You may very well have heard of mindfulness before. The word alone might make it sound like just another wellness fad that sounds good but has no real effects. That couldn’t be further from the truth, however. It’s more a tool than anything else, one that can be used in a variety of different ways. It helps you become much more aware of what’s happening in the moment, including what’s going on around you but also your own immediate reaction to it and the kind of actions that certain situations encourage you to take. Here, we’re going to look at how this can really help you.
How do you use it?
As a state of being or a cognitive tool, mindfulness isn’t easy to simply “switch on” whenever you need to. At least, not a first. There are different ways to help yourself achieve it. Taking part in a repetitive activity that focuses on concentration, whether it be yoga or colouring, can help you get to a mental state where you’re much more aware of the body and the world around you. Meditation can help you become much more mindful of your thoughts and your past responses to certain situations. Even physically, breathing exercises and focusing on the part of your body causing you pain can help you control your mental response to that pain, making it feel much less unbearable.
Reduce your distractions
We all have distractions that get in the way when we’re trying to be productive. Whether we’re at work, trying to relax, or focusing on a hobby at home, our mind can be pretty cluttered. Mindfulness can help you grow more aware of what issues are plaguing your mind. Deep breathing exercises can help you remove mental chatter by taking a short break to become much more cognizant of your own background noise. By addressing it, you can tuck it away for later, leaving you free to focus.
Mindfulness can even potentially make you smarter. As you become more used to meditation and achieving mindfulness in the moment, it can have much stronger long-term effects. This includes the ability to use that sense of distance from a problem in real time. Rather than stress in response to a difficult question or situation, you’re more likely to take a mental step back, look at it from afar, and try to gain a new perspective on it in order to find a solution. In scientific terms, mindfulness meditation has been known to show serious grow in grey matter, particularly in the hippocampus region which plays an important role in learning and memory. You’re more likely to be able to focus in the moment, think creatively, learn new skills, and recall information much more easily.
Changing your most destructive habits
One of the reasons mindfulness is most often used in therapy is that it can help you become much more aware of what causes you to engage in self-destructive habits. From self-harm to dependency on substances such as alcohol or drugs, you can become more aware of the mental processes that lead you to engage in such dangerous behaviours. If you’re suffering from the effects of dangerous coping mechanisms, take a look at the details of any treatment plans you might see. Beyond helping to separate you from the temptation of those habits, you might want to ensure that is cognitive or mindfulness therapy that can help you identify the steps leading to them.
Learning why you do what you do
Whether it’s engaging in the destructive coping mechanisms mentioned above or simply learning why you might have an emotional overreaction as a response where it isn’t warranted, mindfulness can help you become much more aware of why you do what you do. These are becoming much more widely known as emotional triggers. By practising meditation, therapy, breathing exercises, or other mindfulness methods, you are likely to become more mindful in real time. This can help you work backwards, whenever you feel a craving for a certain habit or a strong emotional response, you can identify and start to recognise the triggers. This can help you avoid said triggers as well as learning to anticipate them and to have much more control over your immediate response.
Taking yourself out of your emotions
When you’re looking to quickly relax, having practised mindfulness in the past can help you get out of your own emotions and take a much calmer look at a situation. One of the reasons that deep breathing is so effective in helping you calm down isn’t just that it slows your heart rate and physically relaxes the body. It encourages you to take a mental step back. You can gain some perspective on the feelings of stress or anxiety you’re having, including what triggered them in the first place. Instead of being in a “doing” mode where you are focusing on your immediate response to stress, you are in a “being” state of mind, where the inactivity can help you better manage your emotions.
Look back with a new perspective
As mentioned, mindfulness isn’t just good for managing your emotional responses in the moment. It encourages you to take a relaxed step back in time to better study your own behaviour and responses. Often, dwelling on the past can come with a sense of regret of unease, because we have the urge to “correct” the mistake. Using mindfulness, whether through meditation or through apps, allows you to take a more objective look with the aim of simply better understanding yourself rather than trying to actively do something about it. This helps you respond a little better the next time you face a similar situation.
Mindfulness encourages you not only to become more in control of yourself but also to recognise why sometimes you might engage in behaviour that you know isn’t healthy. It’s become much more widely used in the world of medicine and therapy, but you can take steps to make your own personal life more mindful, too.