Mindfulness, at its core, is quite simple.
It refers to our ability to be present and aware of - but not overwhelmed by - our surroundings. While this ability is something we all have, it can be challenging to tap into it with our busy schedules. From work deadlines to family obligations to social media, we often feel overburdened. As we rush from one duty to the next, it can be difficult to find the time to take a breath. It can be even more difficult to find alone-time when we are hyper-aware of what’s going on around us. Being fully present at any given moment can feel like a daunting task.
This is where mindfulness comes in.
The practice of mindfulness can be dated back thousands of years. Individuals have engaged in religious and non-religious meditation around the world. In some cases, mindfulness has been practiced individually as a method of calming. In other cases, it has been a component of collective prayer or meditation. It can bring people together and contribute to a larger tradition of awareness. Though it is believed to have found its origins in Buddhism and Hinduism, the practice has also played a critical role in Western beliefs.
Recently, mindfulness has found its way into mainstream awareness. Individuals, therapists, doctors, and scholars, have discussed the practice as a life-changing and even brain-altering tool. The more we engage in it, the easier it becomes. It is so valuable because it allows us to calm ourselves without having to silence our minds. Instead, it gives us the power to have enhanced awareness - and in turn acceptance and even appreciation - of what is happening around us.
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A significant component of mindfulness is rooted in acceptance.
Acceptance of our surroundings, and most importantly our thoughts and emotions. With all the stressors of an average day, it is not uncommon to be critical of ourselves. Perhaps we put off completing an assignment, or didn't have enough time to see friends or family. All these negative emotions can have a damaging impact on our well-being. Mindfulness helps center us in acceptance, and bring us away from the critical eye of our own minds. By learning to be fully present in what is happening around us, we also learn to embrace our thoughts as they come.
This action has a profound impact on our well-being and mental health. Mindfulness is used as therapeutic practice because of its’ centering power. Oftentimes, mental health struggles are made worse by negative thought cycles or feelings of guilt. The practice of presence, awareness, and acceptance, helps bring us to a more grounded place. It helps us to understand that our guilt may not be warranted or helpful. Instead, we can embrace and appreciate who we are - and as we are. This can transform our attitudes towards ourselves, and even the world around us.
Mindful.com identifies some key strategies that can help you get started on your path to mindfulness:
“Set aside some time.” There are no requirements for mindfulness other than time and a peaceful place. But your location is not limited. You can practice mindfulness on a train, on the street, even in the midst of chaos. You can be mindful on the floor, on the couch, or outside. The only thing you do need is some time which you can dedicate to yourself and your own awareness.
“Observe the present moment as it is.” While some forms of meditation are about calming the mind, mindfulness is about presence and awareness. This means that you don’t have to silence all the voices in your head, or ignore noises around you. Instead, try to take in everything that is happening in your environment, and be aware of each element. What sounds do you hear? What can you feel beneath you? What smells are noticeable? How does your body feel in the space that it is in?
“Let your judgments roll by.” It is natural for us to judge our surroundings, but when practicing mindfulness, try to relinquish those feelings. Be conscious of your thought or feeling, then let it pass by and move onto the next thing. Do not let any negative or judgmental thoughts linger in your mind.
“Return to observing the present moment as it is.” Especially given today’s world of constant inputs, it can be easy to be distracted by things. If you find your train of thought venturing into things other than your present environment, try to push those thoughts aside. With mindfulness, the goal is to always recenter yourself on the present moment. Allow that awareness to dominate your mind.
“Be kind to your wandering mind.” If you find yourself judging or thinking about all you have to do tomorrow - don’t worry! It’s okay for our minds to wander. Forgive yourself and simply move on from those thoughts. Bring yourself back to the present. Practicing mindfulness is not always easy, and it’s okay to find yourself getting distracted.
At MindWell NYC, mindfulness is a significant component of the work we do. While mindfulness can be practiced independently, a little bit of outside help can go a long way. We would love to discuss the mindfulness services we offer, and learn more about your interest in the area.
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