Are you finding yourself distracted, scattered, or stressed? If so, it may be because you’re living in your head and missing out on living your life.
You may find yourself worrying about the future. This can be anything from imagining worst-case scenarios (i.e. “I’m going to get fired,” “we are going to break up,” etc.) or getting stuck in the past, ruminating on what I shoulda, woulda, or coulda done differently. These thoughts are likely snatching you away from what you could be experiencing in the present.
I’ve heard clients say, “I don’t remember much; it’s like I wasn’t even there.” Can you relate to this? If so, mindfulness is a powerful tool that will help you slow down and connect to the moment. Mindfulness is simply being aware of what you are experiencing as you are experiencing it.
Benefits of mindfulness:
- Reduced ruminating thoughts
- Reduction of stress
- Increased focus
- Less emotional reactivity
- Increased emotional satisfaction
Mindfulness is also shown to physically rebuild the brain. In 2011, Dr. Sara Lazar and her team at Harvard found that mindfulness can actually change the structure of the brain. This exciting discovery is another example of how people can truly change over time. (Click link for another post about this.)
Eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was found “to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, and in certain areas of the brain that play roles in emotion regulation”. There were also decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress – and these changes matched the participants’ self-reports of their stress levels, indicating that mindfulness not only changes the brain, but it changes our subjective perception and feelings as well.
The short story is that mindfulness helps increase the brain matter responsible for responding logically and decreasing the areas that tend to react irrationally. Sounds great, right? You can train your brain to help you respond versus react, to be calmer and less chaotic.
Here are a few simple ways to practice mindfulness. And it really is a practice. These are simple tools, but don’t overlook them because of their simplicity. Often the simplest tools are what we forget the soonest in times of stress and chaos. As you practice these, they can become a habit and therefore what your brain does automatically.
Here are some great ways to begin practicing mindfulness:
- Start by breathing in and out slowly.
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Let go of your thoughts. Let go of things you have to do later today or pending projects that need your attention. Simply let thoughts rise and fall of their own accord and be at one with your breath.
- Continue to focus on your sense of awareness the air fills your lungs and then how it feels to exhale.
- The intention of this exercise is to cultivate contentment in the moment and escape the persistent striving we find ourselves caught up in on a daily basis. Rather than anxiously wanting to finish an everyday routine task in order to get on with doing something else, take that regular routine and fully experience it like never before.
- For example: if you are cleaning your house, pay attention to every detail of the activity.
- Choose a natural object from within your immediate environment and focus on watching it for a minute or two. This could be something in your office or home. You can also find something in nature like trees or the sky.
- Don’t do anything except notice the thing you are looking at. Simply relax and watch for as long as your concentration allows. It’s okay if you only focus for a few seconds. You may become distracted. Simply, take a breath and try again.
- Visually explore every aspect of the object.
I love how God calls himself I AM. Meaning He is in our present. I don’t know about you, but I want to experience the opportunities and experiences God is creating for me. Mindfulness creates an opportunity to connect with the present and what God is doing in that moment.
Blessings to you,