Mindfulness is defined as a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations, but not judging them. It is the state or quality of being mindful and aware.
Everyone should strive to achieve a state of mindfulness throughout life. Doing so would enable you to block out any worries that can result from your mind latching onto past or future happenings.
Allowing your mind to remain solely in the present moment, avoiding the temptation of getting too high or low during the ebbs and flows of life, is the goal.
Before you practice being mindful, it’s important to understand the elements of this concept.
Elements of Mindfulness
Live in the moment: This is essential. The ability to dwell less on the past and future will lead you to happiness in the “now.” Nothing good comes from letting a past or future thought control your mind. It takes your attention away from what actually matters in the moment.
It’s fine to reminisce on a memory or point out something you have to do tomorrow in your head. But it’s equally important to refrain from concentrating on it or spending too much time overthinking it. If you make this a habit, your mind will be quick to fixate on regrets from days ago or stress about upcoming things that give you anxiety.
Here are a few examples: Maybe you regret not speaking your mind and saying something to someone last week. Maybe you have a difficult speech to deliver in front of 1,000 people in two weeks. Or you have a stressful medical procedure to endure in three months.
Whatever it is, it isn’t worth the space in your mind unless it’s happening today. Worrying about what happened or could’ve happened, or what might happen or will happen, is irrelevant and unnecessary. And it won’t alter the outcome.
You have enough things to prepare for every day you wake up. Condition your mind to live day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.
It may sound cliché, but we aren’t guaranteed a tomorrow on this Earth as it is. So why spend your today worrying about something that has passed or may not even happen?
Pay attention: Always pay attention to what you’re feeling; just don’t pay too much attention. Simply recognizing how you feel and what you’re experiencing will suffice in being mindful.
Be mindful in everything you do. This is how you become one with yourself. Often forgotten is that we are in total control of our mind and body.
Make a point to observe different thoughts and feelings that arise within you. Don’t think about them, just observe them and note the patterns that you might notice.
The more you simplify things by just paying attention, the less weight negative thoughts will carry. You are you, and a thought is a thought. Your undivided attention helps you differentiate between the two.
Accept yourself: This element piggybacks off paying attention. Once your level of awareness is raised, you must accept yourself and the thoughts that arise.
Thoughts come and go through your mind constantly. Rather than trying to frantically dissect the anxious ones, let them go and simply accept their existence in a way that banishes judgement.
Doing so will prevent your mind from constant worry and from digging an even deeper hole as a result of becoming anxious about an already anxious thought.
Let go of the overthinking and accept whatever comes your way, knowing it’s just a thought and has no control over you. You are existing there in that moment.
Breathwork: Breathing is a key component of mindfulness. Optimal breathing is required to stay in the moment and remain calm.
Practicing controlled breathing will ensure balance when you stray away from the present. Your breath can bring you right back to where you need to be.
Stability is found in the ability to structure your breathing. Think about it – when you begin to float away into stressful thoughts about the past or future, one of the first things to follow is a rapid breathing pattern.
If you master the ability to control your breathing and keep it normal, it becomes much easier to get back to the present and maintain it.
Ways to Practice Mindfulness
Now that you are aware of the elements of mindfulness, how do you go about incorporating them into your life?
One of the most effective ways is through meditation. Meditation calms the mind and relieves it of anxiety and stress. It also provides the perfect opportunity to get your mind in a present state.
Treating your mind to 10 minutes of meditation can shift its focus from worrying about the past or future to taking comfort in knowing you are right where you are: in the present.
The benefits are endless. Shutting down your mind during meditation will hit all the elements above – you’ll be pinned to the current moment, you’ll pay attention to how you feel, you’ll have the opportunity to accept those feelings and you’ll have a much easier time controlling your breath.
If you haven’t read the Flourish post on meditation, be sure to check it out to learn more about how to meditate and its overall impact on mental health.
Another mindfulness tip involves connecting with your senses. If you struggle to stay in the moment, tap into your surroundings.
What do you see right now? What do you hear? Do you smell anything? Taste anything? Is your body touching something?
Pausing and noting these types of things reel you back into the now, which is normally ignored when you’re distracted by other thoughts. Take in the many sights, sounds and smells of life. There are many to enjoy.
Other ways to practice being mindful might include putting more of an emphasis on eating, drinking, listening and anything else you do often. This doesn’t mean the frequency of doing these things. It means performing them mindfully, with a purpose, so that you dedicate your total focus to the time in which you are doing it.
Next time you are eating, or listening to someone tell a story, give it your full attention and get lost in that task. This level of focus will teach you how to be mindful and leave you no choice but to stay in the moment.
The Wrap Up
The ability to live in a state of mindfulness will change your perspective on life. Your attitude towards many things will change for the better.
A mindfulness transformation begins in your thoughts. But you are not your thoughts – you are the observer of your thoughts.
The fact that you can listen to them shows the separation. By simply becoming aware of your thoughts and non-judgmentally observing them as they come and go, like clouds passing in the sky, you are being more present. You are not getting caught up in your thoughts.
When you observe, resist the temptation to get carried away by a particular thought down a tunnel into the past or future. Stay in the present and in the moment.
This is mindfulness. And it will guide you to a fulfilling, peaceful life.
“Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn