Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.
As a tool for self-regulation, mindfulness is unmatched because it can help you slow down the pace of your thinking – thus leaving room for a pause between a feeling and an action that allows you to respond (deliberately) instead of reacting (knee-jerk response).
The term ‘mindfulness’ is often used interchangeably with ‘meditation’ but where mindfulness can be applied to any situation throughout the day, meditation is usually practiced for a specific amount of time.
Mindfulness is the awareness (being mind-ful!) of “some-thing,” while meditation is the awareness of “no-thing”. Meditation gets a bad rap because people think it is very difficult to think of “nothing” and be all zen-like. So, forget that.
How to meditate if you really don’t know how to meditate
Just sit comfortably (or stand or lie down) and be quiet for, say, one minute. Put a timer on. Close your eyes if that feels good. Focus on your breath. You can count to ten breaths and start over when you reach ten. When you get ‘monkey-mind’, and you will, just go back to counting. Just start over from one. That’ll do. That’s it. You’re doing it. You are meditating.
Mindfulness on the go: Tips and tricks
Here are three mindfulness activities you can do, that takes no time at all:
- Consciously check in with yourself every time you wash your hands. It takes two minutes: How am I feeling right now? What bodily sensations are passing through me? What do I hear, smell, see? (Ahem.If you’re doing this in the bathroom, perhaps step outside to do the environment check-in.)
- Set an intention for the day when you wake up. Doesn’t have to be anything huge, just “Let me take it slow today, let me remember to breathe, I want to practice kindness today, let today be a day of self-compassion”, etc. It takes no time at all, but it keeps you connected to your higher self.
- Say a little ‘thank you for (…insert gratitude…)’ as the last thing when you go to bed. Just show a bit of gratefulness to the universe for the good things that happened throughout your day.
The thing about mindfulness is that we observe our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. And this gives us the opportunity for that famous tiny window of time in between a thought and an action. You thus get to make conscious decisions and not just go mindlessly though your life.
That little pause means you get to step off the ledge.
Put the fork down.
Unclamp the tap of the gun.
Hold your tongue.
Don’t press the red button.