Usually, when we think about getting healthy and strong, we think about the body. But it is equally important to have a strong mind. We all know that there is a strong connection between body and mind. Therefore, we must prioritize strategies to keep our minds sharp, fully focused, and functioning properly.
Physical exercise helps our bodies to be more effective and feel better.
Mindfulness does the same for your mind. It trains your brain to focus completely, avoid distractions, and think more clearly.
But those are not the only benefits of having a mindfulness practice. You will also experience multiple emotional benefits by having a clear mind. You won't get hung up in dramas from the past or caught up in negative self-defeating thoughts.
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The main benefits off practicing mindfulness on a regular basis are:
Decreased levels of stress and anxiety. For almost everyone, stress and anxiety is a major issue in their lives. Dealing with the stress of everyday jobs, family, and paying bills can put a lot of stress in your mind. Mindfulness won't get rid of your stress and anxiety. But it will give you a tool to manage it properly. Even though the stressful feelings are still going to be present they are not going to produce the intense negative emotional experience that people usually fall victim of.
Razor-sharp focus. A mindful mind is able to perform to the full of its ability. You will be able to reach your full cognitive potential and use every resource that your brain has when you put your mind into something. You will be able to focus on the task at hand and avoid any distractions that may impact the quality of your work.
Have you ever heard the expression “monkey mind”? this is exactly what mindfulness practice is going to help you manage. You will learn How to direct the attention of your mind to whatever it is that you are trying to achieve.
Improved relationships with your family and your friends. A mindful mind Nos how not to be reactive to their emotions. When you practice your regular mindfulness, you are able to witness your emotions instead of reacting to them this has a positive impact on your relationships with others. When someone says something that you deemed to be unfair or hurtful instead of reacting emotionally you will be able to process it and think of the best way to react to the situation That is in front of you.
Additionally, you will have an increased ability to genuinely listen to others when they are talking to you. You will develop a level of empathy that is going to help you connect with your friends and family on a deeper level.
Follow up on your goals. Did you notice that most people set their goals in the new year? This is because most people take their time to reflect on the year that has passed and on the year that is about to start. In other words, people become more mindful during these few holiday days and use this time to make plans and to reflect on their lives.
Unfortunately, the reality for most people is that a couple of weeks into the new year they will forget about their goals that they set for themselves and they will move on to the next thing. This is because they didn't adopt mindfulness as part of their lives. In other words, they didn't make mindfulness a habit.
What can we learn from this? the inevitable conclusion is that a mindful mind follows up on their goals, while a mindless mind doesn't. If you think about it this makes perfect sense. There is no way to follow up on your goals if your mind is not able to remain focused on the goals that you set for yourself.
Improved sleep. Most people take sleeping for granted. Sleeping and recovery are very important for your health and for your mind. If you don't sleep properly you won't be able to lose weight or gain muscle mass. Your mental focus will suffer. Overall you will be performing very poorly in almost every aspect of your life.
Unfortunately for many people sleeping is a problem. The abundance of screens And I sedentary life only makes this worse. It has devastating effects on your health and your emotional well-being.
The good thing is uh we know how to improve it. Regular exercise and a clean diet are good places to start. Avoiding screens before going to sleep is also an important factor. But more important to this article I regular mindfulness practice is going to help you switch your brain from active mode into resting mode. In other words, it will help you shut off the stream of thoughts running through your mind that has to do with the daily activities that you've been engaged with.
You Need To Develop a Mindfulness Habit
I hope by now you are getting excited about how your life is going to improve once you adopt A mindfulness practice.
However, I need to tell you this. You won't get any of these benefits if you don't turn mindfulness into a daily habit. Just like your muscles are not going to grow if you don't work out regularly. Just like your cardio is not going to improve if you don't have I regular running program.
All these benefits are available to you, but they come with a cost. It's a small cost to pay in my opinion. You only need to commit 15 to 20 minutes every day. When you do this consistently you will start seeing all these benefits.
Focus in the Process, Not in The Outcome
A piece of advice that I will give you is this. Don't focus on the outcome. Focus on the process.
What do I mean by this?
We are used to focusing on outcomes. This is how we measure the success or failure of our actions. However, having this mindset can be problematic sometimes. It can give you the impression that you are not making any progress because there is no tangible metrics that you can focus on. This is definitely the case with mindfulness. When you focus on the process. So for example the process is having a regular practice of 20 minutes every day. When you do this, you will make progress whether you notice it or not. After a few months of consistently sticking to this routine, you will realize slowly and gradually that you can focus better and your mind is free from negative thoughts.
However, if you make this outcome the only purpose of your practice then it will be hard to stay motivated after a few weeks when you don't notice any immediate results.
Have you ever heard the phrase the obstacle is the way?
It applies perfectly to this scenario. Your mindset should not be to jump through the obstacle. Your mindset should be to engage with the obstacle and remain there for as long as you need it. Don't focus too much energy or attention on thinking about what life will be on the other side of the obstacle. You will get there eventually. But that will only happen if you are comfortable with the idea of engaging with the obstacle Ann being consistent even though you still didn't jump over it.
