Our lives are busy and are often filled with competing demands on our time, thoughts, and energy. We find ourselves being pulled in different directions, struggling to balance our work, family and personal commitments and activities. We can become so busy with daily life and worrying about what we have to do next, that we forget what is truly important: living in the present moment. As a result, we can easily feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious and frazzled.
One way to live a less stressful and more balanced life is through the practice of mindfulness. Many people will have heard of mindfulness as it is popular at the moment, with loads of books published on the subject and many mindfulness courses available. It has the potential to truly enhance a person’s quality of life if it is understood and practiced correctly.
Mindfulness is derived from eastern Buddhist practices where monks would meditate for hours to still and empty their mind. They saw this as a path to enlightenment, something which takes a lifetime of practice to achieve. Given its Buddhist origins, most people associate mindfulness with the concept of being completely still and of emptying our minds. This is the practice of mindful meditation, which requires quiet time and space away from normal daily life. For most of us, this practice of mindful meditation is not realistic or achievable. Our lives are too busy, are minds are too filled with thoughts that we struggle to control, and we have little free time to sit and meditate.
Mindfulness as it has been related to westernised culture, is based on the principle of focus rather than on emptying of our minds. It doesn’t require us to meditate or to be completely still for extended periods of time. Instead, mindfulness is a state of being, where we are completely present and living with full awareness of each moment, as part of our daily lives and activities. This enables us to undertake our daily tasks in a way that frees us from worry about the future or thinking about a multitude of things at once.
Living mindfully shifts our focus to each present moment. We give our full attention and focus to our present task or activity, whether it might be sitting reading a book, taking a walk, doing housework, playing with our kids, or taking part in our favourite hobby or pastime. To become more mindful means that we participate fully in the activity that we are doing in that moment, while gently letting go of any distracting thoughts or worries that may come into our minds. We can’t necessarily stop the flow of distracting thoughts, but we can choose not to focus on them.
Being fully present and mindful requires us to focus solely on the task at hand. We focus on doing the dishes or playing with our children. We immerse ourselves in that activity in a purposeful way. We also do it in a way that is non-judgmental. This involves recognising but gently letting go of any negative self-talk and the judgments we make about ourselves, such as “I’m not doing this well enough” or “I will never be good enough”.
Learning to live mindfully requires us to develop the skills needed to focus on the task at hand in a way that is purposeful and non-judgmental. It requires dedicated and consistent practice for it to become a normal part of our lives. If we make this commitment, mindfulness has the potential to dramatically enhance our quality of life. It can reduce stress and anxiety, enable us to more fully enjoy our daily lives, and reduce our worries about the future.
We can all learn to live more mindfully. If you would like to learn the skills to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life, check out our online training at https://walkingtall.thinkific.com/.
Registered Mental Health Nurse, Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, Acceptance and Commitment Therapist and Dialectical Behaviour Therapist.
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