You may have heard people extolling the benefits of “mindfulness,” but you might not know what it means. You’re not alone. The simplest definition of mindfulness is just being present – paying attention to what you’re doing in the present time. As simple as that sounds, it can present a challenge to some people, especially when life is hectic or overwhelming. The stress and pressure of the modern world may result in you constantly thinking or worrying about things you need to do next, from hour to hour or in the months and years to come. If this sounds like you, then your level of stress means you are far removed from being mindful. But you can change course, and you should.
Health professionals continually encourage patients to find ways of reducing the stress in their lives. Stress alone creates a slew of problems and can cause many debilitating diseases, even shortening lifespans and hampering quality of life in the process.
Perhaps your stress comes from a complicated relationship or a demanding career that has proven more difficult than you planned for. The only way to solve these stress-producing situations is to end the relationship or find another line of work. Obviously, making such drastic changes could lead to even more stress, since you’d lose out on the support of a partner or the fulfilling sense of purpose that work can bring.
And while you shouldn’t stay in a relationship or a job that consistently stresses you out, it’s not always possible or practical to make sudden life changes. That’s where pursuing other stress-relieving techniques, like mindfulness, comes into play. The benefits of mindfulness include:
- Less pain
- A better sex life
- Clearer thinking and better decision-making
- Improved memory and mood
- Increased sense of compassion and empathy
- Better focus and longer attention span
Results from practicing mindfulness will vary, of course, but studies show that people who meditate to achieve mindfulness experience less pain and discomfort because meditation increases the threshold for pain. Women, specifically, may have better sexual experiences by practicing mindfulness. This practice also improves neurological functions, like memory, concentration, creativity, attention span and decision-making skills. Being mindful can also help you relate better to other people, making you more empathetic.
How to Get Started
While you probably would like to reach a more calm and peaceful state of mind, you may not know how to get there. Mindfulness isn’t something that just happens overnight. There are intentional steps that you take to realize its benefits. If you have never before thought about achieving a mindful state, the best plan is to begin on a basic level.
Concentrate on the flavor of foods, the pleasant feelings of warmth or the beauty of nature. Consistent meditation is more effective than setting a minimum time schedule. It’s easier to maintain regular mindfulness techniques within a shorter time frame, and the results are just as rewarding. You can begin by taking steps to become mindful. Find things that give you joy, like gardening, walking or making a favorite recipe.
There are some common life situations that you could use while seeking mindfulness to achieve your goal. Daydreaming, an activity most people engage in regularly, might not be a productive use of your time even if it’s a good exercise in creativity. If you need to focus, try mindfulness instead. An effective way for you to achieve mindfulness is to prevent your mind from wandering while doing simple tasks. Focus on breathing, enjoying the flavor of food during meals, feeling the ground while walking or concentrating on the beauty of music.
Mindfulness isn’t just a state of mind. It’s how you approach life, a direct and purposeful activity to achieving peace of mind. Guilt, for instance, is a feeling that most people struggle with at one time or another, but you can overcome guilt by learning to forgive yourself for regret or things outside of your control. As an individual, you have unique character strengths that you can use to overcome any feelings of inadequacy and find the peace and self-acceptance you desire.
The value of meditation for mental, emotional and physical health has long been recognized by health professionals. However, it is important to note that meditation to achieve mindfulness does not need to be done in a specific place, position or time frame. Even short periods of introspection can help you reduce the feelings of frustration and stress that interfere with your life.