A Run-Down on All Matters of Mindfulness
I’m sure you’ve heard the term ‘mindfulness’ floating around for a while now, but never fully understood what it involves. It’s a concept that has existed for thousands of years, however, over the past decade, mindfulness has become quite popular in Western society thanks predominantly to Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, former Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, as well as developments in neuroscience and growing evidence supporting the benefits of mindfulness practice in today’s complex world.
What is Mindfulness, anyway?
Mindfulness is deliberately being present in the moment, with openness rather than criticism.
To be mindful is to embrace the positive moments in our lives so that we can get through the challenging ones.
Mindfulness can be practiced in many ways; it doesn’t take much time and it’s not just about meditation and yoga; you’re probably already doing it, to some extent.
Why Do I Want to Be More Mindful?
- – Mindfulness has been proven to help you be a more calm and patient person
- – Mindfulness can help you to de-stress and reduce anxiety by temporarily removing your mind from unhelpful thoughts
- – Practicing mindfulness techniques can provide you with the clarity needed to face difficult situations
- – Mindfulness can help your concentration levels
- – Being more mindful can increase awareness about ourselves (e.g. thoughts, passions and behaviours) or the world around us, and without awareness, change becomes extremely difficult
- – Mindfulness can assist in personal growth
- – Mindfulness can improve all types of relationships we have with others around us through increased attentiveness, empathy and compassion
Furthermore, all of these benefits can help us be better partners, parents, work colleagues and friends.
How Can I Practice Mindfulness?
Some mindful activities may feel more natural than others, and some may take a little more time to get used to. With practice, becoming mindful of yourself and your surroundings will come with less effort. Try these mindful moments and see how they make you feel and what insights they provide:
- – Next time you go for a walk, focus on feeling your feet on the ground as you take each step
- – Take a deep, full breath in between phone calls and meetings at work
- – Instead of tuning into the radio, tune into the thoughts and feelings you are experiencing as you drive
- – Visit the beach or walk through a local park without shoes and focus on feeling the sand/grass/dirt as it connects with your feet
- – Agree to put your mobile phones away the next time you are out for coffee or dinner with friends and family
- – Pay attention to your partner’s facial signals
- – Step outside your office or house during the day and spend a few minutes observing the smells, sounds, temperature, colours and interactions occurring naturally around you
- – Spend one meal a day savouring each bite of food, experiencing its taste, smell and texture, and the way it feels as it enters and travels through your body
- – Colour-in with your kids
If you are looking to take your mindfulness exploration to a slightly deeper level, then the ‘Self-Compassion Pause’ exercise is perfect for you! Fair warning though; this exercise can be very challenging and confronting, as many mothers struggle with showing themselves compassion, even though we are ever-so-quick to extend compassion to others.
Adapted from the original exercise developed by psychologists and leaders in the field of mindfulness and compassion, Drs. Chris Germer and Kristin Neff, the ‘Self-Compassion Pause’ can be extremely empowering and liberating, as it can become a powerful tool to improve your confidence and resilience.
The Self-Compassion Pause
- 1. When you find yourself stressed out in a difficult situation, take a moment to pause
- 2. Reach up and touch your heart, or give yourself a hug if you are comfortable with that
- 3. Take a few deep breaths
- 4. Acknowledge that you are suffering and see if you can treat yourself with as much kindness as you would a dear friend or your child who was struggling
- 5. Say out loud 3 phrases of compassion:
- a) first, acknowledge your suffering — “This is really painful/difficult right now” or “Wow, I am really suffering right now!”
- b) second, acknowledge that all humans suffer and struggle — “Suffering is a part of being human”
- c) finally, offer yourself compassion — “May I love and accept myself just as I am” or “May I remember to treat myself with love and kindness”
- 6. Return to your daily activities, intentionally carrying an attitude of self-compassion and acceptance to your day
The last step may be the most difficult, it is also the most important one!
Mindfulness is a relatively easy practice that, as a busy Mum, you can do, regardless of budget, occupation or personality type. Practicing mindfulness regularly can significantly enhance your quality of life, happiness, self-confidence, relationships, patience and peace of mind, among many other benefits.
So go on – give yourself permission to pause and be present for whatever is happening at that moment, both inside you and around you. Over time, you might be surprised what you learn and how you change!