What is mindfulness? To me mindfulness is being fully aware of what you are experiencing at this very instant. For instance, if I were eating a delicious pizza, mindfully eating the pizza would entail being aware of all the different flavors that enter my mouth, noticing the texture of the pizza, and the sensation of swallowing the pizza. If I were mindlessly eating the pizza I may be munching on the pizza while fiddling on my phone, or busy thinking about what I’m going to do once I’m done with the pizza.
Just like you can be mindful of an outside stimulus such as pizza, you can also be mindful of what is within you. You can be mindful of your emotions and thoughts. Let’s say you’re feeling sad today. You can be mindful of that feeling, just as you were with the pizza. You can take note of certain aspects of the emotion. How does it feel within you? Does it make you feel bad? Does it bring up certain memories along with it? Is there a certain spot in your body that it feels like it’s coming from? You can do the same with thoughts. You can be aware of how your thoughts pop up, trigger other thoughts, stir up certain emotions, and fade away.
How is mindfulness helpful?
Mindfulness allows you to reside in the present moment. It’s foolish to think you should always be in the present moment, but most of the time when we are thinking about the past or future, we’re caught up imagining future scenarios, or stewing on past memories. These can be helpful to some extent, but the problem comes when you make a habit of getting caught up in the past or future. Rather than planning for an event, you transition to worrying over the event. Rather than trying to decide how to learn from a mistake you’ve recently made, you end up dwelling on how stupid it made you look.
If you reside primarily in the present moment, and only think about the past or future when it helps you, then you’ve now cut back on a large portion of your worries and stresses. Most of the time the most constructive way to deal with an issue is to look at what you’ve got in front of you, and decide what you’re going to do from here on out. Dwelling and worrying only get in the way of solving the problem.
Mindfulness also helps you become aware of your auto pilot. As you cultivate mindfulness you begin to gain awareness of the habits you have. This helps you notice the unhealthy habits, which you can then decide to work on. Such a habit may be surfing social media for more than an hour, even though you’re completely bored and you’ve refreshed the same three apps at least five times. You may also become aware of habits within, such as negative thought spirals you may participate in.
When you begin to be aware of your thoughts you realize that there are certain repetitive thought patterns that you take part in. An example of one of these patterns is what I call a worry spiral. I begin to worry about a particular future circumstance. Then dwelling on this circumstance causes me to think about other things I have an issue with. Before I know it thirty minutes have passed and I’ve just been stuck in my head ruminating on issues. Then I’ll notice at the end my shoulders are tighter, and I just feel angry or helpless. Now that I have been meditating I’ve started catching these spirals before they start and I now have the power to decide to not partake in these thought spirals.
The last beat I wish to touch on is the one I have a lot of personal experience with. Mindfulness allows me to get out of my head. My thoughts have a strong draw on my awareness. Throughout the day I’ll go into auto pilot and just start thinking about shit. It’s normally about things I’m stressing about. Either a thing I did, or a thing I’m going to have to go through. I miss out on so much when I do this, and this is where mindfulness helps me the most.
When I get out of my head my attention is instead on what is around me and in front of me. This means if I’m talking to me girlfriend, I’m completely immersed in the conversation and what she has to say. If I’m in nature, I’m fully appreciating the beauty of my surroundings. I really like how when I’m doing something mundane mindfully, I’ll end up appreciating something small such as how cool it looks when you pour creamer into a mug of coffee. Mindfulness helps me appreciate life, rather than coast through it, and I’m infinitely grateful of that ability, and it is why I wish to continue my practice of mindfulness.
The next time you ask yourself, “What is mindfulness?” you now know it’s not some hippie new-age baloney, but rather a skill that can help you make the most out of your life and use your mind most effectively.
If this peaks your fancy and you decide you wish to have more mindfulness in your life my next post will be on how to become more mindful! I wish you the very best. Have a lovely day :).