If you are like most people, your stress level has increased over the last few years with many more demands on you – from every direction it seems. I really want to introduce you to my favorite tactic for stress reduction – it’s called Mindfulness.
I believe mindfulness is one of the most important healthy mind skills of all. I teach it to clients every week. Mindfulness is paying attention to your life, your surroundings and your interactions with people and the world.
Mindfulness is 100% attention to the moment that you are living in – noticing all the tiny details and intricacies of each thing that happens to you.
The reason that mindfulness is so important is that it keeps you from worry, anxiety, tension, regret and so many other unproductive feelings.
Mindfulness is the skill that allowed Tiger Woods to achieve such great feats on the golf course before his fall from grace. It is the ability to “be in the moment” with the world…
Not how you wish things to be
Not how they were a minute ago
and not how they might be soon.
Mindfulness is experiencing right now fully. The path to achieving mindfulness is to relax the mind and connect with the physical body.
Stop and check in with each of your five senses. Experience in detail what information each one of them is giving you.
I love to suggest to people to start the day with mindfulness. If you are a coffee drinker, make your morning coffee very slowly and pay great attention to the aromas, sounds, movements, sights, every little piece of the experience of making coffee.
Another good morning place to practice mindfulness is in the shower. Do everything slowly and feel what each of your different muscles is doing. Notice the fragrances, the changes in sounds and even what the bubbles look like going down the drain. Concentrate on what you are doing.
The opposite of mindfulness is mindlessness.
Here’s an example of mindlessness that you will recognize. Think of the last time you drove home and didn’t remember any of the route you had just traveled. Your body was doing something – driving a car – but your mind was far away thinking of countless other things.
Mindfulness is connecting what is happening in your mind with what is happening in your body.
Mindfulness is connecting what is happening in your mind with what is happening to your body. It’s obviously safer for driving and also healthier for you as a person.
Mindfulness is an ancient practice that was popularized in this country by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder and director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at Massachusetts Medical Center and author of Wherever You Go There You Are.
Today many of the country’s leading medical institutions – including the Mayo Clinic, Duke Medical Center, Massachusetts Medical Center, and Harvard University – incorporate mindfulness in their treatment programs for their patients who suffer from stress and/or chronic pain.
In practice, all this is easier said than done. To benefit from mindfulness for reducing your stress, you only need very brief periods of practice time. That’s a good thing because it really takes adjustment to pay attention to only right now and not let your mind wander off.
Begin with just two or three minutes several times a day. Then every time your mind wanders off from what is happening right now, just notice that it has wandered. Return to being mindful.
You can expect to have to bring yourself back to focus on the present over and over at first. With practice, this becomes much simpler and you can increase the length of time that you are mindful.
The benefits come from the willingness to let go of current habits of thinking and to try something a little different. In the process of doing so, you are also letting go of stress.