“Mindfulness is like that—it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Life can get busy with the fast pace of work, chores, errands and taking care of the kids. However, you can find time to practice mindfulness for more peace and joy in your life. People are concerned with the economy, worry about their finances, and their future. It sure can cause a lot of stress, which in turn can cause mood and physical changes.
Research shows that many people wish they could slow down and smell the roses more often. They feel rushed. They live life in the fast lane trying to accomplish their goals and do what they need to do, but when they get home at night and finish the tasks for the evening, they are beyond exhausted. Many experience burn out at one time or another. Many deal with anxiety and depressive disorders. Many simply feel like robots- experiencing little to no joy.
If you are feeling anything like what I’ve just described, I have good news for you. Researchers have been studying the practice of mindfulness on stress, depression and are finding that it actually decreases negative symptoms and helps people to live happier, healthier lives. Mindfulness is growing rapidly around the world, as more and more people are experiencing remarkable changes as a result of this technique.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness simply involves being aware of your present thoughts and body functions. It is being “mindful” of your thoughts at the present moment. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, has helped this Zen Buddhist meditation technique to gain popularity in recent years. He has conducted extensive research on the effects of mindfulness on stress, emotions, and even chronic pain and illness. Mindfulness has been found to reduce depressive symptoms, lesson chronic pain, help with eating disorders and substance abuse and reduce anxiety. It is working so well that some hospitals are using it as an aid to current therapy.
The Good Old Days
Remember the days when you were a little boy or girl? You most likely did not have a lot of concerns or thoughts running through your mind. Little children are more apt to think less and play more. They are more concerned about exploring their worlds and just living life in the present moment; not feeling bad about their past and not thinking about their future.
However, what happens as children grow older is that they start to live in the present moment less and in the past and future more. Their thoughts increase dramatically, they begin to experience more pain and negative emotions, and life gets more difficult. They may begin to wrestle with fear, anxiety or depression and often-times to combat these negative feelings; they reach for things to try to make them go away. They might try alcohol, relationships, food, work, etc. The problem is that these things don’t make the pain or negative emotions go away, so they simply get repressed or stuffed way down deep.
By adulthood, plenty of negative thoughts can be running rampant in their minds and their moods may reflect that. They have allowed negative thoughts to dominate. They’ve lost touch with that innocent little child who simply loved to live in the present moment and enjoy the simple things in life.
Mindfulness meditation can help individuals to stop living in the past and future and begin enjoying life in the present. It helps you to slow down and relax; smell the flowers and enjoy each moment as it comes. As you practice mindfulness, layers of negative thoughts and emotions disappear and you begin to sense a feeling of freedom, peace, and joy.
How to Practice Mindfulness
Practising mindfulness is very simple. Just find a quiet place to sit down, take a few deep breaths, and relax every inch of your body. Your goal is to stay aware of your present moment and forget about the past or the future. As you breathe in and out, focus on your breath. As you breathe in, feel the air entering your lungs. As you exhale, focus on exhaling any negativity in you.
As you keep your focus on your breathing, you will by default NOT be thinking about other things (like the bills that are due or the ‘F’ your child got on his report card). If random thoughts come (as they will), simply acknowledge the thought and return your focus to your inhale and exhale.
Make time at your convenience every day to sit and practice mindfulness meditation. In the beginning weeks, try to do this for 10 to 15 minutes, but after that aim for 30 minutes a day. This may seem like a long time to sit still, but remember that as you are practising mindfulness, you are combating stress, depression, anger, and all sorts of negative emotions that have been plaguing your mind for decades.
Do you know what you will find as you practice mindfulness? Your days will become brighter. You will find yourself being aware of your breathing throughout the days. You will be able to enjoy your present moments throughout the day much more. While you’re sitting in traffic for an hour after work, instead of getting angry, you will be at ease, feeling more peaceful and joyful just for the fact that you are alive and breathing.
You will find yourself being more present in your spouse and children’s lives. You will engage with people more in a loving way. You will be more accepting, less judgemental; more connected with your spiritual self, more compassionate, and more emotionally stable.
Go ahead and begin your mindfulness journey today. Make a commitment to slow down and smell the roses. Begin with a few minutes here and there. Test it out. I think you will be very pleased with the results. After all, we all simply want to be full of love, peace, and joy, so if mindfulness is a ticket to that state, let’s do it!