Recently there has been a huge spotlight on mindfulness. You may have come across articles describing its benefits and positive effects on health and well-being. But what is mindfulness, exactly?
Mindfulness is a state of awareness. It is being in the present moment, fully. It is being in tune with your inner thoughts and emotions, as well as your external environment. It is accepting and acknowledging what is, while maintaining an inner calm. Being mindful causes us to step back and maintain balance and perspective. In today’s world of packed schedules, constant notifications, and endless to-do lists, “keeping calm” can feel about as feasible as “catching a unicorn”. However, there are several simple steps you can take to be more mindful:
- Breathe– Take three deep breaths. Inhale for 4 counts, hold for 7, then exhale for 8. Continue breathing deeply, in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Focus on your surroundings– Pay attention to the world around you. Become conscious of smells and colors. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds (Do you hear birds chirping? A car horn honking?). What do you see? Hear? Feel? Smell?
- Ground yourself– It is tempting to think of all the things you haven’t crossed off your to-do list yet or a conflict you are dealing with, and get carried away from the present moment. To bring yourself back to the present, pay attention to the feeling of your feet on the ground. Focus on that connection. Imagine your feet sending out roots into the ground, like a tree, anchoring yourself.
- Observe your thoughts and feelings without judgment– As you focus on your surroundings and breath, you may experience emotionally-charged thoughts enter your mind. It may be tempting to engage with them and begin worrying, planning, etc. Instead of interacting with these thoughts, observe them as they come in and out of your mind. Imagine each thought and emotion as a leaf floating down a river or a cloud passing across the sky. Watch them enter your field of vision and observe them, without judgment. Remember that no thought is good or bad, it simply is.
Distancing yourself from charged thoughts and emotions may not be easy at first, and that is okay! It is important to accept that this is a process and will become easier over time and with practice. But unlike catching a unicorn, keeping calm is very much possible!
Feel free to share your experience and journey to mindfulness with us by tweeting @yogatailor or in the comments below.
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