Straighten your back, pull your shoulders back and take a deep, slow breathe in. Let your front be open and your back be strong. Now, direct your attention towards the sensation happening in your feet. Focus on the feeling of the bottom of your feet, the way they are pressing into the floor through your shoes and the contact between your toes. Notice any throbbing or pulsing, the different sensations, from moment to moment.
Congratulations, you just participated in the practice of mindfulness. It’s just as easy as that! This is a simple example that illustrates the fundamentals of what mindfulness is truly about.
Life is busy. We live in a world of noise and clutter. We are often times, so distracted by the fast paced world we live in, that we have lost ourselves within it.
Life is busy. We live in a world of noise and clutter. We are often times, so distracted by the fast paced world we live in, that we have lost ourselves within it. We are fighting to survive our own battles, and in doing so, we become blind to appreciating the present moment. The term “mindfulness” refers to the psychological state of awareness, practices that promote awareness, a mode of processing information, and a state of being.
But why is mindfulness so important? What’s all the fuss about surrounding the scientific studies on meditation and mindfulness?
Throughout the many studies done, it’s safe to say, mindfulness should no longer be considered a “nice-to-have”, it’s a “must-have”: a way to keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities, and to protect ourselves from toxic stress.
It’s become clear it’s an important tool for mental and physical health…and we can all agree that we need healthy brains to function at a high level. If you want to live, love and embrace life as a highly engaged and creative participant, take note.
Mindfulness techniques provide various improvements for:
- relieve stress
- treat heart disease
- lower blood pressure
- reduce chronic pain
- improve sleep
- alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties
In addition to the many physical health benefits, there is a staggering amount of mental health benefits; in recent years, psychotherapists have turned to mindfulness meditation as an important element in the treatment of a number of problems, including:
- improving memory
- sense of self
- eating disorders
- research has even shown changes in the brain’s grey matter over time
What the science says
- Boosts working memory. Working memory is the memory that temporarily stores information in our minds for further recall and future processing. There are many studies that suggest a strong interrelationship between attention and working memory.
- Focus. Studies find that mindfulness increases ability to focus attention and suppress distracting information. Results lead to attentional improvements, particularly the quality of information, cognitive flexibility and decision making.
- Less emotional reactivity. This supports the notion that mindfulness meditation decreases emotional reactivity. Mindfulness practice helps people disengage from emotionally upsetting situations, thoughts and feelings.
- More cognitive flexibility. Those who use mindfulness practice develop the skill of self-observation. This neurologically separates the automatic pilot mode and enables the present-moment being mode. It offers a way of freeing oneself from automatic and unhelpful ways of thinking and responding, activating the brain region associated with more flexibility to responses in stressful or negative situations.
Bringing Heartfelt Mindfulness Into Your Life
There are two fundamental ways people can see reality. One is through the lens of physical, the other through the lens of the mind.
- Bring awareness to daily activities you usually do on autopilot. Zero in on sights, sounds,smells, tastes and feelings of the activities such as; eating breakfast, driving home, taking shower, etc.
- Practice right when you wake up. Mindfulness practice first thing in the morning helps set the ‘tone’ of your nervous system for the rest of the day, increasing the likelihood of other mindful moments.
- Keep it short. Our brains respond better to bursts of mindfulness. Being mindful several times a day is more helpful. You can start by tuning into your body, such as focusing on how your shirt fits, eating your meals, or giving attention to what your jaw is doing [such as, is it tight, loose or hanging open at the audacity of the person in front of you in the coffee line?}.
- Let your mind wander. Your mind and brain are natural wanderers – much like a crawling toddler or a puppy – And that’s a good thing! Having a “busy brain” is actually an asset. Beneficial brain changes seen in the neuroscience research on mindfulness are thought to be promoted in large part by the act of noticing that your mind has wandered, and then non judgmentally, loving and gently— bringing it back.
- Wait. In our fast-paced lives, waiting is a big source of frustration – whether you’re waiting in line or stuck in traffic. While it might feel like a nuisance, waiting is actually an opportunity for mindfulness. When waiting, bring your attention to your breathing. Focus on the now of the breath, in and out of your body, from moment to moment and allow everything else to just be, even if what’s there is impatience or irritation.
The science and attention to mindfulness can be life changing and deserves our commitment. For those of our next generation, the effects can be extensive. A profound study showed findings of fifth grade girls who engaged in mindful practices are more satisfied with their bodies and less preoccupied with weight. When you take into account our current epidemic and the staggering statistics of young girls relationship to body image concerns, mindfulness is a “must have” in our world today.
So, go ahead, allow yourself 20 minutes of uninterrupted, non-judgemental, open, present moment, state of being.
What do you really have to lose?! …Because it sure is increasingly clear what you have to gain!
Jacqueline Jones, founder of Heartfelt, is a passionate, relatable, high-spirited and altruistic Holistic Nutritionist and Counsellor. She is boldly forging the way our society approaches food, body image and the way we influence ourselves and each other. She is an accomplished writer, speaker, expert, teacher and counsellor.