How many times have you caught yourself checking email, refreshing social media, texting a friend, eating a meal, and stressing about your to-do list all at once? Trust me, I’ve been there.
Prior to embracing mindfulness, I was a multitasking queen determined to hustle 24/7. After one too many all-nighters, tension headaches, and rock-bottom moments of fatigue, I decided enough was enough. Mindfulness has enabled me to show up more authentically in work and life, and I’m determined to share the practice with others.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is when we focus our attention on the present moment, noticing the sensations that arise without judgment. While its roots are in Buddhism, mindfulness has made its way into mainstream Western culture and exists in settings beyond yoga studios and spiritual centers. Today, you can find mindfulness principles being implemented in schools, traditional medicine, psychotherapy, and more.
While the benefits of mindfulness are becoming increasingly well-known, here are 10 reminders of how mindfulness can support our well-being.
When we are mindful…
1. We become aware of our thoughts.
Our constant stream of thoughts known as the monkey mind can feel absolutely exhausting, and even defeating. Mindfulness helps us tune in to our internal dialogue, return to the present moment, and resist being carried away in a thought spiral.
2. We become less reactive.
Someone cuts you off in traffic. Your coworker snaps at you in the office. The kids leave a mess in the kitchen for the 100th time. Mindfulness can help us take a pause during difficult moments, and maintain perspective when emotions are running high.
3. Our physical health improves.
During my high school years, I suffered from constant neck and muscle pain. Mindfulness helped me understand my body and how it holds stress, and with time, I have worked to counteract my tension with yoga and stretching. With mindfulness we can manage chronic back pain, improve sleep hygiene, and cultivate deeper awareness of the body.
4. We increase compassion for ourselves.
Life is tough, and we can be super hard on ourselves. What if we could be more gentle and forgiving in difficult moments? When we are mindful and aware of our inner critic, we can take steps to ease up and have compassion for ourselves and others. Try these mindful exercises from Kristin Neff, PhD.
5. We manage stress more effectively.
Mindfulness has been known to reduce psychological and biological stress, and even act as a buffer during stressful conversations with your romantic partner. When it comes to lowering cortisol, our stress hormone, tools like a body scan or mindfulness meditation can help.
6. We become better listeners.
We all know what it’s like to have a conversation with someone who is not listening. When we listen mindfully to others, we become fully present for them without interrupting, judging, or fixating on what we are going to say next.
7. Our mental health improves.
Mindfulness can help us manage anxiety, depression, and shift our mindset when managing challenging situations. Variations of mindful interventions have been implemented with active-duty soldiers, nurses, college students, and more.
8. Our emotional intelligence increases.
One study found that mindfulness meditation can help cultivate emotional intelligence by improving our ability to understand emotions and help us recognize the emotions of others.
9. We can focus on tasks more easily.
Whether you’re a student, athlete, CEO, or new mom, mindfulness can be your secret weapon. Mindful practices like meditation and guided visualization can enhance your ability to focus, foster peak performance, sharpen memory, and boost executive functioning.
10. We manage our time more efficiently.
Much of our lives are spent spinning on a stressful, self-made hamster wheel of nonstop to-dos. When we practice mindfulness, we create space for intentional planning, mindful goal setting, and creativity. The next time you are stressed at the office, try taking a mindful coffee break.
If you are ready to become more mindful, there are plenty of resources available, from simple daily practices to training programs in mindfulness-based stress reduction. Every day, see if you can take time to notice your five senses in action. Explore what it feels like to release tension in your shoulders, and bring ease to your actions rather than rushing to the next thing. When we take small steps to cultivate a mindful existence, we create space for magic to happen.
P.S. Don’t worry if you don’t feel totally blissed out overnight – a little goes a long way!