By Dr. Sweta Venkataramanan
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness means paying attention to the here and now, to the present moment, and not getting carried away by your inner thoughts. Mindfulness makes you experience the world with curiosity and openness and helps bring you back when your attention starts to wander.
Being mindful, being more conscious of your surroundings as it’s happening around you, may seem counterintuitive to those who are living to pursue their long-term goals, but research indicates developing mindfulness will help you achieve your goals while also enjoying everyday moments as they are happening. Mindfulness increases brain activity in areas associated with emotion regulation and attention. Being more focused, you can accomplish tasks faster and with greater ease.
Who should use mindfulness?
In a world where our lifestyles are characterized by sleep deprivation, multitasking, and stress, anyone can benefit from mindfulness practices. According to the National Institute of Health’s PubMed database, there have been over 500 scientific studies on mindfulness and its benefits on the brain and a person’s overall well-being. Learning to cultivate a non-judgmental, focused awareness of the present moment can improve immune system functioning, lower blood pressure, and increase your sleep effectiveness.
Mindfulness is also correlated with reduced stress and anxiety, increased emotion regulation and improved attention and concentration. In addition, growing evidence exists to use mindfulness-based-interventions to alleviate symptoms of major depression and manage chronic physical conditions. When people are depressed, they’re often locked in the past and unable to let go of something that happened. By contrast, when anxious, the ruminations are about the future and the anticipation of what cannot be controlled. By being mindful and focusing on the here and now, people can learn to direct their attention to what is happening in the present and worry less about the past or future
Tips for Living Mindfully
Living mindfully means embracing the moment-to-moment experiences of your thoughts and feelings with openness and acceptance and bringing more awareness to each activity. Follow these three tips to practice mindfulness in your daily routine:
- Work to decrease multi-tasking
- Doing one thing at a time will increase your attention and concentration to the task at hand and help you get things done quicker. When you’re brushing your teeth, just brush your teeth. When you’re eating, just eat. When you’re getting dressed, just get dressed.
- Listen (better)
- How many times do you find yourself getting lost in your own thoughts when speaking to people? Rather than getting caught up in your own thoughts, really listen to the other person – pay attention. Being present will help you enjoy your time more with that person and feel more engaging. Maintaining eye contact and asking questions can help you stay in the present moment.
- Take time to do nothing
- Don’t feel that you always need to be doing something. Simply be. Take five minutes daily to sit and notice your breath. Notice the world around you. Start to become comfortable with stillness.
If you’re interested in learning more about incorporating mindfulness practices into your daily life, reach out to one of our therapists for more information.