The Life-Changing Magic of Mindfulness Practice

The Life-Changing Magic of Mindfulness Practice

Concentration. It has been something I struggled with since I was about 16. As a kid, I could spend hours and hours completely focussed on a book, not even noting what was happening around me. How I miss those days!

When I moved away from home to make a living as a freelancer and travel the world, I realized how easily I got distracted by my thoughts, keeping me from being truly productive and reaching my full potential.

Some days I would work until late night, wondering why I was still sitting on my computer when being freelance was supposed to be the better solution to the 9-to-5 grind. I sort of knew the answer: Too many hours of the day went by, that I was lost in thought, having one idea after the other rushing through my mind without a clear outcome. I simply didn’t know what to do about it and thought, that’s just the way it is.

I would try to do 5 things at a time, having lunch, answering messages on Instagram, scheduling a client call and following the news on the radio while thinking about my travel plans for the next month. Being stuck in a perpetual state of work-related anxiety when I was supposed to relax and enjoy my beautiful environment and making new friends.

I knew I had to do something about it

When I moved to Australia, I was lucky enough to be living in a beautiful tranquil Sydney home (Thanks, TrustedHousesitters!). I had decided that it was the perfect setting to get into yoga and committed to a ’30 minutes a day’ challenge, hoping it would help to relieve my PCOS symptoms. The new home had a large terrace, so every morning at 9 am, I would take my beach towel (no, I didn’t and still don’t have a matt) and go through my asanas. And what a difference it made!

I started to read a lot about yoga, mindfulness and a more holistic lifestyle, inspired by a couple of amazing people in my life. One of them was urging me to try meditation, as he claimed, it had changed his life for the better.

But I was afraid that it would be difficult to sit down every day for an hour or more and do NOTHING when I had a packed schedule. However, hearing of the impact it had on others made me curious.


Everybody is talking about it: Mindfulness – But what does it mean?

Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of where you are and what you’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you.

I was intrigued, and did want to give it a try!

I was recommended to use an app to guide me through my meditation and track the progress: Headspace! Headspace is a wonderful guide and helped me to easily implement the habit of meditating every day. I started with 10 minutes per day, increased it to 20 minutes when the time would start to fly by and am now at 30 minutes per day – two months into the journey and having skipped only 2 days (let’s be honest here).

The Headspace app teaches you in a very sympathetic way how to become aware of your thoughts, emotions and physical state. I also found that I didn’t need to take a big chunk out of my time to practice mindfulness. Small daily practices ended up being a perfect stepping stone to longer meditation sessions. So I started to implement mindfulness practices into my everyday life. But more on that further below…


The Benefits of Mindfulness Practice

There’s growing research showing that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re actually remodeling the physical structure of your brain!

Scientifically Proven Benefits of Mindfulness

Mindfulness Reduces Anxiety

In a 2013 Massachusetts General Hospital study, 93 individuals with a generalized anxiety disorder were randomly assigned to an 8-week group intervention with mindfulness-based stress reduction or to a control group, stress management education. The group that went through the mindfulness program was associated with a significantly greater reduction in anxiety! (Forbes, 14.July 2016)

Mindfulness May Prevent And Treat Depression

The mindfulness-based depression therapy combines elements from mindfulness-based stress reduction and cognitive behavioral therapy. According to American Psychological Association, “The mindfulness therapy is a program that incorporates mindfulness exercises including yoga, body awareness and daily homework, such as eating or doing household chores, with full attention to what one is doing, moment by moment.” This helps the patients to recognize what’s happening, engage with it in a different way and respond to it with equanimity and compassion.

Mindfulness Practice Increases Body Satisfaction

A study conducted by the researchers Ellen R. Albertson, Kristin D. Neff and Karen E. Dill-Shackleford shows that meditation helps to reduce body dissatisfaction, body shaming and contingent self-worth based on appearance. On the other side meditation results in greater gains in self-compassion and body appreciation.

Mindfulness Meditation Improves Cognition

Some researchers are finding that even short mindfulness training may improve cognitive abilities. Moreover, brief mindfulness training significantly improves visual processing, working memory, and executive functioning.