How to get started
By now you might be wondering how to get started.
The good news he said you don't need any equipment or complex set up to get started with mindfulness.
Mindfulness can be as easy as sitting down and focusing on your breathing. That's really all it is.
There are many different ways that you can practice mindfulness and we will explore them in this article. But I want you to know that you don't need to get carried away with a specific technique or tactic. The main principle that you should understand about mindfulness is that you will learn how to direct the attention of your mind.
If you sit down and just focus on your breath. Count to three while you breathe in and count to three while you breathe out. Every time a random thought crosses your mind you notice it without judgment. You simply say to yourself “I just had these random thoughts back to focusing on my breathing”.
And you keep doing that for 20 minutes.
That's really all it takes. Having said that there are many different techniques that you can learn about that can help you make mindfulness easier and more fun.
All you need to do is sit down and focus on your breath. So, don't obsess too much about the different guidelines and recommendations that I am going to write about next.
They may or may not apply to you. Make sure that you practice consistently because that is the most important thing of all.
Where to practice
Some people like to have a specific spot where they like to practice mindfulness. It can be in your house. Maybe in your car, while you are not driving. Maybe in the park when you are in your lunch break or anywhere really.
The main benefit of choosing one place and sticking to it is that it will help you stay consistent with your practice. Some people like to make sure that it's a silent place so they can do it without distractions. When you learn to practice mindfulness, you will realize that there are no such things as distractions.
The background noise of a buzzing city or barking dogs is a distraction for most people. But for the mindful person, They are simply another sensation That they can experience mindfully.
So even though it might make sense to choose a quiet place especially when you are getting started. It's also OK to do it anywhere even If there is a lot of background noise. Just make sure you are doing it somewhere where no one is going to be tapping on your shoulder and you'll be fine.
Some ideas of where you could start doing your mindful practice are in the shower, in your car when you're not driving, in the bus or train, wherever you are in your lunch break, or anywhere really.
When to practice
This is also one of those pieces of advice that will work differently on different people. Again, the most important benefit of choosing a very specific time in the day to do your practice is that it will help you remain consistent.
You might want to do it first thing in the morning or at any other specific time in the day. It is possible that especially at the beginning you might forget to get your practice down. Putting a reminder in your phone or sticking to are their little routine where you know you are going to do it every day at this same time might help you to not skip any sessions.
In the beginning, you can start with short sessions of five minutes. This will take the pressure and will make it easy to start. Once you get used to five-minute sessions which might take you a couple of weeks you can increase your sessions to 10 minutes.
Remember that the only thing that makes mindfulness difficult is yourself. So really a 5 minute or a 10-minute session shouldn't be hard at all. Think about it all you are doing is sitting down I'm thinking about your breath. How hard can it be?
Well, it is actually surprisingly hard. For some reason When we don't train mindfulness our minds become mindless. One thought jumps to the next and we feel like we have no control over it and we are prisoners of our thoughts. This is exactly why beginning your mindfulness practice can seem hard. But really it is only proof that you actually need it.
Think about it this way. If a fitness coach tells you that you need to stretch your legs and when you do it hurts a lot. What does that mean? He obviously means That you actually really need to stretch those legs. If it didn't hurt that much that would mean You are very flexible, and you wouldn't need stretching so bad.
Well, it is the same with mindfulness and with your mind. A trained mindful practitioner doesn't find it hard to sit down for 30 minutes or one hour. But a beginner my struggle staying still for five minutes. The thought of being alone with your thoughts is a scary one and a stressful one. But worry not. This is exactly what you need to experience in order to “stretch” your mind and make it be OK with experiencing its own thoughts.
As you get more confident with the practice you can increase your daily routine on five-minute time frames. There is no limit to how long you can Practice for. If you really want to and you're having fun with it you can practice for as long as you want.
However, for most of us who live busy lives practicing for more than 20 or 30 minutes daily is not realistic. In any case, don't obsess about how long you can go for because that is not what matters. What really matters is that you do it every day even if it's only 5 minutes.
How to Practice Mindfulness
OK So what do you actually do during your practice? The first thing that you are going to do is sit down in a comfortable place. You can sit cross-legged if you want or you can also sit in a chair or a couch. Just sit anywhere you want.
Next, you are going to close your eyes. It will help you focus your attention on your breath. Now count to three while you breathe in and count to three while you breathe out. What are the feelings associated with breathing?
What does it feel to have air coming in through your nose? The air fills up your lungs your chest expands and then the air comes back out again through your mouth or through your nose.
Think of every detail. What does it feel like?
Your only job here is to notice as much as you can. You are not doing any kind of special deep breathing or anything like that. Just normal regular breathing. By the way, you should never breathe in through the mouth. But that is not related to mindfulness. You should never breathe in through the mouse for a variety of reasons that we are not going to cover in this article.
But the point of this exercise is not to train your breathing. The point is to train your attention. How you breathe doesn't really matter. It's the mental focus on the breathing that matters.
