In the chaotic world we live in, it can be difficult to slow down our pace and take note of what is happening in the moment. While recently gaining popularity and notoriety, mindfulness training has been used successfully for over 2,500 years.
Mindfulness isn’t a complicated concept. Mindfulness is living in the moment, being mindful of what you’re thinking about and where you choose to focus your attention. It’s taking a deep breath, becoming aware of your surroundings, and guiding your thoughts to a positive and encouraging direction.
To simplify, mindfulness is deciding to look on the bright side in the moment, and choosing to be kind to others, and yourself. Mindfulness is being with your thoughts as they are, not pushing them away or grabbing at them. You merely experience them and awaken yourself to the moment.
You can find the root of mindfulness in Buddhism and the Noble Eightfold Path that Buddha taught over 2,500 years ago as the path to enlightenment. Mindfulness is not, in any way, a new age fad. It’s been around forever, however in our modern world the need for it has skyrocketed.
One thing about the Buddhist roots of mindfulness is that you practice changing your relationship to your emotions. Instead of needing to immediately react to your emotions or circumstances, you quiet your mind and merely experience them. When you delay your impulse to react, you will be better able to choose how you react and with a more rational frame of mind.
In our current day and age, we are inundated with emails, notifications from various social media networks, and texts. It’s easy to become distracted with all of these demands for our attention swirling around us. However, in the end it is us who choose to give these things our valuable time and attention.
By practicing mindfulness, or by training ourselves to be mindful, we can live life more fully in the moment rather than simply by jumping from one task to the next. This give us the ability to keep stress and anxiety at bay.
When you meditate regularly in an effort to improve your ability to be mindful, then you will see a number of mental and emotional benefits. You may find you have a longer attention span, more emotional stability, or even set yourself free from the restrictions you’ve placed on your own happiness.
Elizabeth Gilbert write in her memoir Eat, Pray, Love about a friend who, when she see a beautiful place, exclaims in a panicked voice “It’s so beautiful here! I want to come back here someday!” Gilbert’s thought provoking response? “It takes all my persuasive powers to try to convince her that she is already here.”
Mindfulness can help keep a person from acting as the friend in Gilbert’s memoir does. If this friend were to invest some time and mental energy into mindfulness training she might be better able to enjoy the beautiful places in the moment she is in them.
Mindfulness is not something that only benefits our minds, it can also benefit our physical bodies, beginning with the brain. Neuroscience supports mindfulness in proving that the brain is moldable, and thought patterns can be changed via persistent meditation and mindfulness training.
Mindfulness has also been known to reduce stress levels, improve chronic pain, strengthen immune functioning, lower blood pressure and even reduce the risk of heart disease. Stress is a strong link to many medical problems so it’s no wonder that mindfulness improves these things.
As with many things, practice makes perfect. The more you meditate and train your mind, the easier it will become. You are also far more likely to see an improvement in your life if you meditate every day, rather than if you limit it to once a week.
If you feel like you need outside help to engage in mindfulness training, there are plenty of resources out there. Look for a teacher who uses mediation in a way that meshes with your personal beliefs and goals.
Photo credit: h.koppdelaney / IWoman / CC BY-ND