A few definitions exist of what of mindfulness is. However, we must from the point go understand that the theoretical definitions of mindfulness and the experience of mindfulness are two different things. However, understanding the basic theory behind mindfulness can be very helpful and is the first step towards actually experiencing it.
Mindfulness is an experience of being in a certain state of awareness and being. This can only be fully understood by doing the practice.
This way of looking at things can be very helpful as it will prevent us from having to try too hard at ‘getting’ what mindfulness is. We cannot ‘get’ mindfulness; we can, however, experience it.
Mindfulness is often defined as a kind of coming back to our five senses. I see this explanation of mindfulness as both metaphoric as well as literal and practical.
Most of the time we are lost in our heads, just thinking about the past, the future or just random stuff. We can spend a lifetime dwelling on the past in our heads. The interesting thing is that we are not even aware that we are this way.
We function on a kind of automatic pilot going through life, unaware of what our minds are actually doing.
This is how it is for pretty much all of us and not only for those who are suffering from depression. People who are depressed, however, experience this quality of negative self-talk more often and much more intensely.
In one way mindfulness is about recognizing that we function in this kind of way. We are in a way living in a dream often preoccupied with our thoughts and feelings. The very recognition of this quality of mind can help us come back to the present moment.
Have you ever had an experience where you were perhaps walking down the street joyfully unaware, just doing your thing?
Maybe you were daydreaming or absorbed in thought or worried about something, and all of a sudden you heard a loud sound like a car hooting or someone calling your name?
Quickly you became aware. All your attention shifted to that experience and you became fully aware of the sound. It is almost like you returned back to your senses of your own body.
If you can relate to this then this is what I mean by coming back to your five senses. In this example, you came back to the sense of sound but you could have easily smelled or seen or tasted or felt the breeze of the cool air that then brought you back to that particular sense.
So we have all to some degree or another experienced how we are lost in thought and feelings, simply unaware of our own body and the outside world, and we have also all experienced what it is like to come back to the present moment.
The benefits of being more mindful
The benefit of being more mindful is that we are as a result less stuck in our heads and so less preoccupied with our guilt, anxiety or our own troubles.
Purposefully shifting our attention to the body will help us be less reactive and able to work with our situation more creatively and compassionately.
Other benefits include:
- Reduced negative rumination or unhelpful negative thinking
- Reduced emotional reactivity
- Increased sense of personal choice
- Increased clarity of thought
- Increased freedom from painful emotions
- Enhanced access to pleasant emotions
Mindfulness Hacks You’ll Want To Try Today
1. Sketch a Doodle.
Grab a notepad and pencil, find a subject, and get sketching. Don’t write this one off believing yourself to have no artistic talent. Anyone (yes, really, truly anyone) can draw. It only takes practice. Choosing a subject is simple--you can even draw the Starbucks cup sitting on your desk.
2. Change Your Phone Background
The average person will spend 4 years of their life looking down at their phone. In the everyday busyness of our lives, it can seem like there is barely time to breathe. By simply changing your background to an image of the word breathe, You are constantly reminded to take a deep breath and be present to my life.
3. Take Time to Stretch.
Take a mid-day break from the office and step outside to do some basic stretching. Stretching is good for maintaining a healthy body, and taking the opportunity to study how your muscles move and feel is a great opportunity for mindfulness.
4. With Gratitude’ Email Signature
We send hundreds of emails each week. A task that used to seem about as mindless as a task can be. However, by being mindful about your sign-off and typing ‘With Gratitude’ at the bottom of every email can be a mini-meditation as it allows you to step back for 2-seconds and be intentional before hitting send.
5. Take Out the Ear Buds.
When walking home from work or jumping on a bus, avoid the temptation to put in your earbuds. Instead, focus on what is happening around you. Hear the birds singing, listen to the children playing on the nearby jungle gym, and be fully present.
4. Verbal Cue.
Create a mindfulness mantra to use as a trigger when you need to jog your memory and focus on the present moment. Examples are, “this moment” “focus on now” or “present”
5. When Eating, Just Eat; When Drinking, Just Drink
Simply commit to doing nothing but eating or drinking, once a day. No Instagram. No texting. No talking.
6. Look at the Rooftops
The rooftops are where the architects are able to showcase their creativity and artistic touch. Try looking up every now and again. You may be shocked at how much you normally gloss over.
7. Focus on one small, simple thing
In other words, pick a target or goal. Do you leave your keys in a certain spot? Focus on becoming more mindful of what you’re doing and your surroundings as you pick up your keys and go to your car. Choose a limited stretch of time to be aware and observe objectively.