Researchers conclude that their findings suggest, that only four days of meditation training can enhance the ability to sustain attention; benefits that have previously been reported only with long-term meditators!

In a nutshell: Practicing mindfulness enhances your ability to feel more integrated and to act with integrity.It improves your ability to focus your attention. You are better able to slow the racing thoughts that lead you to engage in limiting or self-sabotaging behaviors. Mindfulness helps you to understand your mental and physical pain. It strengthens your resilience and enhances your capacity to experience the joys of everyday life. – Sounds like magic, doesn’t it?

Mindfulness is an incredible tool to help you understand, tolerate, and deal with your emotions in healthy ways. It helps to alter habitual responses by taking pause and choosing how to act.

When you are mindful, you’ll experience your life as you live it. You recognize the thoughts you are having. In doing so, you learn how your mind works, and are better able to label the thoughts and feelings you are having, instead of allowing them to overpower you and dictate your behavior.

How to Practice Mindfulness

 

  1. Set aside some time: Maybe 5 minutes, maybe 10 or 20 minutes. You don’t need any sort of special equipment to access your mindfulness —but you do need to set aside some time and space.
  2. Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind. You’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgment.
  3. Let your thoughts roll by. When you notice thoughts arise during your practice, take a mental note of them, and let them pass.
  4. Return to observing the present moment as it is. Your minds often gets carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.
  5. Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.

That’s it! That’s the practice. It’s often been said that it’s very simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. The work is to just keep doing it. Results will come!

Mindfulness in Everyday Life – 5 Mindfulness Practices to Help You Focus

Do you ever feel like you’re too busy for meditation?

You understand the benefits, and you’d really like to commit to it. But you’re a busy person. You have deadlines to meet, food to prepare, kids to raise, workouts to do, or calls to make — and that’s barely scratching the surface of your to-do list.

As you start to see the benefits of these daily practices, you’ll feel more focused, energized, and you can move on to longer focused meditation sessions. Start taking a few moments out of your day to practice mindfulness now, and you’ll enjoy the rewards for years to come.

Daily Mindfulness Practices

  • Make Your Bed

Making your bed first thing in the morning is a great opportunity to practice mindfulness in a few minutes. Try to be completely engaged in the activity, putting all your attention into the folding of the sheets and the feeling of the fabric on your skin.

  • Talk to Someone

Try to be completely present in the conversation, making eye contact and listening to what they say without thinking about what you want to add next or where you’re going to be later. Focus on the other person’s facial expressions and fully engage in the conversation.

  • Listen to Music

Listening to relaxing music before you leave the house in the morning is a great way to center yourself. Completely immerse yourself in the song. Be aware of the volume, cadence, tempo, the uniqueness of the sounds. How does the music make you feel?

  • Write a To-Do List by Hand

Whether you do this first thing in the morning or last thing at night, creating a to-do list can quell anxieties and bring your attention to exactly what you have to do throughout the day. Using an old-fashioned pen and paper will help you be more mindful then typing on your phone.

  • 5 Minutes of Do-Nothing Time

No checking your phone. No reading a newspaper. Just sit there, and if any feelings come up—discomfort, restlessness, or even guilt that you’re not doing anything—just note them, and let them go without forcing it. Most of the time we’re so wrapped up in doing something ‘productive’ that it’s difficult to just sit still and do nothing.


That’s it! I hope this article got you curious about mindfulness and that you might give meditation and daily mindfulness practice a try! Don’t forget, Headspace offers a free 10-day trial (which is what got me hooked, too!). You’ll see, it doesn’t take long before you will start to see the mental clarity and amazing benefits that this daily action brings with it.

Best, Jen May

Resources:

The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness(link is external)

Video: You Are Not Your Thoughts

9-Minute Mindfulness Practice with Sam Harris

 

9 Replies to “The Life-Changing Magic of Mindfulness Practice”

  1. Mindfulness should be present in everyone’s life. This practice as amazing benefits. We’ve been living according mindfulness and introducing it in every single aspect of our lives. We couldn’t be more happier, focused and aware of our own being.
    Lovely post and thoughts 😀
    xx

    Freeoversea
    http://www.freeoversea.com

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