Everyone has heard of meditation. Beneath the practice’s serene umbrella, you’ll find the faction known as mindfulness. And, like meditation, it’s a habit worth adopting into your everyday routine. It’s simple to do, too. Read on to find out what it is, what’s so great about it and, most importantly, how to get started.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is just as it sounds: it’s paying attention to a particular moment as it happens and being present. This sounds simple enough, but in today’s world, distractions are ever-present. Cell phones, demanding jobs, children, traffic, headline news, the list goes on.
It’s your job to take the time to reflect on your day — as it happens or in a controlled, meditative environment — without a critical lens. By simply reflecting on what happens on a day-to-day basis, you can track patterns in your thinking and your reactions to different situations. This sets you up for improved, thoughtful responses to future events, which, in turn, provide you with a myriad of health benefits.
By looking at your day neutrally and using your observations to make more informed decisions in the future, you will likely experience a multitude of mental health benefits.
It probably comes as no surprise that mindfulness has been shown to be an excellent tool to reduce one’s anxiety. One study showed up-to-10-percent improvement in symptoms of anxiety by simply partaking in mindful meditation. This could have to do with the fact that mindful people can better control the thoughts they have, quieting dissenting or otherwise upsetting voices they hear in the backs of their minds.
The same study revealed how useful mindful meditation could be in combating depression. Researchers found it could improve feelings of depression by up to 20 percent, which is about the same as antidepressant medication. For many, eradicating the need to take medication to treat depression is reason enough to try meditation.
How to Start
While pure mindful meditation has its practitioners sitting in a quiet, often dark room, reflecting in this type of environment is not for the faint of heart — or mind — because it truly leaves you alone with your thoughts, which can make your stress, depression or anxiety worse. That’s why most mindfulness practitioners start their journey in a less controlled environment.
Here are some simple ways to start practicing mindfulness:
- Start early with a stretch
- Make a list of three things you want to accomplish each day
- Keep a daily journal
- Soak up the sun
- Practice deep breathing
- Participate in a yoga class (in the gym or at home)
Throughout the day, make an effort to mindfully complete tasks and occasionally reflect on a situation that causes you to feel less than stellar. By doing so, you’ll note the patterns mentioned above and start noticing how you react to certain triggers and how they make you feel.
Brief moments of inner monolog can have a significant impact, so there’s no harm in setting a few minutes aside each hour to do so.
If it helps, set an alarm on your phone, block out a five-minute window each hour on your Google Calendar or otherwise promise to yourself that you will be mindful throughout the day.
To kick-start your mindfulness routine, you can join programs designed to help you ease into the practice. Everything from an in-person meditation class to an app-based self-taught program is available. Do the research to find the right option for you.
If you’re interested, but need more motivation to stick to a schedule, ask a friend to take a walk with you after work or join a yoga class. Then, watch as the benefits start to trickle in. You’ll gain a new awareness of the world around you as well as peace of mind.
The idea of mindfulness is simple, but putting it into practice might be a bit more challenging. We can only ask that you stay the course to the best of your ability since the reward is well worth it. Nothing beats a clear and positive state of mind.