This article was originally published on TranQool’s blog. TranQool is an mental health platform that provides online counselling through video for anxiety, depression, as well as a variety of other mental health issues.
Mindfulness has been shown to have a multitude of benefits, and can increase our overall well-being. For example, one meta-analysis suggested that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) may help a wide range of individuals cope with clinical and non-clinical problems, as based on the results of many previous studies. Another study found that mindfulness predicted positive emotional states and was related to declines in stress. Nevertheless, in order to achieve the benefits of mindfulness, we must first understand it and, subsequently, learn to adopt it into our lifestyles.
In simple terms, mindfulness is about being aware of the present moment while being attentive to, and accepting of, our feelings, emotions, thoughts and bodily sensations. As such, mindfulness means accepting more and judging less. This includes accepting others, life events and, most importantly, accepting ourselves. Below are some tips to help you make mindfulness a part of your day.
1) Focus on the present moment by paying attention to what is happening around you.
While it may seem natural that we should pay attention to our surroundings, many of us do not. Instead, we listen to music, text our loved ones, and compulsively check our social media accounts. Little things like these cause us to zone out. We become unaware of the present moment, as our attention is directed elsewhere. A great way to become more mindful is to limit the time we spend doing these things. Instead, choose to look around you and appreciate the beauty of all the little things you see.
2) Pay attention to your senses.
While looking around, and focusing on our sight, is a great first step in becoming aware of the present moment, shifting our attention to other senses can be extremely refreshing. When you catch yourself zoning out, try to pay more attention to sounds, smells, and touch.
Start by paying attention to the noises around you. Where are they coming from? How do they sound? Are they pleasant?
Then, focus on smell. Instead of just thinking of a scent as “good” or “bad,” ask yourself what kind of scent it is and where it may be coming from. Is it perfume, freshly baked goods, nature, or something else? Then, appreciate it. Breathe it in if it smells good. If it doesn’t, then just just think about what it could be.
Next, focus on touch. How does what you are touching, feel? Are you wearing a soft sweater, or tight jeans? If you are sitting down, how does your seat feel? What are you holding in your hands? What is its texture?
Becoming aware of these different sensations, helps us center ourselves and focus on the now. With a little practice, these skills will become second nature.
3) Practice deep breathing and/or meditation.
Focusing on our breath is very important, as it helps to calm us down. However, we must also pay attention to bodily sensations that arise while we are breathing.
When you are anxious about a future event, or are over-thinking an event that has passed, try taking slow, deep breaths in. Focus on how this makes you feel. Focus on how your chest rises and how your abdomen expands when you breathe in. When breathing out, focus on the pleasant sensation of release and relaxation.
Becoming aware of how our body feels during ordinary events, such as breathing, helps us find comfort and pleasure in common occurrences. This prompts us to always appreciate the present moment in some way.
4) Stop classifying thoughts in dichotomous terms such as “good” or “bad”.
While it is extremely important to be aware of how we feel and what types of thoughts we are having, labeling thoughts as bad/good, or negative/positive, can give rise to self-judgment. When we are having many “negative” thoughts, we may begin to see ourselves as negative people, which can cause self-loathing.
If, instead, we label our thoughts as those we like and want to keep having, and those we do not like and want to get rid of, we can slowly eliminate self-judgments. Instead of viewing a thought as “good” or “bad,” we can focus more on how this thought makes us feel. We can then decide to focus on thoughts that make us feel good. Not only can this help boost our self-confidence, but it can also help us view events through a more positive and productive lens.
5) Label your emotions
Labeling our emotions in simplistic terms (e.g., anger, frustration, joy and sadness)and without judgment can help us better understand what we are feeling. This is different from classifying our thoughts in dichotomous terms (e.g., good/ bad), as we are being more descriptive and are simply acknowledging how we feel. When we label our emotions, we begin to see the distinction between our emotions, and who we are as people. This helps us realize that emotions are temporary and will pass.
In conclusion, mindfulness is about being aware of the present moment. We can achieve this by paying attention to what is happening around us, focusing on our different senses (e.g., smell, hearing and touch), practicing deep breathing and meditation, accepting our thoughts instead of judging them, and viewing all emotions as temporary.
Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most – Buddha