Breaking down the ‘it-word’ of self-development
You’re not alone if you’re struggling to get a handle on what mindfulness actually looks and feels like. As a concept, the idea of being more aware or ‘mindful’ seems pretty basic, but without proper context it can quickly become abstract and overwhelming. Mindful of what, when and how?
Firstly, it’s important to recognise that mindfulness can take many forms, and will mean something slightly different to each individual. That’s ok! Part of what makes mindfulness so compelling (and sometimes confusing!) is its ability to serve a range of different needs. So while there are lots of things mindfulness can be, here are a few pointers to get you started:
1. It’s a state of mind. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of where you are and what you’re doing. It guides you to be less reactive, distracted or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you, by accepting what is happening in the present moment.
2. It starts with the body. Whilst many people are familiar with the idea that meditation calms the mind, mindfulness actually begins and ends with the body. It involves taking the time to pay attention to where your body is in space and what is happening immediately around it. It’s a practice of actively controlling where your mind goes, bringing your focus back to your senses: what you can see, feel, hear, smell and taste. It can also involve consciously choosing feelings like gratitude, compassion and kindness.
3. It’s a practice. A state of mindfulness can be cultivated by a series of proven techniques including:
- Seated, walking, standing and moving forms of meditation
- Mindful exercises like yoga, qi gong, running and walking
- A reflective, deliberate pause we give ourselves during the day
4. It can become a lifestyle. Although much of the scientific attention on mindfulness has linked it to the practice of meditation, in many ways mindfulness extends to any reflective behaviour that allows you to consider and subsequently enact positive changes in your life. It can relate to how mindfully you eat, sleep, communicate and take time for yourself and others.
5. It’s good for you. Practising mindfulness is shown to help reduce stress and to enhance performance. It helps you to gain insight and awareness through the observation of your own mind and its activities, increasing receptivity to your own and others’ well-being.
6. It’s personal. For mindfulness to have real meaning and longevity in your life, it has to be tailored to you. Mindfulness is a deeply personal process, so curating your practice to include habits that serve your individual goals – whatever they are – is an important part of the journey. [To get the most out of mindfulness, it may be helpful taking some time to identify exactly what those goals are, whether by writing them down, or speaking with a friend or professional.] If you’re looking for some support on how to begin your own mindfulness practice, you can book a one-time or regular coaching session here.