Mindfulness is the concept of being totally focused on one thing- being “in the moment,” accepting feelings, emotions, and thoughts as separate from who we truly are. It involves being open to the reality of the present moment in a clear and balanced manner. As mindfulness has become more mainstream, it can feel overwhelming to choose from the many books, apps, podcasts, and classes offered to help us learn this valuable tool.
Where should you start?
An excellent place to start is to abandon multitasking and focus on one thing. For example, rather than drinking your favorite beverage while driving, stop, sit down at your kitchen table or local coffee shop and enjoy your coffee. Nothing else, just the coffee. Put your phone down and focus on the experience of smelling the aroma, savoring the flavor, feeling the warmth in your throat. Your mind will naturally wander, ideas and tasks to be done will pop-up, but let them go and keep coming back to the coffee. This is not meant to be a spiritual experience, it’s just about keeping thoughts, fears and worries out of the present moment.
Jon Kabat Zinn, a leader in the emerging field of mind/body medicine, says mindfulness is “paying attention, in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”. It is known to improve one’s ability to pay attention, reduce stress, and improve performance. With today’s hectic environment imposing so many stimuli on us, mindfulness is an opportunity to slow down and help you enjoy other aspects of your life.
Here is another simple mindfulness practice to try:
Sit quietly in a comfortable chair and pay attention to your breath. Just focus on the breath as it moves in and out of the chest. It may help to notice and label in your mind, “in-breath” as you inhale and “out-breath” as you exhale. Start with a short 5-10 minute period of this focused breathing. It isn’t magical or mysterious; it is a discipline to rein in our wild “monkey mind”. This simple step can help us move towards a healthy state of mind.
When my clients use mindfulness practices they notice a decrease in workplace stress and improvements in their personal life. Combined with psychotherapy, they notice it is easier to reflect and develop the self-awareness needed for change and growth. Mindfulness is actually the first step we need to be self-compassionate-and who doesn’t want more of that? As we develop presence of mind, we respond to challenges in a new way.
Give mindfulness practice a try!
Here are a few mindfulness apps you may want to explore: