A lot of people are intimidated or turned off by the terms “mindfulness” and “meditation.” But in reality, there’s nothing to be afraid of. And there’s no reason not to give them a try. Because time and time again, the same individuals who were skeptical of the practices discover just how beneficial they can be and wish they’d given them a chance long ago.
So, let’s get to the overwhelming questions: what do these terms mean? And what do the practices entail? My guess is that the majority of you are more familiar with meditation than you are mindfulness. And you probably envision someone sitting on a yoga mat, legs crossed, eyes closed, humming quietly. While this can certainly be an accurate image of meditation, this practice is all about transforming and focusing the mind. Its purpose is to help one develop concentration, positivity, and a sense of calm—whether that is achieved by humming on a yoga mat or taking an extra moment in bed or on the bus to relax the mind.
Now, let’s focus on the slightly lesser-known practice (which is increasing in popularity) of mindfulness. Mindfulness is actually a form of meditation: it is meant to refocus and ease your mind, but uses a directed-focus approach to do so. You can practice mindfulness anytime and anywhere; the only requirement is that you concentrate on the present moment: your surroundings, your actions, and your feelings.
Practice Mindfulness and Reap Rewards
Take a quick minute or two to give mindfulness a go. Remember, all it takes is focusing on your current surroundings and state of mind. If you’re eating breakfast, then really tune into the experience of eating your meal. Notice how sweet the syrup tastes on your pancakes and watch the steam surfacing from your cup of coffee. Or, if you’re bussing home from work, focus your attention on the ride. Instead of anticipating the end of the bus ride and getting home, take in and connect with everything that’s around you right now: the green trees out your window, the other passengers, the bumps in the road. Sound simple enough? Good. Because taking the little bit of time and effort to retune your thoughts and attention can result in the following awesome benefits:
- Stress reduction
- Boost in self-esteem
- Higher brain functioning
- Better patience
- Enhanced performance
- Lowered blood pressure
- Increased awareness
- Improved overall health
Finding the Best Approach for You
Remember how I said that meditation might mean sitting on a yoga mat in silence for one person, but not for another? This same idea goes for mindfulness. You might find that sitting quietly is the most effective approach for you, or you might find that doing so is quite impossible. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be a long, silent process like many people think, as explained by Certified Holistic Life Coach Michele Stans:
“(Mindfulness) can actually be many things. It can be the traditional process of sitting quietly and focusing on breathing, listening to music or a guided practice. But some non-traditional forms of meditation I have found really helpful for people is coloring, dancing, cooking, anything that is creative. Our brains can’t be creative and worried at the same time. So a creative activity puts us right in the present moment, just like meditation. I personally love the traditional form of meditation and if you do this, I recommend doing it first thing in the morning after waking up. You can use this time to get centered, set your intentions for the day, and remind yourself of your goals.”
So, successfully practicing mindfulness might take some experimenting. If you find that sitting in silence isn’t super effective for you, that’s okay! Don’t let it discourage you. Try a less conventional form of mindfulness instead. Stans recommended coloring, dancing, or cooking, but the possibilities are endless. If you’re a musical person, try learning a new instrument. If you like to work with your hands, build something. If you’re into knitting or sewing, allocate more time for that. Whatever it is you decide upon, just make sure you put all of yourself into it. Don’t worry about what’s behind you or what’s to come: just focus on the here and now.