Grounded in Buddhist Philosophy, although not a religious practice, Mindfulness is the space between a stimulus and our response. Insert stimulus (car swerving in front of you while driving, partner yelling, boss asking you for more, roof is leaking etc…) Now, before we get to the space between, what would your typical response to these stimuli be? Swearing at the driver who cut you off, yelling back at your partner, withdrawing and becoming anxious, calling your neighbour in a panic? These are all potential automatic reactions to the events noted above. Now, let’s get to the area in between – the Mindful space. This is where the magic happens! It’s an opportunity to tune into the present moment and environment. In this space, take a deep breath. Doing so sends oxygen to your brain so that it can function to the best of its ability in this particular moment. Keep Breathing in this space. Notice yourself in this specific moment. How fast or slow is my heart beating? How hot or cold do I feel? What scents are surrounding me? Which noises or sounds are nearby and which are distant? How am I feeling right now? Take a scan of your internal sensations and experiences. What are you noticing, discovering, drawing connections to? Whatever you’re feeling or experiencing, can you view it and observe it without judgement? Mindfulness is not a concentration competition. Rather, its about being gentle with yourself, noticing distractions as they arise, and observing your mind wander with the intention of bringing it back to the present moment. Being mindful takes practice! Know that you have not failed at Mindfulness if your to do list keeps popping up in your mind. This is all a part of building your Mindfulness Muscles! Just like any sport, practicing prepares you ahead of time, ahead of the game, the anticipated stressful event, and so forth. Engaging in regular Mindfulness practice allows you to build the skills and awareness you need to deal with the stimulus or stressor effectively in the moment, on game day! Mindfulness practice also helps to enhance positive experiences- allowing you to better recognize your emotional spectrum which also includes joy, happiness, love and contentment.
A Simple Way to Build Your Mindfulness Muscles:
While washing your hands, begin to notice the temperature of the water, how does it make each finger and area of your palm feel? Tune into the sound of the water leaving the faucet as it hits the sink. Take a deep breath in as you begin to lather with soap. What does this smell remind you of? How does this scent make you feel? What thoughts are you noticing creeping in? Just notice these thoughts without judgement, and tune back into your practice. Rinse. Cleanse. Let your worries, fears, negative thoughts and guilt go down the drain. Visualize it leaving your body. As you dry your hands, continue to check in with yourself and go on with your day knowing that at any time you can check back in and re-ground yourself.
Mindfulness Can be Helpful In:
- Decreasing experiences of anxiety
- Experiencing more enjoyment in the moment, for example at a party or while cooking.
- Improving relationships
- Having a positive impact on self perception, self esteem and confidence
- Impacting eating behaviours
- Increasing ability to cope with stressors
- Coping with change, or things out of your control
- Contributing to productivity (multi-taking is a no no for Mindful Living!)
- Improving and preventing physical health conditions
If you’d like to know more about Mindfulness, or begin practicing, check out these resources:
- Stop, Breath & Think
- Wherever You Go, They You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Breathe Mama Breathe ( 5 minute Mindfulness for Busy Moms), Shonda Moralis
- The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle
- All It Takes is 10 Mindful Minutes, Andy Puddicombe
- The Art of Stillness, Pico Iyer
- The Science Behind Mindfulness
Lisa Azzopardi, MSW, RSW