How to Practice Mindfulness

Ever driven to work and pulled up only to think, how the heck did I get here?

Or finished a meal and wondered, where did that go?

Maybe you’ve even reread those first few sentences a few times because you were thinking about something else, rather than taking in the words. In our fast-paced, busy lives absent-mindedness or mindlessness is more present than ever.

Technological advances are making our lives significantly easier, and our ability to focus on one task, thought, or situation at a time more and more difficult.
 
Enter mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a form of self-awareness training that has been adapted from traditional Buddhist practices, cultivated over thousands of years. It is the process of maintaining awareness of the present moment, and life as it unfolds before us.
 
It might sound obvious, or perhaps too simple.

You might even argue that if you’re not in the present moment where else are you? 

Take absent minded driving for example. Yes, you’re physically in the car, you’re using a portion of your mental capacity to indicate when you’re intending to turn, to break at a red light etc, but you’re thinking about the meeting you’re running late for, or the silly thing you wish you hadn’t snapped at your significant other before leaving the house.

Maybe you’re thinking about what you’re making for dinner or if you turned the oven off, and before you know it you’ve arrived at your destination with little, or no recollection of how you got there.

Normally our minds are focused in one of two places, the future or the past.

These thoughts are evoking a response from the brain driving it into “fight or flight mode” a clever little mechanism that stopped our cave man ancestors from being the victim of a hungry predator.

While we no longer need to ensure our survival from savage lions or bears, our brain is still hardwired to assess our environment for danger or threats. In modern day, Western society our “threats” have evolved into anything which challenges what we wish to achieve based on our values.

For example, if you value spending quality time with your family and in order to achieve this goal you need to complete all your tasks in a timely manner, then anything that might threaten this reality your brain considers a threat.

A delay in traffic, an angry boss, a task you know you haven’t completed and need to stay behind at work to do. These are all potential threats to your time, and therefore your goal of spending quality time with your family. 

These threats prompt the brain to switch into fight or flight mode.

While moderate stress or pressure in working toward a goal can be motivating, if our brains and bodies sit in this state for too long it does not go back to a normal state of balance, and stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are produced.

This can lead to poor immune function, inflammation, signs of early ageing as well as anxiety, depression and even addiction if not addressed.
 
The good news is that mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, anytime by anyone!

From formal mindfulness meditations, to engaging with your senses when completing daily chores, the opportunity to practice the art of mindfulness can present its self at any moment.
 
The basic practice of mindfulness meditation involves intentionally placing our attention on the breath, and observing each rise and fall of the breath. The practice of mindfulness is to be aware when our attention has wandered, and then, without judgment, gently but firmly redirecting our attention back to the breath.
 
Try it
1. Begin by sitting quietly in a comfortable undistracted place.
2. Sit crossed legged on the floor or in a chair, whatever is more comfortable for you. Sit upright but not rigid.
3. Focus on your natural breathing. You can also focus on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently.
4. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment.
5. If your attention wanders away, just gently bring it back to focus on your breath or your mantra. Identify your in breath as your in breath and your out breath as your out breath.
 
Unlike many of the band aid solutions acting as a “quick fix” for the state our of mental health today, mindfulness is an ongoing practice which involves a shift in focus to the present moment, at first creating a sense of contentment and calm, and eventually creating a head space for finding magic in the mundane. 

#findfifteen each day this week to practice Mindfulness. 

Alisa x


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