What is mindfulness? Depending on who you asked, you would get a few different answers to this question. Essentially, it is the ability to completely clear the mind and focus entirely on the moment. This could be mindfully eating a piece of fruit, washing the dishes, meditating or even taking a walk. The wellness industry has hyped mindfulness up to the point where it has become something of a trend. Just like any trend, it is possible to see the benefits by simply using some of the basic principles. It is also possible to go the other way, turning it into a hard to maintain process that does not really help anyone.
Personally, I have never been too fond of any type of movement that is difficult to use in real life. Balance should be about using a wide range of skills in a way that can easily be put into practice without fanfare or effort. I first began to learn about mindfulness after reading Thich Nhat Hanh‘s Work and The Art of Power. Both of these books, as well as his ability to write simply and beautifully, helped me understand the beauty of learning how to still the mind. I loved this idea – especially with my monkey mind that often has countless thoughts running at once. From there, I began to learn more about the practice to see how I could use it in my life.
What is mindfulness, exactly and how does it work as part of a balanced self care routine? If you have been wondering how this practice works, this guide will answer your questions and give you a better idea.
What is Mindfulness and How Does it Work?
Before we delve a little deeper into the concept, it is first a good idea to consider what is mindfulness and what is not. Mindfulness is, quite simply, being able to focus on being in the moment, whatever you are doing.
It could be something like sitting in your garden, enjoying the sound of birds, the feel of sunshine on your face, the smell of the grass and flowers, and the beauty of butterflies and bees. It could be eating an apple and *really* savouring the experience – the texture, the taste, the smell, the sound, and the juice. It is being present and letting thoughts pass through, purely observing without reacting or judging or holding onto to anything besides the moment.
What it is not, on the other hand, is doing this 24-7 at the cost of everything else. It is not allowing your thoughts and emotions to be stifled. It is not expecting to never deal with your thoughts. It is not ‘tuning out’ at the expense of your well-being. This will do you far more harm than you realise – especially if you are not allowing yourself to feel.
How do you practice mindfulness and begin easing it into your life? Here are some simple ways to get started:
- Try short mindfulness meditations. Guided meditation is a great way to learn more about mindfulness and start integrating this practice into your daily routine.
- Practice mindful activities. As I mentioned above, you could try eating mindfully, you could try sitting mindfully, washing dishes mindfully, knitting or sewing mindfully or even take a mindful walk.
- Let your thoughts run free. This will make it harder to stay present. Instead, let your thoughts drift without paying any attention. Think of your thoughts as clouds or wind passing through your mind.
- Start slowly. It can take a bit of getting used to. If you are anything like me and battle to get your thoughts to slow down, start with a short practice and then try adding more as you find it easier.
- Be kind to yourself. Just like any other self care strategy, the most important step of all is to be kind to yourself. Don’t worry if you cannot get through eating that apple without getting sidetracked by your thoughts. You are human and you don’t need to be perfect. Simply try again another time, with no blame or expectation.
Have you done any mindfulness exercises before? What is mindfulness to you? Leave a comment and let me know.