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How to start Mindfulness for non-believers
Mindfulness is a word that has cropped up recently and seems to be the latest buzzword.
Researchers define it as the awareness that arises when we intentionally pay attention in a kind, open, and insightful way. When we are mindful, we focus on the present moment non-judgmentally. Sounds lovely right, but what does it actually mean? If you are like me, my thoughts around mindfulness immediately gravitate towards meditation and in my experience, Meditation hasn’t always been as serene as portrayed in popular culture and yoga magazines. On the contrary - I usually feel more stressed out particularly because my approach is to tell myself “You NEED to chill, take a breath, RELAX!” Result - NOT RELAXED.
After reading several articles and other materials on the topic, my understanding is that Mindfulness is our human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and (this is a biggie), not be overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
What makes this even more interesting is that mindfulness is something we all possess but here is the best part, It can be made more readily available to us when we practice it on a daily basis. Bringing awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions means you’re being mindful.
There is growing research showing that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re actually remodeling the physical structure of your brain.
The average human brain contains hundreds of trillions of synapses that help the brain cells communicate with each other, and with a number of anywhere from 80 to 100 billion neurons, it’s no surprise that these connections can be formed. By applying the principle of neuroplasticity, you can essentially “re-wire” and “hardwire” the brain which will help achieve higher levels of health, happiness and peace.
So how do we practice mindfulness? Mindfulness is available to us in every moment be it through meditations or mindful moment practices like taking time to pause and breathe when the phone rings instead of rushing to answer it.
Here are 4 exercises that can help to build mindfulness in different ways.
The Self-Compassion Pause
In summary: Pause a few times a day particularly when you are a feeling stressed or overwhelmed and practice self-compassion.
The Observer Meditation
The observer involves non-judgmentally watching your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and your life around you.
Five Senses Exercise
The first part to this is to notice 5 things that you can see so take a good look around you and become aware of your environment.
Secondly, notice 4 things you can feel.
Thirdly, notice 3 things that you can hear
Fourth, notice 2 things you can smell.
Finally, notice 1 thing you can taste.
This mindfulness exercise is to notice what you are experiencing in the moment through any or all of your five senses: sound, sight, touch, taste, and smell. I tried this one can attest to its’s success.
Mindful Walking Down The Street Technique
Like most mindful activity this can be performed anywhere from a quiet country road to a bustling street in the city. Pay attention to the sensations of the body while you are walking. Mindful walking benefits from it’s simplicity and is most successful when you are in the moment
The biggest take-away for me at least is that Mindfulness can help to reduce stress, anxiety and conflict. It has shown to increase resilience and emotional intelligence, while improving communication in the workplace.
I am a firm believer in that there is always room to learn and grow as a person. Start your journey one step at a time, remember to enjoy the process and more importantly make a habit of practicing Mindfulness. Be the change you want to see.
Productivity & Wellbeing Director
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