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Do you want to improve your productivity, relationships and find inner peace? Here you will see what this ancient practice is and how you can integrate it into your life with a few simple steps.
You were checking news and messages on the phone while having breakfast. You did not realize when you finished eating and did not even remember what you read. That is the opposite of mindfulness.
Broadly speaking, mindfulness is the ability to concentrate and be fully aware of the here and now, perceiving the environment and ourselves in a reflective way and from the point of view of inner calm, without judgment. For some people, it is a philosophy of life.
There is no fixed definition of the concept of mindfulness. The best known is that of biologist Jon Kabat Zinn, creator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
Jon Kabat Zinn defines mindfulness as an “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.” That is, your thoughts are focused on what is happening inside you and around you at that moment. You are consciously noting what is happening without judging or labeling it, and you are acting purposefully rather than reacting on instinct.
In this state of consciousness, you are above everything. The practice of mindfulness does not intend to change situations but to help us perceive each moment of our daily life and identify all its internal and external facets consciously.
Mindfulness or conscious attention is the exact opposite of the so-called “autopilot,” that is, not being aware of what we are doing. Mindfulness helps us create distance between our thoughts and ourselves. Rather than letting our beliefs, habits, and automatic responses take the helm, we act consciously based on our experience and show full attention to the present moment.
It means that you manage to have a moment between the stimulus and the reaction that gives you the space you need to act consciously. In this way, you improve the relationship with yourself and those around you since you can act with more empathy and without judgment.
The practice of mindfulness is not a modern phenomenon, at least not in the East. The Satipatthana Sutta, Buddhist teachings on the fundamentals of mindfulness, have always been Buddhism’s foundation. It is considered an essential step on the path to mental health and freedom. On the other hand, in traditional Chinese medicine, mindfulness has always been used to treat certain medical conditions.
However, it took several centuries for Western medicine and psychology to fixate on the ideas and experiences of Eastern traditions. In Western countries, the curiosity for this type of practice began when India became part of the British Empire, and the British who settled in there were attracted by the philosophy of life of some of its citizens. The interest of psychoanalysts was growing in the early 20th century, but it was not studied scientifically until the late 1970s.
Today, practicing mindfulness and meditation is proven to have many positive effects.
When you focus, you focus all your thoughts on one thing and block everything else. Mindfulness, for its part, aims to achieve a deep state of consciousness.
If you achieve total concentration, you get into that state of flow that makes you focus on the task you are doing and forget about everything else. Mindfulness is a state of consciousness that focuses on the direction in which your thoughts are going and pays attention to the relationship you have with them and with what surrounds you.
Mindfulness is based on the fact that, with its practice, a person’s quality of life can be improved. Rather than being overwhelmed by your thoughts and feelings, practicing mindfulness helps you find tools that allow you to stay focused on what matters. The field of psychology has recognized that mindfulness has very positive effects on health.
People who have developed mindfulness can often return to the present moment instead of letting their thoughts drive them crazy. According to some studies, practicing mindfulness can help improve mental health. Even those physical problems that cannot be attributed to a physical cause and that are believed to be caused by stress can be solved through mindfulness.
Do you work for a minute, then stop for a moment to look at Instagram and end up having a coffee and putting your clothes in the washing machine? Does this spiral ring a bell? It may not have happened to you with the same tasks, but most people like to be distracted by videos and other things presented to us daily instead of focusing on what happens here and now.
Mindfulness helps concentration by improving your attention span, making you less easily distracted, and giving you back control of your mind.
Mindfulness can change your perceptions: instead of blindly reacting to a person’s behavior or making a mindless judgment, you learn to observe that person, understand that they have reasons for their behavior, and show acceptance. It also helps you to listen more carefully and, therefore, you can better empathize with the other person’s experiences and better identify with what they are telling you.
This sounds pretty logical after reading the previous two points. When you are more empathetic and do not react automatically but stop to think about your reaction, you show more acceptance and understanding towards those around you.
Daily mindfulness meditation can strengthen the immune system, according to researchers at the University of Cleveland. They found that patients who regularly performed mindfulness-based meditation showed lower levels of pro-inflammatory substances than the rest of the people in the study.
People who develop their mindfulness tend to sleep better, more soundly, and for longer. However, mindfulness exercises or meditation have not yet been shown to help combat sleep disorders. However, good sleep is essential for regeneration and resilience.
Various studies and meta-analyses have observed an increase in brain grey matter in people who regularly practice mindfulness or take specific MBSR courses. Grey matter is a part of the central nervous system that participates, among other things, in the transmission of stimuli.
Mindfulness is not something you know once, and that’s it. According to Jon Kabat Zinn, specific activities and courses help you make mindfulness part of your life, but you must develop it day by day.
If you want to practice mindfulness, you must keep something in mind: you cannot get frustrated. What matters is the path; the objective is the path that we travel. Every time you manage to focus, be aware and connect with yourself, you are practicing mindfulness. It’s like a squat, but it happens in your mind.
Focus on the small moments of your daily life and let your routine activities become your mindfulness session. Try to experience everything 100%. When you make coffee, smell it, feel it. Carry out all your actions consciously. Feel the things you touch and focus on the sensations they convey to you.
Are your feelings overwhelming you, and you are not able to control your thoughts? So, try to get away from those thoughts and feelings and focus on the here and now.
Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Breathing exercises are critical to ward off anxiety and stress. This little mindfulness exercise may not solve the problem at hand, but it will save you from reliving old memories repeatedly and worrying about things that have not happened.
This exercise is also designed to help you be in the present moment. Instead of thinking about the next thing you have to do, look at your surroundings. What beauty can you find in the little things? Allow yourself to rest that thought for a moment and smile. Focus on the little things in life and enjoy them.
This exercise complements exercise no. 3. The best way to notice the little things and for this exercise to affect you is to activate all your senses: What is the smell around you? Do you feel the air? How is the feel of what you are touching?
It is best to take a walk in nature to practice this exercise.
You do not need to sit 20 minutes in a lotus position and light incenses. But with just 3 minutes of practice in the morning and at night, you will start and finish the day consciously.
By the way, doing meditation does not mean that you cannot think of anything. The goal is to notice the thoughts, not judge them, and not interact with them.
In yoga, breathing, movement, and awareness are combined. On the one hand, calm breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the central nervous system responsible for regeneration. On the other hand, focusing on movement helps you be in the present moment.
Changing habits and adopting healthy habits can be challenging. Therefore, start small and integrate a small phase of mindfulness into your daily life for a month until it becomes another habit.
Breathing occurs unconsciously. Before practicing any complex breathing techniques, you can, through simple steps, become more aware of your breathing.
• Breathe in and out
• Focus on your breathing.
• Do you breathe through your mouth, through your nose, or do you use both?
• How long do you inhale? How long do you exhale?
• Bring one hand to your heart and the other to your abdomen.
• Try to conduct the breath in both directions.
Avoid having breakfast while listening to a podcast. For greater presence and attention when eating, I recommend that you eliminate distractions.
• Focus on how you eat.
• Chew slowly and taking your time.
• Take a break, putting aside the cutlery.
• Be aware of every bite.
• Eat with all your senses: pay attention to the colors and consistency of the food. What sounds are you able to identify while eating?
• Did you enjoy the food?
• Are you feeling satiated?
• How does your body feel after eating?
Whether on the bus, in the subway, or the waiting room, try to face any situation with all your senses, without disturbing or distracting elements.
• What do you see? Look in different directions and record your perceptions.
• What do you hear? Listen to the sounds of your environment. How do you perceive them? Are they low or high?
• What sensations do you experience? It is not only about how you feel inside. How do you feel the air? Is it cool or warm? Is it the right temperature?
• What taste do you have in your mouth right now?
• What smells do you detect?
The practice of mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism. It became famous in the West thanks to the work of pioneer Jon Kabat Zinn.
Mindfulness can bring you more peace and joy and improve the quality of your relationships.
Studies show that the practice of mindfulness can have a positive impact in various areas of life.
The best way to develop our mindfulness is to practice it every day in small moments of everyday life or as a special meditation session based on mindfulness.
Developing this capacity is something that lasts a lifetime, and the objective is not destiny but the path.