Listen, what can you hear? Look, what do you see? What can you taste, what can you smell? Feel, what can you feel right now? .... Your bottom on the seat, your feet on the floor? Be aware of the movement of your body with the rise and fall of your breath...., right here, right now, this moment.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, a leader in the field of mindfulness, author of a number of related books and the founder of mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR), a clinical mindfulness program, has a definition of mindfulness I particular like, he says that “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally” . Let me break that down a little for you.
Paying attention in a particular way: You can pay attention to your thoughts; your breath; your emotions; the sensations in your body; the way you move or hold your body. You can focus on one (maintaining a more narrow awareness) or aim to hold a broader awareness focusing on multiple aspects (maintaining a broader awareness).
Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose. If you walked into a door you would notice some sensation in your face. You could also deliberately, on purpose, pay attention to the sensations in your face without needing such a stimulus. Paying attention on purpose is deliberately noticing, making a decision what you want to focus your attention on.
In the present moment, right now, not what you thought or felt yesterday or hope to think tomorrow, right now.
Non judgemental, to be non judgemental towards yourself, you need to be kind to yourself, you are not judging anything as good, bad, pleasant or unpleasant. This means you can hold a curious stance about yourself, you can watch yourself, and simply notice.
More and more research is becoming available on the impacts of a mindfulness as well as meditation practice (without going into details of meditation I will quickly say that mindfulness could be considered as one way to enter meditation) In the past research looked at people who had meditated for a long time, now research has come out that just 5 or 10 minutes a day can have a positive impact.
Research reported by Brown’s university health education has shown that people who practice mindfulness are able to better regulate stress and experience decreased stress and anxiety, have improved relationships, increased self awareness and overall emotional wellbeing.
Mindfulness and meditation has also been researched with medical patients. Research indicates mindfulness techniques may lower blood pressure; reduce the treatment required for chronic pain patients; and improve or even cure insomnia. MBSR is one mindfulness practice that I mentioned earlier, developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn that has been shown to lower blood pressure.
Science daily, a website that reviews journal articles also reports research indicating that one 15 minute focused breath meditation may help people make smarter choices by counteracting deep-rooted bias, enabling people to make more rational decisions. Science daily also reported on research from the British Psychological society that found using mindfulness around food can lead to healthier food choices and help with lessening emotional eating.
Personally when I take the time to focus and to practice mindfulness I feel calmer, more aware, and happier. I find mindfulness particularly useful if for example I am triggered or get an emotional response to an event, or even when I get unwell or feel like I might get unwell. I take these times as opportunities to tune in to listen to what my body has to say to me.
While mindfulness is traditionally practiced quietly, often focussing on your breath and senses, and this is a great way to start. You don’t have to be quiet and still to practice mindfulness. Repetitive activities which do not require too much thinking such as walking, washing the dishes, brushing your teeth can be good activities to practice mindfulness You can also practice mindfulness in your daily activities and interactions. There are so many ways to use mindfulness to improve your wellbeing and to become a better person. When are you going to start?
Here is to being present, where you can be your best, as well as truly experience every moment and the wisdom each moment holds.
Listen with your ears and your heart. Look and see, smell, taste, feel inside and out. Breathe, notice, be curious, right here, right now, this moment.