The Practice of Mindfulness
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, mindfulness is the key to happiness. Mindfulness is described as being fully aware of the present moment. If you are mindful, you’re not off in la la land while someone is talking to you (guilty), playing on your phone to pass the time (super guilty), thinking about what you’re making for dinner while at work (literally me everyday). Mindfulness is paying attention to the here and now, it is living in the moment.
If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering how giving your focus to the boring day to day moments could possibly make you happy. Trust me, it will. Or don’t, there is enough research that you don’t need to take my word for it. When you focus on the here and now you are not focusing on all those things that stress you out. Open your eyes, pay attention, and you’ll see what you’ve been missing.
Of course, you still need to think about the things that stress you out, like fixing the car, going to work, feeding your family, etc. But, there is a difference between thinking and planning. We, as humans, have a tendency to constantly worry about what is going to happen. For example, imagine you are going to a party with an ex you did not end on good terms with. You imagine it being very awkward, you imagine the two of you fighting, you even have the fake fight with them in your head. None of that has happened, so there is no reason to stress over it. Even if it were to happen, the amount of stress you had before hand won’t change anything.
Life or Death
In a life or death situation our mind and body turn to fight or flight mode. If you see something that could hurt you, your mind tells your body how to survive. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t know if the perceived threat is real or not. You only have to believe it is real for your body to react. Your body doesn’t know if your stress is from a horrible boss or from a mammoth trying to run you over. It’s not healthy for your body to go into survival mode all the time.
I work in customer service and dealing with rude people often stresses me out. Rude people suck, but it isn’t a life or death situation and my body doesn’t know that. It only knows that my mind is freaking out. I often have to remind myself that those customers are not going to climb over the counter and physically hurt me. (If they did, I would have a real reason to go into fight or flight mode). I focus on my breath, I focus on what is happening right now and give all of my attention to each customer. Practicing this helps me to deal with the rude customers more effectively and it bothers me less. I also notice and have more genuine interactions with kind people.
How To Practice
It is called the practice of mindfulness for a reason. We are human and it would be practically impossible to be in the moment all day, every day. It’s a life long practice and I believe it’s important to remember it as such. Don’t try to be perfect at it, just try it. Here are just some of the ways you can practice being in the moment.
- When you notice yourself stressing or worrying, focus on your breath. Focusing on breathing is my go to in any situation. Our bodies respond to the breath. Quick breathing signals danger and panic. Breathe through your nose, deeply, and feel your body react calmly.
- Take in your surroundings. Look at the scenery, take in its beauty. I often do this when I am stuck in traffic. Instead of focusing on my frustrations with other drivers, I look at the world. Nothing pulls me into this moment like the luscious green of the trees and the striking red rocks where I live. I also find that when I am being mindful, I am very grateful. I am appreciative of the beauty that is constantly around me and the amazing people I have in my life.
- Practice meditation. When you sit down to meditate you are already practicing being in the moment. It will put your mind in that place of mindfulness and it will be far easier to keep it there than if you had not meditated.
- Practice yoga. Yoga forces you to be in the moment, you have to pay attention to your body and your placement. Like meditation, you will start out being mindful and it will be easier to stay that way.
- Express gratitude. Think of all the things that you are grateful for, and feel the feelings they evoke in you. For example, I am grateful for my home. It makes me feel safe, open, and comfortable.
I barely scratched the surface of mindfulness, but I hope this helps you all in your daily lives.
Practice mindfulness and you will find yourself happier than you ever imagined.
I listed just five ways you can bring yourself to the moment, but there are so much more. What are some of the ways you practice mindfulness? Let me know in the comments.