Have you ever wondered how regularly have you headed to the shopping center, work, or back home without truly contemplating it? And have you eaten a …EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT Living In the Moment
… but we’re afraid to ask
So what’s the big hoopla about “Mindfulness”??
In its simplest form, it’s nothing more than focused-attention on the here and NOW — Using information from our senses: What we see, hear, feel, taste, and smell.
But in the fields of mental health, it can be tweaked to reduce anxiety, depression, and PTSD to name a few. Below you will find several brief definitions. Hopefully this will give you a better feel of the otherwise vague term, MINDFULNESS.
(What is Mindfulness? Explained. (20 Definitions That Clarify Mindfulness)
Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley:
“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.”
Daniel J. Siege, Mindfulness practitioner and expert:
“Mindfulness in its most general sense is about waking up from a life on automatic, and being sensitive to novelty in our everyday experiences. With mindful awareness the flow of energy and information (that is our mind) enters our conscious attention and we can come to regulate its flow in a new way. Mindful awareness, as we will see, actually involves more than just simply being aware: It involves being aware of aspects of the mind itself.“
Sharon Salzberg, another leader in mindfulness, says:
“Instead of being on automatic and mindless, mindfulness helps us by reflecting on the mind’s activities which enables us to make different choices.
It’s about doing so in a certain way – with balance and equanimity, and without judgment. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention in a way that creates space for insight.”
Research has shown that mindfulness helps us reduce anxiety and depression. Mindfulness teaches us how to respond to stress with awareness of what is happening in the present moment rather than simply acting instinctively, unaware of what emotions or motivations are working in the background, driving our decisions. By teaching awareness for one’s physical and mental state in the moment, mindfulness allows for more adaptive reactions to difficult situations.
Anxiety.org asks, Can Mindfulness Really Help Reduce Anxiety?
“A mindful person is reflective rather than reactive. They focus on the present moment.
Mindfulness is a process that leads to a mental state characterized by nonjudgmental awareness of the present experiences, such as sensations, thoughts, bodily states, and the environment. It enables us to distance ourselves from our thoughts and feelings without labeling them as good or bad.”
How Does Mindfulness Work?
By focusing our attention on the present moment, mindfulness counteracts rumination and worrying. Worrying about the future (e.g. I better remember to pay those bills and clean my house this weekend) and ruminating about the past (e.g., I should have done this rather than that) are generally maladaptive thinking processes. Of course, it is important to learn from our past and plan ahead for the future; however, when we spend too much time outside of the present moment, we can get depressed and anxious. In such cases, mindfulness can be an important tool for helping us to better focus on the present moment.
Mindfulness works through a number of ways. It encourages us to open up and accept our emotions. As a result we are better able to identify, experience, and process our emotions. Mindfulness also encourages us to see things from different perspectives. For example, if your spouse snaps at you, you might blame yourself and worry that you’ve done something to upset them. If you are able to distance yourself from your immediate response of being hurt, you might remember that your spouse mentioned a hard day at work, and perhaps they snapped at you because they’re tired and stressed out. The point is, we are actually lousy mind-readers! But here’s a piece of wisdom I’d like to share — Most people respond or act from a place that speaks more about them than you… This new interpretation could alleviate some of your worry and negative feelings.
The practice of mindfulness has been shown to benefit in multiple ways:
Body awareness: Body awareness is the ability to notice subtle sensations in the body and self-report findings indicate that mindfulness leads to greater perceptions of body awareness. Being aware of your internal emotional state is necessary to being able to better regulate those emotions.
Focused attention: Mindfulness practice improves one’s ability to focus attentionon a present task rather than being distracted by worry. Neuroimaging studies have shown that mindfulness increases activation of the brain involved in attention, executive functioning and emotional self-regulation skills. These skills depend on three sub skills: working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control. These functions are highly interrelated, and the successful application of executive function skills requires them to operate in coordination with each other.
Self-perception: Mindfulness also changes one’s perspective of self. Buddhist psychology teaches that the self is not permanent and static, but rather made up of ongoing mental events. Two months of mindfulness meditation practices have been shown to increase self-esteem and self-acceptance.
Physical health: Mindfulness meditation has also been shown to produce other health benefits, such as reduced blood pressure and cortisol levels (a stress hormone).
Mindfulness in Practice
There is no big secret behind mindfulness practices. Any activity can become mindful by focusing on the experience of the present moment. For example, you can either mindlessly gobble down your meal or take a little bit of time and practice mindful eating by looking at the food, smelling the food, noticing the different flavors and the texture of the food while slowly eating it. Not surprisingly, it is much more enjoyable and satisfying when you eat mindfully than when you eat mindlessly. Interestingly, you will also notice that you will consume less when you start eating mindfully.
There are many practices that include mindfulness trainings, such as tai chi, yoga, and zen. There are many styles for each of these activities, so it is worthwhile to experiment with different practices until you find one that suits you. As you become more mindful, you will also notice that you will become more centered, happier, and less depressed and this in turn has a direct positive effect on your anxiety.
How to be Mindful Right Now
Focus on your breath for a few minutes. Feel your chest rise and fall, notice the sensation of the breath as it enters and exits your nose. When your mind wanders, simply return your attention to the breath. Focus on the present moment: the here and now. Notice this very moment; it feels good to be alive, right now.
If you don’t immediately feel a complete release of anxiety, remember: most of the benefits of mindfulness require consistent practice. While some changes bolster against anxiety even after one single yoga class, most benefits require practice. And, like any skill, you will need to continue to practice mindfulness after you start to maintain the improvements.
Although more research is needed to illuminate the mechanisms at work, it’s clear that mindfulness allows us to interrupt automatic, reflexive fight, flight, or freeze reactions—reactions that can lead to anxiety, fear, foreboding, and worry.
