By definition, mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment.
Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them — without believing, for instance, that there’s a right or wrong way to think or feel in a given moment. “When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune in to what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future,” according to the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.
Incorporating mindfulness into your lifestyle is one way to stay present. Mindfulness can help you feel appreciation for the little things that go unnoticed daily. Maybe it’s the gorgeous pastel sunrise on the way to work or a pleasant conversation with a colleague over a coffee break. When the small moments of the day are relished, every day marks a fresh beginning.
The Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness
Studies have shown practicing mindfulness, even after a short amount of time, can usher in a variety of physical, psychological and social benefits. Here are some of these potential benefits of mindfulness:
- Boosts our immune system’s ability to fight off illness
- Relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Increases the density of gray matter in our brain regions linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation and empathy
- Enhances focus
- Helps foster compassion and altruism
- Enhances relationships
- Reduces pregnancy-related anxiety, stress and depression in expectant parents
- Lowers blood pressure
- Helps with weight loss
- Improves memory
- Enhances quality of sleep
- Raises tolerance to pain
- Helps us gain focus and insight in all areas of life
- Helps prevent the normal cognitive decline that comes with aging
Paths to Practicing Mindfulness Right Now
Having a stressful day? You don’t have to be lying in a hammock to feel relaxed. Wherever you are, no matter what time of day it is, you can practice mindfulness to get back to your equilibrium.
Here are nine ways you can escape the weekday rush right now:
- Take a mental vacation. Relax your breathing; make it a routine.
- Do something you love, such as stepping outside. It will help you find and enjoy the details in your work when you return.
- Stretch and move your muscles. Your muscles tend to tighten up when you’re concentrating. Make sure to move as often as possible to relax your body.
- Adjust your posture. Proper posture helps to counter the effects of stress.
- Uni-task. Try doing one thing at a time; it will reduce stress and help you wrap up your projects efficiently.
- Focus on your breath. Pay close attention to your breathing, especially when you’re feeling intense emotions.
- Pay attention to your surroundings. Notice — really notice — what you’re sensing in a given moment, i.e., the sights, sounds and smells that ordinarily slip by without reaching your conscious awareness.
- Be gentle with yourself. Recognize that your thoughts and emotions are fleeting and do not define you. This is an insight that can free you from negative thought patterns.
- Tune into your body. Focus on your body’s physical sensations, from the water hitting your skin in the shower to the way your body rests in your office chair.