Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on your current experience, of giving the here-and-now your full attention without any judgment.
It sounds beautiful and so very simple, doesn't it?
And it genuinely is.
So why aren't we all doing it?
Well, because life!
Because when the day that stretches out in front of you consists of a never-ending to do list that seems impossible to squeeze into a week, let alone 24 hours, sitting in a dimly lit room with your legs crossed in total peace and serenity seems a little far-fetched to say the least.
Paradoxically though, it is for this precise reason that we all need a pinch of mindfulness in our daily lives. Human life has evolved at a far quicker rate than our brains or bodies have been able to and the fact is we simply aren't designed to experience such high levels of stress on a continual basis, to have so many responsibilities to juggle or to be distracted and overwhelmed by the constant barrage of information that we are ceaselessly exposed to. And with research suggesting that we have around 60,000 thoughts every day, we need to develop ways to sift through and hone in on what really matters for us.
Mindfulness offers us just that; a return to simplicity, a break from everything that envelops us on a daily basis and a chance to take back control and choose where we want to focus our attention.
Being mindful is a way of being that will enable you to live more gratefully, more calmly and ultimately more happily and the benefits are not only hugely desirable, they are also scientifically proven. They include being better able to regulate your emotions, having increased focus and resilience, enjoying reduced stress levels, an improved immune system and a better overall mood.
Sounds ideal, sign me up baby!
Without wanting to be too frilly about it, it is more of an attitude than an action and is in no way a quick fix or an easy journey, but there are plenty of small, practical steps you can take that will start you on the right path. And they don't need to be onerous or time-consuming. The last thing we want is to add another item to that to-do list after all!
So let's keep it simple and get cracking shall we?
And when I say simple, I mean REEEAAAALLLY simple.
I'm talking breathing. Yes, just breathing!
Start by inhaling slowly and deeply, filling your lungs up to the count of 4. Now hold that breath for a few seconds, say 5. And now breathe out slowly, for a count of 6. Go on, do it now!
Feels weirdly good right? Do it again then! In fact, do it at least 4 or 5 times to really feel more settled and for a clearer head.
What's next? I hear you cry.
Whatever you want! By focusing on your breathing, you are ridding your poor frazzled mind of unwanted and unnecessary thoughts, clearing space for you to identify what's happening in your body and how you are feeling and enabling you to examine thoughts in a more controlled and orderly way.
So from here, you could explore your thoughts and feelings using the breath as your focus or for the time being you may just enjoy the simplicity of this exercise. Everyone's mindfulness journey will look different depending on their needs, personal tastes and life circumstances.
As a next port of call, why not find a guided meditation that resonates with you? There are some amazing ones online. Or how about taking turns at bedtime tonight to share with your child what you are grateful for today?
And there you have it, you have taken your first tentative steps on your maiden voyage into mindfulness. Simple, effective, achievable and realistic among the daily mayhem!