I first heard about mindfulness in 2012. Actually, it may have been a little before that. I remember 2012 because that is the year I gave up my flat and went traveling. The first place I visited was a mindfulness center in Thailand. I’d been meditating on and off for about 7 or 8 years before going, but mindfulness was new to me. I kept seeing articles and videos online or hearing people talking about it. My mind was full of mindfulness and the question, what’s mindfulness meditation about?
If I could give ONLY ONE piece of advice to my younger self it would be this:
This is why.
READING TIME: 20 Mins. Or JUMP AND SKIM:
I wrote this post for three reasons.
- Mindfulness has been instrumental in my having a happier, peaceful, content, and enjoyable life, and therefore I want to share that in the hope of making others aware of that so that it may help them to lead a happier life.
- There are a lot of different questions about mindfulness and mindfulness meditation being asked on Google and I want to attempt to address those questions.
- I want to take out any mystery or confusion people may have about it that is possibly stopping them from trying it or ignoring it completely.
There are probably lots of sites on the internet that can answer your questions about this subject, so what makes this article so different? I’m a regular girl who has benefitted immensely with mindfulness, and I can speak from first-hand experience.
That said, does that sound like your bag? Great, let us get into it. This is the definition from the dictionary:
“The practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, thought to create a feeling of calm:
Mindfulness can be used to alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression.”Cambridge Dictionary
That’s pretty much it. Staying in your day, in your now moment. Being aware of how you feel mentally and physically.
That’s all well and good but if you are anything like me when I used to read things like that I would think: I understand the words but what does that mean EXACTLY?
What Exactly Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is being AWARE of what is going on with YOU in the current moment. Being aware of:
And then, when you start to become aware of these you can ask yourself:
Why do I think, feel or do that?
You see, most of us are living on autopilot and not consciously aware of our thoughts and actions. Every day and moment we make hundreds of decisions. Those decisions (cause) result in an experience (effect).
When you start to practice mindfulness you become aware of the choices you make. Then you can choose to continue making that same choice or not, depending on the experience you wish to have. You begin to take back control of your life and create better experiences for yourself.
That is where the magic happens.
What Is The Difference Between Meditation And Mindfulness?
By now you are probably thinking where doe the “meditation” part of mindfulness meditation come into it?
The practice of mindfulness can be done by using different methods. One of those ways is thorough meditation, hence mindfulness meditation.
It is important for me to be clear now that when I speak about meditation and mindfulness I am not talking about anything spiritual or religious.
I am writing here about something I do with my mind that brings my attention to the moment I am in. I become aware of my thoughts and actions at any given moment. I use mediation as a technique to focus my mind on a thought or activity.
I write from my own experience and neither spiritualism nor religion has a place in my life. I tell you this now so that you know where I am coming from and my intention. I understand that we all perceive our world differently and I do not want to waste your time if that is what you are looking for.
Is Mindfulness A Trait?
A trait is a good or bad quality in someone’s character. Mindfulness is something you can learn to do and apply it to your life to benefit you.
What Are Some Examples Of Mindfulness?
Here are two examples of mindfulness with and without meditation:
Mindfulness (with mediation)
This is how I use meditation as a technique to become mindful. Follow these steps:
- Get into a very relaxed state
- Pay attention to your body and breathing
- Focus on the breath moving in and out
- Focus on bodily sensations, thoughts, emotions
- Your mind will want to wander to the past and the future
- Bring it back to the now moment, the present
- Here, in the moment, rest and settle your mind.
Mindfulness (without meditation)
Be aware of what is happening now.
Come on, do it right now!
What is happening around you as you read this? Can you hear people talking? Do you feel hot or cold? Are you hungry?
If you did what I just said, then I prompted you to become AWARE. Practice doing that. Put your attention on what is happening NOW. By starting to do this, you will quickly become aware of when you are not mindful, and then you can shift your awareness back to the present.
There are other ways to practice mindfulness, and I’ll get into that shortly. First, I want to talk about the reasons I (and many others) practice mindfulness and the benefits.
What Is The Purpose Of Mindfulness Meditation?
Simply put: The reason I practice and will continue to practice mindfulness is that it keeps me living in the present day. It allows me to focus on my day and what I am doing now. I am content and stress-free in my now moment. It has changed my life.
In my mind, I used to live in the past and the future and it bought me no joy. The past thoughts bought me either sadness or nostalgia and neither benefitted me. I felt stress and worry when I lived in the future.
That alone is plenty reason for my continued practice. But there are so many other benefits it will blow your mind (pun intended).
