Mindfulness (Pt. 1): Why Mindfulness Matters
As you may have noticed, life is getting crazier by the minute. All of life’s demands can cause us to feel as though we’re flying by the seat of our pants. It can often feel difficult to accomplish what we need to within a given day when we’re running from one activity to the next. Throw in our relationships and a busy career and home life, and it’s no wonder why we often feel scattered, tired, irritable, and unable to focus.
Because we’re juggling so much, it can be really difficult to stay present. Our thoughts are often future-focused as we’re looking ahead to see what needs to be accomplished next. Many of us also get stuck in the past as we tend to judge our failures and over-analyze-- literally-- everything.
However, our lack of presence keeps us from noticing how our (often racing) thoughts are affecting how we feel and how we express ourselves. Sometimes, our thoughts are so automatic that we’re not even paying attention to them. They just happen, and they can be downright negative-- and sometimes even hurtful!
The problem with these negative thoughts is that the little voice inside our head can also serve as our biggest critic. We tend to tell ourselves things that are far from flattering, like, “You look fat in that shirt!” or, “You’re so stupid, you should have known better.” It may seem harmless at the time (and, after all, we aren’t telling our boss that she’s fat or stupid), but it isn’t! Not at all.
In actuality, these negative thoughts seriously grate on us over time. They affect how we feel about ourselves deep down. Then, when we’re feeling lousy, they affect how much time and energy we dedicate to doing things that make us feel good, as well as our interactions with others. Are we likely to make time for exercise and friends and hobbies when we’re feeling like crap? I think not.
That is why “mindfulness” is such an important concept, particularly in this ultra-fast-paced day and age. Mindfulness involves becoming more aware of the present moment, including our thoughts and feelings, as well as the world around us. Paying attention during a conversation, noticing the temperature of the room, and doing JUST ONE thing at a time (like actually tasting our food, rather than mindlessly scrolling through Facebook while we eat) are all examples of mindfulness. Can you think of others?
Paying more attention can definitely improve mental wellness. When we’re so caught up in all that’s happening in our heads, it can become easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are actually feeling, and even needing! We also tend to take the little things for granted, such as a pleasant exchange with our partners or the beautiful weather, when our minds are elsewhere.
In Part 2, I will share some tips and exercises that will teach you how to become the Zen Master of Mindfulness. Thanks for reading!