Most of our lives we live in “auto pilot”, a subconscious mode that has us going through the motions without much thought or awareness on our part. Mindfulness is a concept which involves us learning to actively pay attention during our day to day lives.
An example of “auto pilot” or mindlessness is when we are driving a familiar route to work and drift off in thought only to arrive at our destination without really remembering the trip there. Multi-tasking is also a good example of this behaviour.
Mindfulness teaches us to live in the present moment by simply noticing what we are doing or thinking from moment to moment. It is an ancient practice that has its roots in mediation and has been modernised and promoted in the last few decades, leading to its growing popularity.
It might sound challenging, but it can be done anywhere for any amount of time and it really improves our lives by allowing us to calm down and notice things about our thought patterns and our bodies. In addition to this, it helps us to stay present and enjoy our work, leisure and family more.
Many people have participated in mindfulness based stress reduction programmes and reported benefits such as pain relief and a reduction in anxiety, insomnia, depression and heart disease.
People report that they worry less, have lower blood pressure and improved personal relationships.
Many papers have been published that demonstrate similar findings
How You Can Apply It to Your Life
They beauty of mindfulness is that you do not try and stop yourself from thinking; you simply notice the thoughts and let them pass. You do not judge them or get attached to them.
The best way to incorporate mindfulness in your own life is to take some time each day just to pay attention and notice new things.
You may take 10-20 minutes to sit in a chair and focus on your breath. If your mind starts to wonder just notice your thoughts and bring yourself back to the breath.
Some practical ways to practice mindfulness are with mindful walking or mindful eating. When walking, take 15 minutes to notice the sounds of nature, pay attention to your breathe and the feel of the air against your face. Try to engage all your senses and stay in the present moment. With eating you will try to notice the flavour, smell, texture and taste of each bite full.
Don’t get upset if you can’t stay focused or “stop” your thoughts. The more you practice this, the better you will become at it.