“The world is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” - W.B. Yeats
“Be where you are, otherwise you will miss your life.” – Buddha
Does the word mindfulness make you roll your eyes a little? Perhaps it seems like some buzzword reserved for yogi’s or highly spiritual people? Like it’s just not for someone like you...
Well, I have a confession. Those were the kind of thoughts I had about mindfulness, not all that long ago. Since completing Mindful in May, I've realised just how mistaken I’ve been for years. I used to think mindfulness was a state of blissful nirvana simply unachievable for someone with a racing mind like me. Turns out I just never really took the time to understand it, or give it a proper go.
By no means am I a ‘master’ of mindfulness now (nor is that what the ultimate goal of mindfulness actually is) - I’m just someone who now better understands what mindfulness actually means, and I’m enjoying taking small steps to practically introduce it into my lifestyle.
So, in the off-chance you might be having similar thoughts to the ones I’ve had before - I wanted to share a few ‘mindfulness mythbusters’ that I’ve discovered over the past month or so.
The goal of mindfulness is not to achieve a certain mindset: Mindfulness is simply a moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings and sensations; a powerful antidote to the hustle and bustle of our fast-paced lives. There’s no blissful state to try and achieve. Instead, you’re simply trying to pay attention to the present moment, without judgement.
Meditation is not the only way to practice mindfulness: Although meditation is a hugely powerful way of practicing mindfulness (and it's now become a wonderful daily habit for me), it’s not the only way. Mindfulness can be as simple as observing your breathing, going for a walk in nature and paying attention to your surroundings, taking mini breaks throughout the day to check in on yourself and how you're feeling, journaling, colouring in, knitting and many other simple activities that increase your awareness of the present moment.
Mindfulness is not only reserved for yogi’s or heavily spiritual people: Mindfulness is a natural quality that we all have. It’s available to us in every moment if we take the time to appreciate it. When we practice mindfulness, we’re practicing the art of creating space for ourselves—space to think, space to breathe, space between ourselves and our reactions.
You don’t need to be ‘good at’ quieting your mind: As you practice paying attention to what’s going on in your body and mind at the present moment, your mind will drift, but that’s not something to fear. Researchers say that the essential piece of mindfulness practice is actually the moment when you recognise that your mind has wandered. Because if you can notice that your mind has wandered, then you can consciously bring it back to the present moment. So, basically - it’s absolutely no hindrance that I consider myself an overthinker, so long as I recognise my thoughts and use that recognition to then return to the present each time.
Mindfulness is not 'good vibes only': Mindfulness is all about increasing awareness of what’s going on - without judgement. Try not to judge yourself for whatever thoughts that come up when practicing mindfulness - positive, negative or in-between. Simply check-in with yourself, notice these thoughts without judgement and let them pass.
Mindfulness doesn’t take a lot of time: although there are many benefits of practicing mindfulness more and more often, research has shown that just 10 minutes of mindfulness a day adds significant positive benefits to your life. If you have time to have a shower, you have time to practice mindfulness (you might even like to do both at once!)
If you’re still feeling skeptical, take note of the piles of research indicating the numerous benefits mindfulness can have. When practiced regularly, mindfulness can bring more calm and effectiveness into everyday life, reducing stress and enhancing mental capacity. It has been shown to relax your body, calm your mind, build greater wisdom, enhance feelings of gratitude, improve connection with others and increase feelings of contentment.
Personally, since introducing mindfulness practices like meditation 1-2 times a day, I have noticed significant improvements in my sleep, in my feelings of gratitude, in my ability to be more present and also improvements in my mood and how I regulate emotion.
There's no 'cheat' or quick and easy shortcut to happiness, but I honestly think that regularly practicing mindfulness and learning to enjoy the present moment is about as close as it gets. After all, it helps us focus on all the things we do have - rather than what we don't.
I encourage you to give mindfulness a shot (especially if you’re one of the ‘it’s just not for me’ people, like I was) - and stick with it for more than just one go, especially as there are so many different practices out there so there are some you will enjoy more than others. There are plenty of free resources that can help you practice mindfulness - apps like Headspace and Calm do have some great free options but a quick Google search and you’ll be able to find so many.