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Mindfulness means being fully present in the here and now; you’re aware of where you are and what you’re doing in the moment. This definition of mindfulness makes it seem pretty straightforward, and it would be, except that we rarely practice it. More often than not, when we’re doing something, our mind tends to veer away from the matter at hand. This makes us lose touch with our senses, body, and leaves us to focus on our over thinking thoughts. This leads us to feel overwhelmed and even anxiety. Thus, making use of mindfulness would be helpful to snap you back into the present moment and away from your thoughts.

Every human being possesses the ability to be mindful, but it’s all about learning how to access it. Here are some ways you can practice being mindful:

  1. Short pauses – If you feel that you have a day where you’re constantly on the go, take a moment to stop. Insert a small pause into your busy schedule where you’re just focused on the here and now. Experience all of your senses in that moment – sight, touch, sound, taste and smell. For example, when you’re smelling a flower or eating your favourite food, take the time to smell or taste it, and this will lead you to fully enjoy the moment.
  2. Breathing – When you’re feeling overwhelmed by too many thoughts, take a moment to just breathe. Sit down, close your eyes and take deep breaths in and out. Focus all of your attention on your breathing. By sitting and simply breathing for a few minutes, it can help you to relax more.
  3. Meditation – Mindfulness is in fact a form of meditation. Hence, it would help to practice meditation by, for example, making use of walking. Find a quiet place where you have enough space to walk around, then begin to walk slowly. Focus on your walking and being aware of your sensations. By simply walking and maintaining awareness, you are able to be present in the here and now.

To prove how helpful mindfulness is, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, Sara Lazar carried out a study to see how mindfulness effects our brain. She managed to conclude that when we practice mindfulness, we are decreasing the activity in our amygdala and increasing the connections between our prefrontal cortex and amygdala. By doing this, we are less reactive to negative stressors and tend to recover easily from stress when we do experience it. This occurs since our brain is constantly learning and growing, it is able to change over time.

Thus, being mindful can change the way we think and improve our quality of life. Rather than remaining focused on our stress and negative thoughts, we can instead become more aware of how to control our stress and change our thoughts into positive ones. As Aristotle once said “we are what we repeatedly do” just like we think what we repeatedly think!

Mandy is a Gestalt psychotherapist who enjoys working therapeutically with adults on various issues. These include general mental health and wellbeing. She also has experience working with anxiety, victims of domestic violence and eating disorders.

References:

  1. Schulte, B. (2015). Harvard neuroscientist: Meditation not only reduces stress, here’s how it changes your brain. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/05/26/harvard-neuroscientist-meditation-not-only-reduces-stress-it-literally-changes-your-brain/
  2. Staff, M. (2020). What is Mindfulness? – Mindful. Retrieved from https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness/