The art of mindfulness has rapidly become the not so hidden secret of modern hipsters. So quickly has it spread, its reputation has developed more and more into a picture of zombie-like hippies whose emotions, so completely in check, never escape the confines of their perfectly organised compartments in those that practice. This misconception of mindfulness has roused confusion and made it a widely misunderstood art. Yet, a widely talked about practice.
Come with me as we debunk the myths and discover the truth once and for all in this mindfulness for beginners guide. If you’re short of time, click the links below to skip to the section that interests you most. After all, mindfulness is about clearing the clutter in your mind! 🙂
- The History of Mindfulness
- What is Mindfulness?
- The Benefits
- Improving Flexibility
- Weight Loss Potential
- Body Soreness
- Review Summary
A short history lesson.
Mindfulness, although it may seem, is not some fancy new life hack for happy living. In fact, the first origins of mindfulness stem back to centuries ago in Buddhist culture. Of which, our western culture of today has long sought answers from to the common question we all share – how the hell can we be happy?! One by one as more and more individuals set off to learn their ways, mindfulness crept into our western society; growing strong presence. But the understanding of mindfulness of old is very different from today.
What is Mindfulness?
Simply put, mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, in the moment and aware of our environment. Not hanging out with friends and flicking through Instagram. Not being in a work meeting and wondering whether Jane is pregnant. Not having a conversation and thinking less about what the person is saying and more about what you’re going to say next. Mindfulness is intentionally being in that moment and being non-judgmental, to yourself and others. It’s being able to truly experience each and every second that life is delivering to your doorstep without distraction.
But not overwhelmed by it.
I’m not sure about you if my mind were only concentrating on one thing at a time, it certainly would be a lot more peaceful up in this brain of mine. And herein lies the biggest benefit of mindfulness. You’re giving yourself more capacity to deal with life and what it throws at you. By not worrying about the future and the past while trying to deal with the present, suddenly there is more brain power and energy to face the present with. It by no means nullifies your emotions and turns you into, as previously mentioned, a zombie-like hippy, but rather teaches you to take control over your emotions and act on them with intention and awareness.
but not overwhelmed by it. This isn’t something you have to achieve. It’s a quality that all of us already possess. We just need to learn how to access it.
Mindfulness Is Not Merely Meditation
Often spoken hand-in-hand, the terms mindfulness and meditation seem to go hand in hand. However, the difference can easily be summed up in one sentence: Mindfulness is being aware of ‘something’ and meditation is being aware of ‘nothing’. Meditation is a practice that reduces the amount of thoughts you have. Mindfulness is an awareness of life, bringing your attention back when it wanders away. While meditation and mindfulness can both work together to enrich your life, it is important to remember that they are different techniques.
Mindfulness Is Not “Rest”
Mindfulness is not simply taking time out and relaxing. At times, being mindful of your thoughts and checking in on yourself can definitely have the same effect as relaxation. But that’s not the end goal. Having proper awareness of your thoughts, moods, and feelings can take quite emotionally taxing, too. While it may not always relax you, it definitely will help you get to know yourself better.
Mindfulness Is Not A Stepping Stone To “Achieve Your Goals”
Here’s the thing: mindfulness is not about getting more fit, becoming a more focused businessperson, being more productive, or any other goal you want to achieve in life. In fact, the goal with mindfulness is to get more intimate with your own self, and experience everything around you in a more alive way. If you get into mindfulness to increase your capacity to achieve something – it might actually work, or it might not. But the real gift is the fact that you’ll have a higher understanding of who you are. In fact, your approach to life might change radically if you’re able to hit the right spot within yourself. And that’s a more important development than any other ‘success story’ you might be chasing.
Starting Your Mindfulness Journey
Mindfulness is incredibly simple to ease into.
First, pick a time and place that would be perfect for you to cultivate mindfulness. Whether it’s in bed at night before sleeping, or on your morning walk in the park. Choose somewhere you can practice these techniques and stick to it. Next, find a comfortable position for yourself. Standing, walking, sitting, or lying down, as long as you’re comfortable. Then, focus on your breathing sensations; this is the point where you anchor yourself. Whatever exercises you choose to do, you’ll return to focusing on breathing. And don’t worry if you notice distractions, it’s completely natural and human. If you catch your mind wandering, simply return to your anchor.
There are a number of mindfulness exercises that you can do. Some of them are:
Two Minute Breathing:
Start by relaxing any areas of physical tightness, feel how your body touches the ground and the gravity that’s pulling you to it, then inhale with your nose and exhale with your mouth; as you’re doing this, feel how the air is circulating in your body.
You can practice this technique indoors too. Before you start, check in with your body. Feel the way your weight is distributed and how your feet touch the ground. When you slowly start to walk, feel how your body is moving through the air. Take notice of the noises and smells around you, but focus more on how your body feels. Use your footsteps as an anchor to return to when your mind wanders.
Three Mindful Breaths:
Close your eyes, or limit visual distractions. Once again, feel the sensation of gravity or how your bones feel as they touch the ground. Start by taking a slow inhale and feel the air pass through your nostrils and fill your chest cavity. Then, feel how the air moves out as you exhale gently. Rest a moment and repeat this three times.
Benefits Of Mindfulness
According to a study, Mindfulness-Based Stress-Reduction Programs or MBSR for short, can help people from all backgrounds successfully grapple with clinical and non-clinical issues like anxiety and stress. The research has shown that mindfulness helps people tune out anxious thoughts and ‘live in the moment’, this provides the motivation to be productive and happy.
Healthier Eating: Mindful eating and cooking techniques have helped people with their diets. A group of 150 binge eaters demonstrated that mindful eating techniques reduced binging and also alleviated the stress and anxiety that accompanied dieting. Harvard Medical School claims that mindful eating can potentially bring about weight loss in this way.
Easier Sleep: Sleep has a great importance in how we function throughout the day. It is not only how long we sleep, but how well we sleep that determines how healthy we are. Researchers have concluded that mindfulness can help you sleep longer and better by reducing sleep-interfering cognitive processes such as fear and worry.
Coping with Illness: Mindfulness has shown to bring great benefits to cancer patients and survivors. A study has shown that cancer patients who practiced mindfulness showed reduced symptoms of stress, enhanced post-traumatic growth, and were energetic as cancer-related fatigue was lessened.
At the end of the day, mindfulness is all about recognizing how your mind feels, and then having the ability to carry that feeling into the rest of the day. The more you hone your mindfulness practice, the lesser you’ll catch yourself being distracted, and the more focus you’ll be able to have on the present moment.
We’re sending our best wishes on your journey to become more mindful!