Mindfulness IS A SUPERPOWER. Do you remember Heroes the TV show? They all had individual superpowers. The character Peter Petrelli had ALL the superpowers and that is what mindfulness will do for you.
It will give you superpowers and empower you to live a great life.
Mindfulness And Mindfulness Meditation Benefits
Personally, there have been psychological, emotional, and physical benefits of practicing mindfulness. My experience is that the body and mind work in harmony. So it makes sense as to why there are so many diverse and seemingly limitless benefits related to the practice of mindfulness and mindfulness mediation. The mind affects the body and the body affects the mind. And so it goes.
I will list those benefits in two parts:
Mind (psychological and emotional) and Body (physical)
Mind (psychological and emotional):
- Think clearly and can organize thoughts swiftly
- Make decisions effortlessly
- Recall information quickly
- Increase in attention and focus
- Difficult thoughts and emotions are easier to deal with
- Non-judgemental about self and others
- Accept others as they are not how you want them to be
- Healthier relationships as able to communicate emotions and feelings better
- Indirectly affects relationships positively as you feel good and therefore you enhance all your interactions with others.
- Self-compassion and self-acceptance.
- Kinder to yourself and others (Forgive yourself and others easily)
- Not overly emotional – able to respond rather than react
- Calm and composed, especially in a difficult situation
- Improved mood – happier
- Resilient to setbacks
- Know yourself – know why you make the choices you make
- Creativity enhanced
- Decreased feelings of loneliness.
Personally, I have more creative ideas now but even better, I am able to take those ideas and create something with them. (Having ideas is great but if you don’t DO anything with them then you’ve created nothing.)
Stick this Free Poster where you can see it to motivate you to start practicing Mindfulness:
Mental illness can be managed effectively through the use of mindfulness. Working with your own mind to calm it (and decrease worry and judgment), it’s not surprising that mindfulness has been shown to elevate:
- Cravings and negative behavior associated with addictions.
My stress levels are non-existent. When I first started meditating and watching my thoughts, I realized how apt the expression “monkey mind” was. My thoughts were like a monkey jumping from tree to tree. They were all over the place. Therefore, it makes sense that being able to calm the mind and thoughts would lead to feeling less stress. When I had an overactive mind, l felt stressed and anxious.
Scientists have been looking at mindfulness and its effects on the body. I’m not a scientist, but they have measured different markers of inflammation and levels of protein in the body. (They’ve probably done many other things, but you’d need to go online if you’re interested in the scientific ins and outs). The results point to an improved immune system and faster wound healing with people that practice mindfulness. It suggests that mindfulness meditation can have disease-fighting powers through our immune response.
Some of these studies have suggested mindfulness can:
- Prevent heart disease and be a complementary therapy for coronary disease
- Be good for healthy hearts
- Slow cognitive decline as you get older, including people with Alzheimer’s disease.
People with chronic pain can manage it more successfully. This includes the thoughts they have around pain. This is a prime example of the mind affecting the body as it calms and controls the thoughts about the pain and the pain subsides.
- You’ll get a great night’s sleep
- More likely to want and eat nutritious, healthy food
- Rarely get sick or ill
- Have more energy
- Have an overall feeling of physical well being
Mindfulness is the fountain of youth. Really?
Studies on telomeres have found that mindfulness can slow down the aging process. These telomeres (proteins in the body) are at the end of our chromosomes, and they protect them from aging. Apparently mindfulness has a positive effect on these telomeres.
Now, have I slowed down my aging process? I have no idea. Come back to me in about 10 years time and I’ll let you know.
What I can tell you is I FEEL great! Go figure.
How Do You Do Mindfulness Meditation?
I touched on a couple of techniques earlier with mindfulness mediation and being mindful of your present. Let’s now talk in more detail about different ways you can incorporate mindfulness into your life:
Using the senses to be mindful
Pay attention to what is happening NOW with your senses. You can bring yourself back to the present moment by paying attention to what you can see, hear, feel, touch, and taste, depending on where you are and what you are doing.
Waiting and checking-in
There will always be moments of waiting in life. Whether you are waiting to pay for your food at the supermarket or you are waiting for a page to load on the internet. Use waiting time to bring your attention to either the internal or external. Close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths and check-in with yourself. How do you feel at that moment? Or look around and take in the view or environment, what’s going on? There’s always something going on.
Just eat with no distractions (like watching television or a movie). Put your attention on your plate and feel the cutlery in your hand. Watch your movement as you reach down and choose something and put it in your mouth. Chew slowly and taste the food. Notice the flavors and texture. Maybe even put down your cutlery while chewing. And repeat. Your mind is entirely in the present moment as you put your attention solely on what you are doing right then and there.
