Mindfulness – we've all heard the word bandied about before, but what is it really all about?
There are a variety of ways to describe mindfulness. While there is no clear definition, most will agree that it's the ability to pay attention to the present moment with intention, non-judgmentally.
However, this is often easier said than done because we often spend very little time in the present as we fret over the past and worry about the future.
Mindfulness is a great tool to help us understand our emotions by creating space between our thoughts and our responses. There's also growing research on its major benefits, including decreasing stress, anxiety and depression, as well as enhancing your emotional regulation, creativity and self-compassion.
It's now harder to slow down than ever before, so being more mindful allows us to experience life as we live it.
Use your senses
Our five senses are the ultimate gateway to the present moment. Try to be more present by noticing sights, smells, sounds, touch and tastes.
This immediately brings you back to where you are. Take time to notice the sun rising through the clouds, the first sip of your coffee, the feeling of your clothes on your skin and the smell of fresh air or cooking. Learning to appreciate the simple things will unlock small moments of joy from the simple pleasures in a busy and often chaotic world.
Notice your breath
When you focus on your breath, it allows you to remove yourself from the mind and into your body. This brings you back into the present moment and frees you from the worry or thoughts you might be experiencing at the time. Just before you turn this page, I invite you to take a moment to pause, take a deep breath and really be in this moment. Feels good, doesn't it?
You are not your thoughts
Know that you're not the sum total of your thoughts – you're simply the observer of them. By being aware and allowing thoughts to come and go, we can allow ourselves not to get caught up in giving thoughts more weight than they deserve. As you notice your thoughts, resist the urge to get carried away by them – acknowledge them, then simply come back to the present moment. Emotions are a response to stimuli and that is all they are. Picture your thoughts like trains at the station – you're on the platform watching them arrive and depart, but you're not jumping on for a ride.
We often walk without really seeing what's in front of us. The next time you're out and about, pay particular attention to your surroundings. Being more mindful can unlock a whole new world, allowing you to see things you may never have noticed before. This leads you to appreciate the beauty and savour the sights and smells surrounding us every day. You'll be amazed to find this wonderful world that has been there all along!
We often inhale our food while driving, reading, working, watching TV or using devices. When we do this, we miss out on the flavours and smells of what we're eating, which can mean we feel less nourished and satisfied. It can be helpful to remember this phrase: When you eat, eat. When you drink, drink. Don't attempt to do anything else. Pause to actually notice what is in front of you and really enjoy it.