Mindfulness is brain training for improved attention. It originates from Buddhist self-reflective practices but mindfulness is a western evidence-based secular tool now applied widely in health care and business settings. It is useful for anybody interested in improving their attention, self-awareness, emotional equanimity and ability to control their urges and behaviours.
The best thing about mindfulness is it is empowering and provides the practitioner with great skills to carry through life. It is also free, has no side effects and can be used anytime and anywhere.
Mindfulness is noticing what’s occurring in the present moment without judgment. It requires a sense of open curiosity. It is not daydreaming or thinking, nor is it the absence of thought. Although it may be relaxing, it is not a relaxation technique.
By choosing a focus of attention and paying attention to it as best as possible, one can train the mind to hold focus, to notice distractions and their nature but turn back to the chosen focus. We can wire our brain to notice without analysis, judgment, problem solving or worrying. With time one begins to see patterns of thinking, distraction, urges and behaviour. Ultimately through mindfulness practice, one can develop the ability to respond with measured choice to triggers rather than impulsively reacting to things without awareness. This allows one to have autonomy over the way in which they choose to be in life. All of a sudden one has more opportunity to live lives that bring meaning and value to their existence and prevent harm to themselves and others.
If you would like to try some mindfulness for yourself then give these two practices a go.
Mindfulness of breath
- For one minute focus all your attention on your breathing. When you get distracted, bring your attention back to the breath as best you can
- Do this over and over until the minute has passed
Mindfulness of eating
- Sit down to a meal without distractions
- Pay full attention to the food you eat and the act of eating
- Notice the smells, texture, appearance, taste, movement and eat it slowly.
- When you get distracted by thought, turn your attention back to the food and act of eating.
Like all acts of discipline and training it may require some support to commit to the practice. You may find it easier to apply mindfulness in group settings or using guided practices. If so, try applications like Smiling Mind or Head Space and consider finding a local group you can attend to do it with other people.