Mindfulness is an important topic in the self-help community and has grown in popularity the past few years.
Despite this, many people don't quite understand what mindfulness is. How does someone actually act mindfully?
In this short article we will discuss this concept, why it's important, and ways to implement mindfulness into your own life.
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of your own thoughts, emotions, and actions. In other words, it's the ability to be fully aware of yourself.
Right now you might be thinking, "Well of course I'm aware of myself. If I wasn't then how could I get anything done?". That's a common thought process however it misses an important point: we tend to run on autopilot.
Have you ever driven somewhere and been surprised as to how you got there? You were lost in thought thinking about all of the important things going on in your life, while your body was on autopilot steering you toward your destination.
Or how about walking? That's about as simple of a task as you'll ever do. When you're walking you don't focus on every step, making sure to lift each leg, move it forward, and plant it firmly on the ground before repeating with your other leg. Instead, you simply walk.
In motor activities like driving and walking, a slight lack of awareness is exactly what we need. If we were too focused on each movement then the activity wouldn't be as fluid.
However when it comes to our thoughts, emotions, and actions, mindfulness is critical. For example if we aren't aware of our anger or depression, we can easily become lost in it. By becoming lost in the inner workings of our minds, we easily lose control of ourselves.
This leads to dissatisfaction and the inability to cope with the stresses of life.
WHY MINDFULNESS IS IMPORTANT
When we become mindful of our emotions, we take a step toward self-control. We learn to liberate ourselves from the chains of our emotions.
As a result this helps decrease our stress levels, helps us gain a sense of control of our emotions, allows us to better deal with tough situations, and even leads to greater levels of happiness.
Being mindful of our negative emotions will, in time, decrease those emotions overall. For example if you have a tendency to get angry a lot, mindfulness will actually decrease how often you become angry. It's important to note that when we're experiencing negative emotions, that's when we're most unaware so it's crucial that we remember to be mindful.
Mindfulness will help you see the beauty around you. It will help you REALLY experience the world as it is. The smells, the sounds, the foods you eat, and the things you feel. Not being mindful only leads to a robotic life of going through the same motions again and again without ever truly experiencing them.
Mindfulness will act as your tool to stay calm. It will help you in stressful situations where if you lose your cool, it could lead to a bad result.
It will also help you when dealing with someone who is upset with you. If you take the road of mindfulness, you can react to their emotions intelligently instead of getting lost in your own emotions in the process. Instead of fighting them, you remain calm and listen to them. As a result their anger will decrease.
Mindfulness will create a sense of peace within you that others will begin to notice and be drawn to.
THE TWO MINDS
Buddhist philosophy teaches that there are two minds: the Thinking and Observing Mind.
The Thinking Mind is the one that blabbers on all day about random things in your life, and the Observing Mind is the one that watches it.
It's important to note that mindfulness means simply watching your emotions as they occur, while not judging them or reacting to them. Don't tell yourself that you shouldn't be feeling this way and make sure not to act on those emotions.
As practitioners of mindfulness, we want to associate ourselves with the Observing Mind. We want to notice the thoughts and emotions running through us. We do not try to stop them or control them, but rather let them take their course.
Most people are only associated with their Thinking Mind, and are thus completely controlled by it. They're never truly aware of their thoughts, emotions, and actions.
The more we do this, the stronger the Observing Mind will become and the less control the Thinking Mind begins to have over us.
HOW TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
Start with something simple. Grab a stopwatch and watch your breath for 60 seconds. Focus on it completely. Notice how the air feels as it enters your nose, and the quick sense of relaxation you get when you exhale. If you're new to mindfulness, you'll quickly notice how many thoughts begin to fill your mind. Just revert your attention back to your breath. This is the basis of meditation.
The next time you feel happy, notice it. Be with the happiness, this is what we want, but be aware of it. Notice how amazing it feels.
The next time someone angers you, instead of allowing the anger to take over, take a step back and simply watch the emotion. Don't judge yourself for being angry. It's a natural human feeling, sometimes it happens. Accept it and watch it. You'll see how much quicker it will go away rather than if you had gotten lost in the anger and allowed it to take over.
Take things a step further and notice someone else's emotions. Don't judge the person for their emotions and make sure not to allow them to affect you. This takes much practice. Not only do we have to be mindful and in control of ourselves, but we must also have a sense for what the other person is experiencing. Stay calm in the face of their emotional storm and you'll notice how you will influence them to calm down and ultimately be able to control the situation.