Last week, I introduced the concept of mindfulness and stated that research shows that mindfulness is one of the most, if not THE most, powerful tool there is for decreasing stress that we experience in our bodies.
So if mindfulness is where it all begins and where we are able to finally observe who we are, what we are doing and how we do it, then how do we achieve this heightened sense of awareness?
Elizabeth Stanley, Ph.D., founder of the non-profit Mind Fitness Training Institute, says to think about it the same way you would think about building muscle. Just as “physical fitness relies on repeated exercises to generate specific muscular and cardiovascular changes, likewise, mind fitness relies on specific exercises to create changes in the structure and function of the brain. Like the body is physically changed by exercise, areas of the brain may shrink or expand – become more or less functional – based on experience and training. Armed with this understanding and the right approach, it’s possible to literally rewire the brain to be more effective and resilient.”
The good news is that you don’t actually need to be a mindfulness expert to experience increased levels of mindfulness. In fact, to become more mindful all you really need is you, a few minutes to spare and some quiet space. This could be at home, in the car, in the shower, at your desk and even during savasna of your favorite yoga class.
As you close your eyes focus your attention on just being still and allowing all of your thoughts to slowly surrender to the quiet. Take an inventory of what you feel, physically and emotionally. Labeling them in your mind and then taking three separate deep breathes, inhaling in through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Feel your breath fill your lungs and follow it out into the air. Open your eyes and recall what you were feeling before you began and see if you feel a difference.
With a little practice and consistency you’ll begin to notice how these simple steps can alter your mood, attitude and outlook. Not only will you feel more present in the moment to make sound decisions and focus, you will also experience a deeper connection to your emotional self which will allow for less reactivity, stress and negative thoughts to interfere.
Just by first stopping to breathe and refocus your attention on your body, you will in turn open up space to be in the moment and be aware of what is going on in your mind and your body. You will be surprised what you discover about yourself and how these new discoveries will inform who you are and what you are going through. Take inventories sporadically and clear your mind of the clutter that distracts and taunts you.
Take opportunities to enjoy the smallest of tasks and use mindfulness to open up and shine a bright light on your deepest desires, thoughts to find the inspiration that the clutter hid for so long. Re-connect daily and in a few months time, look back and be amazed by your progress, emotional and mental clarity and overall positive outlook on life.