Mindfulness is about being fully present in the moment. It’s about being connected to where you are and what you’re doing, your mind being actually there and not adrift in a daydream.
It sounds pretty basic, yes. But in reality only very few of us seven billion people have the ability to stay present in the moment. Most of us get instantly lost in thoughts the second we open our eyes in the morning. And whether we’d like to admit it or not, this absent-mindedness persists throughout the day even as we go through our daily tasks. And sometimes even as we unwind.
Now is this something extremely bad—not being present in the moment? The answer is, well, it’s not extremely bad. But it certainly is a big waste of opportunity when you miss to find joy and peace in the simple things life has to offer because you’re not focused.
In fact it’s backed by science that mindfulness has cognitive and emotional benefits including reduced anxiety, depressive symptoms, and rumination; improved attention and memory; and stronger focus.
The good news is that—although it’s not an easy goal to achieve—mindfulness is something we can do as long as we commit ourselves to it. Here are easy ways to get started:
The best way to get started is by learning what mindfulness is and by understanding how it works and how it can improve our way of living. Read what the gurus and the practitioners are saying, the tips they’re sharing, and the benefits they’re getting from it. This way, you’ll have full knowledge of what you’re getting yourself into and if you find that it’s something you really want for yourself, you can get the inspiration and the push from the right people.
2. Start gently.
Once you decide to get started, do so gently. You don’t have to rack your mind every second to be present in the moment. You don’t want to get traumatized by the experience, really. Instead, begin by having small mindful routines each day. Let’s say get started with your meals. When you eat breakfast, try to have your meal without daydreaming. Pay attention to your senses and what they’re telling you. How does your food taste? Is there a flavor that particularly stands out for you? Is your coffee exactly the way you want it? How does the aroma and the temperature of that warm drink make your system feel? See, mindfulness is really about using your mind to connect your spirit to your body and getting them to work together to process what’s happening to you, and not at all about just being in your mind and then not paying attention to what your body’s experiencing.
3. Keep practicing.
Do your best to maintain the small mindful routines you’ve established for yourself. Keep on doing them until they become a habit. Keep paying attention to your meals. Don’t let the temptations of daydreaming get the best of you. Daydreaming is a whole lot of fun, yes. But you deserve to experience the present moment that you have—the very moment that you can never get back once it’s gone.
4. Step up.
And once these small routines have successfully drilled the act of mindfulness in your system, step up. Increase the scope of your practice: this time try to be mindful in the bath, while doing the dishes and the laundry, at work, and even during conversations. Do your tasks with complete awareness and presence of mind. Be there.
And to make sure that all of these don’t go away in a snap, strengthen your focus by meditating for about 10 to 30 minutes each day. Beginners will find it a struggle to stay focused during the activity, but according to meditation instructor Suzanne Westbrook, “mindfulness is not about stopping thoughts or emotions, but instead about noticing them without judgment.” And meditation—particularly “by paying attention to bodily sensations, thoughts, emotions, and especially the breath”—is one of the best methods to master this way of life. “Mindfulness teaches you the skill of paying attention to the present by noticing when your mind wanders off. Come back to your breath. It’s a place where we can rest and settle our minds,” says Westbrook in the same interview with The Harvard Gazette.
Choosing to practice mindfulness isn’t easy because it does take effort and a whole lot of presence of mind to be always in the moment. But in reality, when we get into the habit of being mindful, we’re in for long-lasting health benefits that we’re sure to enjoy until old age.