This has an added bonus if you are trying to lose weight – it takes 20 minutes to feel full because of the delay between the gut and the brain to communicate. With eating more slowly you will realize you are full and eat less.
Walk slowly. There are a couple of methods that I have used:
- Take in all your senses, as you put one foot in from of the other. Feel the heel and the whole foot as it makes contact with the ground. Is it cold, warm, or hot in your body? What can you see and hear as you walk along?
- Speak in your mind what you are doing, e.g. lift right leg up, put the right foot down, lift the left leg up and put left foot down. Keep repeating this as you walk along.
Going out in nature and noticing the leaves in the trees, feeling the wind on your face, or watching the ocean waves going backward and forwards will all bring you back to your now. However, mindfulness can be done anywhere and at anytime.
Being mindful while having a conversation
Pay attention when in conversation with someone. Most of the time, we do not listen to the other person as we are already thinking about what we want to say. To be present with another person and to truly be listening to them, this is another form of mindfulness. Focus on what they are saying and clarify your understanding by asking them questions.
Not only will you benefit from being mindful when talking with people but you will build rapport and form close bonds, thus have better personal and professional relationships.
Have you ever done a body scan? Drop your mind’s awareness to your body and it’s sensations and feelings. Here’s how:
- *Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
- Take 3 deep breaths. Breath in through your nose to the count of four
- Breath out through your mouth to the count of four
- Put your attention to the top of your head, what can you feel? Stillness, heat, a feeling through your hair?
- As you breathe, relax, relax the top of your head
- Move your attention to your ears, what can you hear?
- Move your attention to your jaw, relax it.
- Move your attention to your throat, soften it.
- Soften all your muscles in your face and smile gently
- Now, be aware of your back against the chair or whatever it is against
- Focus on your stomach, soften it and relax, take a breath
- Be aware of your arms and shoulders, let them be soft
- Notice your hands, if they are tense, make a tight fist, release and relax
- Bring your attention to your legs and feet, feel the sensation of your feet on the floor
- Be aware of your whole body at this moment and take a breath.
This can take as little as 3 minutes or longer if you wish to take more time on each part of your body or add focus to other parts. Customize it for you.
*Know that you can do a body scan with your eyes open and also standing.
Mindful of your thoughts
Being aware of what you are thinking at any given moment is THE MOST BENEFICIAL THING YOU CAN DO.
What do I mean by that?
How Do You Do Mindfulness All Day?
Attention to the present and awareness of your body, thoughts, feelings, and actions (without judging) is mindfulness and can be applied to EVERYTHING you do. Whether it is washing the dishes, putting your makeup on, mowing the lawn, or driving the car.
Being mindful is now and now and now and now. You get the gist.
So, we always have thoughts going on in our mind and by being aware of your thoughts you can:
- Stay in the day you are in, which will bring you joy, peace and a general sense of well being.
Being mindful is bringing your attention to what is happening NOW—bringing your mind back to the present moment when it goes either to the past or future. Usually, people feel either sadness or nostalgia when their minds are re-living a past event. They feel stressed, anxious, and worried when putting their mind into the future. And let us be very honest here, the past has gone and the future has not happened so in reality right now, they do not exist.
- Know yourself by noticing the thoughts that come before you make a choice.
By being aware of what you are thinking, you will also be able to know what you are feeling. Plus, why you choose to do something or say something. You will begin to understand why you do what you do. You will realize this is gold. Once you stop living on autopilot, you can start to make better choices. Beneficial choices will lead to a more fulfilled and content life. If you are struggling with anything, you can pinpoint the root cause by being aware of thoughts and feelings that precede the action.
For example, trying to stop smoking, lose weight, or get yourself down to the gym. Or, why you find yourself repeating the same mistakes or have negative talk going on in your mind every day. All these things and more can be investigated when you become mindful of your thoughts and, ultimately, the choices you make. You can then begin to understand and know yourself and make long-lasting changes.
But, like learning anything new in life, there can be a learning curve or it can be a little uncomfortable in the beginning.
It is no different when you start to practice mindfulness. Nevertheless, it does get easier with consistent practice. After a while, you begin to notice more easily when you are not mindful and bring yourself back to the moment you are in.
It is important to note that when you do notice yourself slip out of being mindful, it is okay. I urge you to be kind to yourself. Notice if you judge yourself for “not doing it right” or if you get annoyed with yourself. It doesn’t matter. What does matter here – is that you do not judge yourself. Stay neutral and just calmly bring your mind back to the moment.
