's around you, pay attention to your breath as you increase or reduce your pace, notice colors, textures of the ground you are walking on.
If you are talking to someone: Listen more, talk less. Actively listen to what the other person is saying, wonder where they are coming from, hold space for silence, don't rush to solve or give advice. Provide comfort with your presence.
Small shifts such as these, will bring significant changes to your mental health as well as your physical health. Practicing mindfulness will help you shift from a state of 'doing' to a state of 'being' The key is to start small, focus on one thing at a time and then slowly start implementing mindfulness into other areas of your life.
Be kind to yourself and know that your mind is a natural wanderer and will often drift, even when you are practicing mindfulness. This is part of the process and completely normal; Simply acknowledge that your mind has drifted and gently bring your awareness back to the present moment.
Micheline Maalouf, M.S. is the founder and owner of Serein Counseling, LLC in Orlando Florida. She specializes in working with individuals who are dealing with anxiety including: generalized anxiety, social anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Micheline is certified in mindfulness and incorporates these practiced into all her sessions with clients to ensure they achieve the best results. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Call today for a free 20-minute consultation (407) 721-6453