What really is mindfulness, and can it help you overcome stress, anxiety, worrying thoughts and emotions?
YES, a resounding yes!
What is mindfulness you may be asking?
The simplest way to describe it is that it is the opposite of mindlessness.
You will relate to mindless scrolling on your phone; or realizing that you have not heard what someone was saying to you, because you were deep in thought or distracted by something.
That is mindlessness. Not being present with the task at hand. Getting lost in your own thoughts and emotions. Being distracted, judgmental or making assumptions about something, someone, or yourself.
Jon Kombat Zinn, founding executive director of the Centre for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, provides this definition of mindfulness:
“Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment without judgement.”
Being mindful, you are present to the task at hand. Not judging, not placing prejudice, not thinking about something else or being distracted.
In this article I will share some of the common challenges that women face, and how mindfulness can help to overcome these challenges. I will also explain 5 simple steps from mindless to mindful.
Common Challenges we Face as women
Many women have this never ending “to-do list”, causing us to feel overwhelmed and stressed. We may be thinking about the next tasks while performing the current one, not present.
When we train ourselves to mindfully perform tasks, we develop our attention and ability to concentrate for longer periods of time. Mindfully performing tasks, we practice returning our focus to the present moment, and this reduces stress and overwhelm.
As we mindfully perform tasks, we gain awareness of the storylines or inner dialogue we have with ourselves. As our awareness develops, we learn to acknowledge and challenge whether these storylines are even true, or whether they are simply ideas we have been repeating for so long to ourselves that we have become to believe them. Our self confidence and self-esteem improve as we acknowledge and challenge this inner dialogue.
Life throws us challenges. When we are feeling overwhelmed and stressed, we may not deal with challenges in helpful ways. We may find ourselves resisting and worrying about the challenges, whether they have past or are in the future, not living in the present moment.
Mindfulness enables you to become less reactive to challenges that arise. You develop a sense of ease and confidence and calmness that you can deal with whatever comes your way, and you learn to “let go” of worrying thoughts with more ease.
Many women feel their energy is lacking. We expend a great deal of energy when we are resisting or chasing thoughts or get caught up with internal dialogue.
Mindfulness enables you to create S P A C E between yourself and your thoughts and feelings. Over time with practice the less frequent and less intense the thoughts will naturally become, resulting in an increase in energy.
Our children are great at distracting and interrupting us. We can be quite reactive to our children in an unhelpful way when are interrupted by them.
Mindfulness helps us to become aware of our conditioned responses and we become less reactive and more present with our response to interruptions or distractions from our children. We also build stronger and healthier relationships with them and become better listeners as well.
Distractions and interruptions also cause us to be less productive. As we develop the awareness of our thoughts and feelings, we notice much sooner when we are not present to the task at hand, and not only do we improve our attention span, our productivity also improves.
How do you practice mindfulness?
Mindfulness is something you experience. It is not an intellectual thing that you learn about and then you know it.
Mindfulness can be practiced informally or formally.
Informal mindfulness is when we purposefully choose to be mindful whilst we perform an activity that we already do each day. Some examples are brushing teeth, washing hands, drinking coffee or tea, showering, walking, or eating.
Formal mindfulness practice is when we purposefully set aside time to practice mindfulness meditation, using a guided or un-guided mindfulness meditation.
Both practices assist you in training your mind to be aware, present, non-judgmental.
5 steps from mindLESS to mindFUL
Step 1 : Choose a task that you do every day and commit to purposefully performing that task mindfully.
It could be washing your hands, brushing your teeth, having a coffee or tea, eating a meal, showering, or walking.
Step 2 As you perform the chosen task, you are simply observing the present moment as it is.
We are not trying to create anything, not trying to stop or resist thoughts or emotions. The goal is simply to develop a healthy awareness of the thoughts and emotions that arise in the present moment.
Step 3 No judgement or prejudice
Allow any judgement or prejudice to pass by as you become aware of these thoughts. Acknowledge them and return your focus to the present moment.
Step 4 Noting thoughts or feelings
The noting technique is simply acknowledging when we have been distracted by thoughts or feelings. Simply we mentally note – thinking or feeling and return our attention to the present task. Remember, it is normal and natural for our minds to wander.
Step 5 Be kind and patient with yourself
It’s important not to judge yourself as you notice thoughts and feelings arise. Be kind and patient with yourself. Like anything, it takes time and practice to develop a new skill and consistency is important.
Karen is passionate about mindfulness and has over 5 years’ experience with the practice.
She created Mindfulness Magic to help busy Mums who feel stressed and overwhelmed take back control through Mindfulness Meditation.