Mindfulness has been shown to enhance our wellbeing by improving our emotion regulation and our ability to focus. Being mindful means to engage with the present moment with full attention and without judgment. We are simply immersing ourselves in our current experience without immediately evaluating whether the experience is positive or negative. This allows us to soak up all the details of a situation and pause before choosing our response.
Often people see mindfulness as an additional task they need to add into the day. Yet actually, mindfulness can be practiced at any time with a simple shift in focus to the present moment. Here are three ways to be mindful:
1. Focus on your breath Focusing on our breath can help to fine-tune our attention while also having a calming effect. Focus on the sensations in your upper lip and nostrils as air is drawn in. How does it feel as it passes your mouth and throat? How do your muscles feel as they rise and fall in your chest? Follow the sensations for each breath cycle. It may be hard to focus at first, but after a while you will find it easier and easier to follow your breath. You are training your attention. This will benefit you for your daily tasks at work and home – you will find it easier to concentrate, ignore distractions, and become more efficient.
2. Use your 5 Senses We experience the world with our five senses: seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting. Yet when is the last time we really tuned in on the details in our environment. During any activity in the day, we can use them to immerse ourselves in the moment. For example, when we are taking a shower:
- What colours are the water? What texture does the water look like?
- What does the water sound like when it hits our body? What does it sound like when it hits the tiles? How loud is it? What is the pitch and timbre of the sound?
- What does the water feel like on our skin? Can we feel the steam and warmth? How does it feel different on different parts of our body?
- What does the water smell like? What does our soap smell like? What other smells are there?
- What taste do we have in our mouth?
What our senses perceive will change with every passing moment. Follow the change in all senses. Focus in on each sense and really take the time to explore and experience. Being immersed in your senses in the present moment like this can help ground you, reduce your anxiety about the past or future, and can increase your sense of connection.
3. Be curious We are often unaware of how much of our pre-existing bias can influence how we perceive the world around us. In fact, our existing beliefs can even impact what we pay attention to and what information we pick up on from our environment. To practice mindfulness means to become aware of some of these beliefs that may colour our perception, and take ourselves back to observing the world with curiosity. We explore the world with an open mind as if we are seeing it for the first time, rather than wearing our judgments and expectations as a lens. What does the world around us truly look like in every detail? What does the moment truly feel like to us? Becoming more aware of our automatic biases and how they guide us to interpret things, can help us to take a step back and reduce our emotional reactivity.