After a few minutes of focusing on your breathing, your mind is going to change state. Now if you wish you can start directing your attention to other aspects of your environment.
Can you feel the pressure of the parts of your body that are touching the surface? Wherever you are sitting your bum and your back might be touching something. What does it feel like?
Are there any background sounds? Can you hear traffic in the background? Maybe dogs barking? Whatever it is you might notice that this is a background sound that you wouldn't have picked up on In your everyday mindless busy state. It is the very fact that you are being mindful that allows you to pick up the signals that would otherwise be ignored.
You could make an argument that these background sounds are similar to background thoughts that you also ignore. However just the fact that you ignored them doesn't mean they're not there. Some of those background thoughts can be negative thoughts and how they really taking consequences even when you are not explicitly aware that they exist.
This is why mindfulness is so powerful. It allows you to pick up on these low signal thoughts and deal with them appropriately instead of ignoring them and let them grow like weeds.
Whether there you choose to only focus on your breath or you choose to direct your attention at other sounds or stimulus going on In your environment is up to you. The most important thing that is happening here is that you are training your mind to direct its attention to something in particular.
What to look out for
As you can see mindfulness is a very simple practice. But that doesn't I mean that is easy.
Working out is also quite simple but most people don't do it because it's hard to remain consistent.
What are some things that you should look out for that might get in the way of your regular practice?
The most likely reason people will quit their mindfulness practice is their own expectations. For some reason, probably related to the way that mindfulness or meditation is usually portrayed in movies and media, a lot of people have the idea that when they start to meditate or practice mindfulness, they are going to become some kind of all-powerful wise Tibetan monk.
many people get frustrated when they have distractions during their regular practice. And this is the main reason they quit.
But this is only due to a misunderstanding of what mindfulness is and what it should be doing for you. You might be under the wrong impression that once you get good at mindfulness, you're not going to have distractions anymore.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Thinking like this would be like thinking that a bodybuilder or a powerlifter could pick up as much weight as they wanted without any effort whatsoever. Just the fact that they are stronger doesn't mean that they don't struggle to pick up way just like you I mean. The only difference is that they are able to lift more weight than you and me.
This is similar to trained mindful people. They are able to endure longer and more intense mindful sessions. But it doesn't mean that they don't go through struggles during those sessions. It is actually the main purpose of those sessions to endure those struggles, therefore, increasing the ability of your mind do direct the attention to whatever you want.
Don’t expect to have uninterrupted mindful sessions where you are focusing on your breath during the whole time and you don't have any distractions at all. That's just not possible. You should expect those distractions and not be frustrated by them. Instead, you should be noting them. Being aware that they exist for stop and without any judgment whatsoever shifting by your attention to your breath or to your attention destination of choice.
Living A Mindful Life
This is probably the most important point of all. Mindfulness should not be something you do for 10 or 20 minutes that is Isolated from the rest of your life.
Instead, it should be something that improves your ability to focus your mind on the things that you want to focus on. For these two actually happened you need to apply the mindfulness skills that you learned during your practice in your everyday life. You can start playing small games during your day to apply this concept. Keep it fun and playful.
Next time you walk into an elevator or you are ordering something through the phone or you are doing anything that you do during your everyday life, apply the concepts of mindfulness. Focus all of your attention on whatever it is that you're doing or saying.
If you are having a conversation with a coworker put all your attention into what they're saying.
If you're writing an email put all your attention into writing that email. I'm not just talking about the contents of the email that you're writing. Pay attention to the setting, where you're sitting, how you are using your hands to type in your keyboard, how your eyes are feeling when they meet the brightness of your screen.
Everything that's going on in the background and the sounds of any phones ringing pay attention to everything that is going on.
When you play these little games daily and consistently you train your mind to focus 100% on the task at hand and leave anything else behind.
This is how high performers operate and are accessible to you if you decide to put the necessary training in.
Most people live in mindless lives. They find it hard to focus on the task at hand and they blame multitasking for it. They are trapped in self-defeating thought patterns and held hostage by negative emotions which they are not even aware they're holding the back of their minds.
We live lives full of stimuli. Social media promotes small and frequent dopamine hits which train our minds to be dispersed and reactive.
Even though we like to complain about kids and social media and how modern generations are not able to focus during long periods of time the reality is that most high school students are able to concentrate or long periods of study and project work. That ability to focus on one thing at a time is severely impacted as we grow into other hoods and we spread our attention too thin with so many worries.
Family worries, money worries, job concerns, health issues, etc. the more reasons we have to stress the more our attention Spreads too thin and we are unable to perform to the best of our abilities.
To make it worse this has a never negative impact on our ability to sleep and recover properly. this creates a lot of damage in our mind and body system and creates a negative loop.
A lot of people suffer from anxiety, depression, and overall lack of purpose. As dramatic as these things are, it is 100% realistic to overturn them when you trained your mind to be mindful.
It's not magic. It's a process, it takes commitment and consistency. But the good news is uh it's available to any of us who decide to do it.