Sometimes fast is good, like when I'm starving and I've ordered a pizza delivery. And sometimes fast is bad, like in everyday life when things are just moving way too fast and I can't keep up. That's when mindfulness is my superpower.
When everything feels overwhelming mindfulness helps me feel calmer. When I practice mindfulness, time literally seems to slow down. I forget about the past and future. I'm instantly transported to the present moment and then I breathe again and I'm at peace.
It's not just me. Research suggests that practiced regularly, mindfulness can improve a variety of psychological problems. It can reduce anxiety symptoms, negative emotions, depression and stress. And today I'm going to share some tips on how to practice mindfulness to get you started.
WHAT DOES PRACTICING MINDFULNESS MEAN?
Practising mindfulness means doing things consciously with full awareness. It's the opposite of doing things on autopilot. Like when we drive to work. We know the route, we don't have to think about it, we go on autopilot, and the next thing we know, we're sitting at our desk in the office wondering how we got there. That's autopilot.
We do lots of things on autopilot. The more mundane, the more likely we are to do it on autopilot. Like cleaning the house and getting ready for work. When we do things on autopilot, our mind wanders all over the place. It's not focused on what we're doing.
Our mind is doing something completely different. Like when we're driving to work, our minds are mulling over what you're going to have for dinner tonight, how you're going to lose those 10 lbs before the Bali holiday, and why on earth your best friend is dating that loser. Lost in an endless stream of thoughts.
HOW TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
Mindfulness is the opposite. When we do things mindfully, we do them with total awareness. Instead of being on autopilot, we are completely focused on the moment. Totally aware of everything that is arising in that moment.
So, if we're having a shower we notice the pressure of the water, the temperature of the water, how the soap suds feel on our body, the smell of the soap, the contrast between the air and water temperatures, the sound of the fan, and how the light catches the water droplets.
When we focus on the moment and every detail in that moment, we move out of our head and into our bodies. And all our senses come alive. It's not that we shower any slower. Mindfulness isn't necessarily about slowing down. It's just that when we're mindful or when we do things mindfully, time seems to slow down. It's a strange phenomenon, but that's why mindfulness is my superpower. In a fast-paced world, it's almost like we can stop the clock.
BEST MINDFULNESS PRACTICES
There are lots of mindfulness exercises on the internet. But the best way to learn is by doing a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course or a Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) course. These courses also include a bit of psychology. They help you understand how your mind is colouring your experience of the world and causing undue stress or anxiety. They're usually 8 sessions over 8 weeks and are usually done in groups.
While there are tons of meditation apps, I really recommend doing mindfulness training in person and in a group because you learn so much more, Plus you have more support integrating mindfulness exercises into daily life. These courses are life-changing and really worth the commitment. I love them so much I did several courses before I became an MBSR teacher. And each time my practice went deeper and my superpower got stronger!
PRACTICING MINDFULNESS IN EVERYDAY LIFE
What I love about mindfulness is that you don't have to find time to do it. There are two types of mindfulness practice. Formal practice is a meditation technique where you take time out of your day to sit and meditate. That takes extra time and effort.
And then there's mindfulness practices that don't take up any extra time or effort. Active or informal practice is where you incorporate mindfulness into your daily life. Like when you're exercising, cooking, brushing your teeth, walking, eating, and doing your hair and makeup. Any moment really that doesn't take brain effort and cognition.
Having a regular mindfulness practice isn't difficult with active exercises because you're not trying to introduce a new habit like sitting meditation. You don't change what you do, you change how you do it. All you have to do is focus on the present moment, paying attention to everything that arises like your emotions, thoughts and the physical sensations of your breath moving.
My favourite active or informal mindfulness daily routine is opening the shutters in the morning. It's like welcoming the new day with all its potential. The light streams into the house, and the sound of birds signals that spring is here. I breathe in the fresh air, and that reminds me of an English summer's day, and a smile creeps across my face.
My other daily practice isn't quite as lovely, I practice mindfulness when walking upstairs and putting the dishes away. But that's the thing about mindfulness. It's about being in the moment however it arises, whether it's the excitement of boarding a plane for a holiday or doing the grocery shopping.
WAYS TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
INFORMAL MINDFULNESS EXERCISES
There are no limits to introducing mindfulness as an informal practice into your life. Because it's just a shift of focus. I think the hard thing is remembering to shift your focus from your monkey mind to your bodily sensations. Here's a few ideas to get you going. Try sticking a Post-it reminder nearby so you don't forget to stay focused on what you're doing.
☼ Making and drinking your morning coffee
☼ Mindful exercise at the gym
☼ Potting plants
☼ Active listening to music or your friends and family
☼ Hanging out with your pet
☼ Walking meditation
☼ Mindful shopping
☼ Lying on the beach
FORMAL MINDFULNESS MEDITATION PRACTICE
There are many types of meditation techniques. And they all affect our brains in different ways. Mindfulness meditation changes our brain by improving attention and perception. Another reason it's a superpower. That's why it's really worth finding time to do your formal mindfulness exercise too.
You can use guided meditation to get you started. I've included a short list to help you find them on your favorite platform or app. Find a quiet space where you won't be disturbed. You can lie down if you are doing a body scan exercise. But it's way too easy to drift off to sleep so try sitting up for all the other practices.
It's great if you have discipline and are able to do regular practice. But if you don't, don't let that put you off. And don't let it stress you. If you only get around to doing formal practice once in a month, no worries. Once is better than never, and you'll feel great after knowing you've done something to improve your well-being.
MINDFULNESS IMPROVES MENTAL HEALTH
Over the last few decades, scientific research into the benefits of mindfulness skills has been mounting. This has enabled psychologists to conduct meta-analysis studies on the benefits. Despite the difficulties in researching mindfulness interventions, the results of behaviour research are clear. It's a powerful tool for improving emotional regulation and general psychological well-being. That's why mindfulness matters in today's world.
But it's important to know that most studies are based on the MBSR and MBCT 8-week courses. So if you want to overcome the stress of today's fast-paced world with your mindfulness superpower, sign up for an 8-week course and give yourself the best gift you've ever received.
Written by Kirsti Formoso - Wellness Writer for Koraru
Kirsti Formoso is a wellness writer and researcher. She is passionate about holistic health and wellbeing. She has over 30 years of experiential knowledge in personal and spiritual development, and a Masters of Science in Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology. She is also a peer reviewer for two scientific journals specialising in Transpersonal Psychology. When she’s not writing she can be found working on her vegetable plot, hiking in the mountains and breathing in all the wonders nature has to offer.