Judging yourself or others is not beneficial in any form. Easier said than done I can hear you say. And you are right. Again, it is something you must practice and it will get easier.
The trick is to catch yourself judging. Being mindful is the tool to use to do that.
I may be putting myself out there a bit by saying this, but I think that everyone (see later paragraphs with possible exceptions) can benefit from being mindful whether you do it all day or for just 30 minutes.
And I’m including the little people in this world too.
Mindfulness Meditation For Kids
I’m fully aware that scientifically there is a lot more to learn about mindfulness. Heck, even studies about the mind are pretty thin on the ground and have conflicting views, never mind the research on mindfulness.
I get it.
If you’re an adult, you can just “suck it and see”. I gave it a go because I knew that my mind was not going anywhere and that I had to live with it. In a way, I decided to better my relationship with it, get to know it, working with it rather than against it. Now, we’re best friends, and life is a breeze. LOL.
I look at it this way, children have thoughts therefore they could benefit from mindfulness, right? Well, I will that decision to you, the parent.
Nonetheless, I have compiled some information about mindfulness meditation for kids.
I used to teach children from as young as five right up until the age of 15. I had to work to keep their attention; it wasn’t easy! The activities you decide to do with them to practice mindfulness will depend on the age and the individual child.
Immediately what came to mind when thinking of children was coloring books. I have a mindfulness coloring book. It is fantastic. After a hectic day, having taken nearly 100 calls, I sometimes found my head buzzing when I got home. Taking just 20 to 30 minutes to color in my mindfulness coloring book was and is so calming. Focusing on the colors and keeping the colors within the outlines facilitated the mindfulness and cooly calmed my mind.
Buying a mindfulness coloring book for you and your child is a great way to start and you can do it together. If your kids already have coloring books, then use them. Quite, focused time together. Tell them that right now, nothing else matters, just this moment and the coloring.
3 Minute Body Scan Mindfulness Mediation
Bringing the child’s awareness of thoughts, emotions, and sensations can be done with meditation. The body scan I mention earlier is a way to teach them mindfulness mediation and can be done in just 3 minutes.
DOWNLOAD the FREE Info-graph above, so they have something to look at when you are explaining.
Teach them how to sit and relax with some deep breaths. Then, gently speak to them and ask them to focus on their breath as it goes in and out. Explain to them that their mind will wander to other things, which is okay and natural, and ask them just to bring the mind back to their breath. Again, this can be just for a few minutes each day.
You may be asking the question, can mindfulness be harmful if you are thinking about doing this with your kids or if it is new to you? Google seemed to give me the impression that some people are asking this question.
Can Mindfulness Be Harmful?
For me, it has only been beneficial, but we are all so different; there are bound to be some people that do not find it useful or have had negative experiences with it.
In the mental health industry, some experts have reported that people suffering from serious depression, anxiety, or psychosis may need to be careful when looking at mindfulness to alleviate their symptoms. Focusing on the present moment for any length of time could make their symptoms worse. Some may find it too powerful and intense, and the suggestion is that they seek out a teacher to support them.
There were also articles that talked about the “dark side” of mindfulness. Some people reported old traumatic experiences rearing up and depression coming back to haunt them after a mindfulness session.
Some experienced feeling very uncomfortable and awkward during and after a mindfulness session; and having waves of panic and a tight chest days after.
Other unwanted side effects included depersonalization and old issues that they thought had been dealt with come to the forefront of their minds again.
I did get a little confused with some of the information as some of the published reports gave results on meditators and not necessarily on mindfulness per se. Bear in mind that mindfulness can be informal and just being aware of what is going on in the present and not always a formal mindfulness mediation practice.
That said, as much as I’m an advocate for mindfulness, I believe it is essential to point out both sides of the coin. Forearmed is forewarned!
Is Mindfulness For You?
What’s mindfulness mediation about has been explained and now you know:
- What mindfulness meditation and mindfulness is
- The superpower benefits
- How to do mindfulness meditation
- How to be mindful every day
- Different mindfulness activities and exercises
- How to introduce your kids to it.
Get started NOW by downloading both Free Info-Graphs JUST CLICK ON THE INFO-GRAPH OR POSTER – 5 Minutes To Mindfulness and the 3 Minute Body Scan. And Print out the 30 Superpowers With Minfulness Poster to highlight all the wonderful things you can experience once you start practicing!
Is it for you? The choice is yours!
The name of The Game is Experience so let us experience Connecting and Sharing.
Got any Mindfulness tips to share? Type them in the comments below.