Ever drive somewhere on autopilot, arrive to your destination and think, “how did I get here..?”. Or perhaps you have a tv show on, get to the end of the episode and realize you weren’t watching it at all? We’ve all been there; lost in a deep sea of thoughts, unaware of the world around us. While our minds are busy pondering what to cook for dinner – a B.I.G. deal in my household! – we’re not fully present in the moment. We’re physically there but our thoughts are in a galaxy far, far away…. Needless to say, we’re not practicing mindfulness in those moments.
While it may seem as though being deep in thought is a practice of mindfulness, I mean come on- you are technically in your own head, it’s actually quite the opposite! Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment.
It’s not watching tv while being on our cell phones (guilty as charged)!
It’s not pondering who the bachelor is going to eliminate on tonight’s episode (Hannah Ann – girl, bye!) while in a work meeting.
And it is most certainly not checking out during the middle of a conversation – AHEM, I’m looking at you, husbands
What then, is mindfulness?
“Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.”
Mindfulness is like when you first go on a date with someone you really like. While on the date, you’re fully present and engaged in the moment. You’re having a great conversation, you’re not worried about what time it is or who’s doing what on Facebook. No phones!
You’re just simply……
Enjoying the moment.
Remember what that felt like?
There was no pretenses, no distractions, no judging your thoughts or emotions! You. Were. There. In the moment, soaking up every second of it. “Right here, right now,” as I like to say. That, my friends, is mindfulness. And it’s great – isn’t it?
Think about the last time you were angry. Like, really angry. So angry you’re seeing red; smashing things like the Hulk, yelling, screaming foolish things you ended up regretting and acting like a crazy person (let’s be honest – I can’t be the only person who throws a tantrum like a 5 year old when I’m angry!) You said, or screamed, those things because you were upset and weren’t thinking straight.
Now imagine if, in those moments, you were able to take a step back, evaluate the situation and respond in a different way. You’d be able to respond more like Bruce Banner than the Hulk.
You’re fully aware of your thoughts and emotions but you aren’t lost in them. What would that look like? It’d look a lot better than a bunch of smashed dishes, that’s for sure. Fear not! I’ve never broken a dish intentionally before, although I always thought it would be fun to do so at a Greek party. Smashing dishes and yelling “OPA!” sounds like a great stress reliever, if I do say so myself!
Mindfulness is a key component in being able to process through thoughts and emotions, respond properly instead of responding based upon your emotions at that moment in time.
Take note! Being in a mindful state does not mean you’ll be cool as a cucumber all the time – although that would be nice! You will have emotions, you will get upset, but mindfulness will help you stay grounded by keeping you in the present with your thoughts.
Wondering about your mindfulness state? Check out MAAS – a 15 item scale that evaluates mindfulness. Come on, you know you want too! It’s much more practical than the “We’ll Tell You Which Country to Visit By The Outfit You Choose;” not that I’ve taken that quiz or anything….
One of the great things about mindfulness is that it allows us to think and feel without judgement. It allows us to think all the thoughts and feel all the emotions without punishing ourselves when we think or feel “incorrectly.” Mindfulness has many other positive attributes:
- Good for the Body
- Improves Focus
- Increases Compassion
- Changes the Way We View Ourselves (for the better, obviously)
- Fights Obesity
Often, we can get mindfulness confused with meditation. While similar, there are differences amongst the two. Merriam-Webster defines meditation as the following:
- To engage in compilation or reflection
- To engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness
Mediation does not come naturally. It is a learned skill that takes practice and training, just as you would practice or train for a sport. You wouldn’t just walk onto a tennis court for the first time and expect to hit 10 backhands in a row. It takes practice to quiet the mind, tune out the noise and focus.
Canceling out the noise and head trash has great benefits, as you can imagine! Some of which include:
- Stress Reduction
- Reduces Anxiety
- Improves Self-image
- Promotes Sleep improvement
- Decrease Blood pressure
But wait, there’s more! Not only are there great benefits to meditation, there are also different types of meditation, including but not limited to (you guessed it!): mindful meditation. Mindful meditation allows the participant to observe thoughts as they pass through the mind. Because it is mindfulness, you’re not condemning or judging the thoughts, you’re simply observing them.
Remember that scene from “Eat, Pray Love” where Elizabeth Gilbert, played by Julia Roberts, is in India at the ashram trying to meditate but struggling to do so? I’d venture to say that’s not uncommon, the mind is a busy place, which is why mindful meditation is so useful. It allows you to acknowledge your thoughts and then lets them pass on.
Feel like you need a refresher on mindful meditation? Perhaps you’re new to this whole meditation thing and not sure how to get started… then you’re in luck (SPOILER ALERT – SHAMEFUL PLUG IS COMING IN HOT AND HEAVY) cause during the month of February we’re offering Mindful Meditation classes. For more information, click HERE!
“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.”
(Elizabeth Gilbert – Eat, Pray, Love)
“What is mindfulness?” headspace.com.
https://www.headspace.com/mindfulness 25 January 2020.
Kirk Warren Brown, PH.D. & Richard M. Ryan, PH.D. “Mindful Attention Awareness Scale.” 2003. Ppc.sas.upenn.edu. https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/resources/questionnaires-researchers/mindful-attention-awareness-scale 25 January 2020.
Berkley, University of California. “What is Mindfulness?” 2020. Greatergood.berkeley.edu. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition#what-is-mindfulness 25 January 2020.
Matthew Thorpe, MD PhD. “12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation.” 5 July 2027. Healthline.com. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation#section9 25 January 2020.
“Meditation 101: Techniques, Benefits, and a Beginner’s How-To.” Gaiam.com. https://www.gaiam.com/blogs/discover/meditation-101-techniques-benefits-and-a-beginner-s-how-to 25 January 2020.
Eat, Pray, Love. Dir. Ryan Murphy. Columbia Pictures. 2010. Film.