By bringing mindfulness to our actual experience in the moment, we can increase the likelihood of exerting more conscious control over our behaviors and attitudes. In so doing we learn to work with our intention, wise effort, will, discipline, and capacity to be kind to ourselves. These are all resources that can be harnessed and cultivated.
Beginner’s mind is an aspect of mind that’s open to seeing from a fresh perspective. Meeting anxiety in this way, with curiosity, can play an extremely important role in transforming your experience. When you’re willing to adopt another point of view, new possibilities arise, and this can help you challenge habitual anxious thoughts and feelings.
You can acknowledge that anxiety is present and how much you don’t like it, even as you apply patience and see anxiety as your current weather system, knowing it will pass.
Nonjudgment means experiencing the present moment without the filters of evaluation. In the midst of anxiety, it can be all too easy to experience a secondary layer of judgment on top of the already uncomfortable anxious feelings. Stepping out of a judgmental mind-set allows you to see more clearly. When you let go of evaluations, many sources of anxiety simply fade away. When you feel anxiety, adopting a nonjudgmental stance can reset your mind into a more balanced state.
Nonstriving is the quality of being willing to meet any experience as it is, without trying to change it. With nonstriving, you understand the importance of being with things as they are—being with your experience without clinging to or rejecting what’s there. (Note that nonstriving relates to your present-moment experiences during meditation and doesn’t in any way negate the value of setting a wise intention to grow, learn, and change your relationship to anxiety.)
In the midst of strong anxiety, the first response is often to flee or get out of the situation. If you can pause and really be with your experience without exerting any force against it, you gain the opportunity to know your experience more clearly and choose your response. You can also become less fearful of the physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions that accompany anxiety.
Worth Reading – From Off the Web
In the past, staying at home was a privilege, a day off, a stay-cation or just an opportunity to relax. However, we are now in a truly strange time. It is mandatory that we stay home and it doesn’t take long for the novelty to wear off. Kids who have complained about getting up in the morning to go to school are now missing it. Technology, which before offered a joyful escape, is now being used for EVERTHING (meaning school work). The opportunity for time together doesn’t resemble the anticipation that would come normally come from a vacation. With the rest of “normal life” has been put on hold, staying at home has never been filled with such dread. Going to school, work and other activities have been removed from our schedules and we are confined in terms of physical and social breadth. Some call it chaotic, disturbing, frightening and depressing.
As we are faced with the challenges inherent to such a new world order, I have become aware that what set structure and order has now has faded away. Now there is no difference between days. Monday is no different than any other day of the week. On a more granular level, there is no demand to go bed at night at a certain time as there is nowhere to go in the morning. It is as if time stands still while we wait, looking for when this uncertainty will end. In the meanwhile we do everything we can to not be part of the story as the virus sweeps across our country and the nature of our social fabric.
So, in this unique time, we are called on to approach our lives in a new way. While we may feel disorientated, this is the moment for us to shift from the demands imposed by the outside world to setting our own rhythms. With the dawning of this awareness, a world of opportunities opens. First, we want to keep the broad architecture of our days consistent. Even when we don’t need to be anywhere in the morning, consider keeping your wakeup time the same day to day. Once up, follow the morning routine as if you were going to be out in the world. Similarly, keep a bedtime routine to avoid disrupting your sleep rhythm and set an outline for your days. Next, consider how you can set one day apart from the next. For example, you might assign chores to particular days- laundry, vacuuming, dusting, cleaning bathrooms, and grocery shopping each on their own day. Larger family tasks like cleaning out the garage, closets or paper stashes can be saved for the weekends, as you would do in normal times. You could also consider making specific meals on designated days of the week to further differentiate one day from the next.
This upheaval also opens the door for new things to emerge. Like the rays of sun that can peak through the clouds, there are unexpected moments of light. We can take the opportunity to reach out to friends we have lost touch with because of the hectic pace of our lives. Consider building a new habit of mindfulness, noticing the present moment. Use your newfound time to be deliberate about noticing the sights, smells, tastes, sounds and touch you experience. While we often brush past these aspects of experience, slowing down to notice these things becomes a resource to rely on. Practicing mindfulness can keep us grounded in the present, rather than getting lost in memories or being carried away by fears about the future.
We now notice that what we formerly thought was essential drops away. Our priorities are now reshuffled. No longer rushed to get dinner on the table between scheduling demands, we have time to explore new recipes. Now is also a good time to add self-care into your routine. Exercise is known to help with management of stress, invaluable in such a challenging time. Consider scheduling a daily 30-minute walk. With time to stroll the neighborhood, we have an opportunity to make new connections and build a sense of community. Plan a daily appointed time to meet in the street, standing six feet apart, to share ideas, a laugh or to find out what each other may need. This time of crisis drives a resetting of priorities where disagreements that may have separated us in the past can now melt away as there is more that unites us as we all face the same enemy. Practice appreciation for those who provide essential services, doctors, nurses, maintenance, mail, trash, delivery, grocery store employees. Even missed celebrations, birthdays, graduations or anniversaries can be honored in a new way by reaching out. Homemade signs and cakes can lead to new traditions.
Finally, finding new ventures can build a sense of control in this upset world. Consider what you can do for others. From sewing masks to reaching out to those in your community who may not be able to get groceries on their own, doing for others is uplifting. This can also be a time to take on a new goal or challenge to build your confidence. Learn a new language, take an online class, teach yourself how to knit, work with wood, or build something new. Rather than stagnation, this unexpected pause in the flow of life can open the door to opportunities to discover and grow new skills building confidence and resilience. It is when our metal is tested, that we grow our character, turning fear to confidence, vulnerability to taking control, and our upside down topsy-turvy world to one that is ordered, nurturant and remarkably growthful