Studies have shown that people who practice mindfulness experience improved mood, reduced stress, reduced anxiety, increased compassion, healthier relationships, better memory and concentration, increased productivity, and improved physical health. Mindfulness is a skill. The more you practice, the better you get!
According to Marsha Linehan, practicing mindfulness is a three step process:
1) Observe what is happening within and around you. Be aware of everything you see, hear, smell, taste, touch, think, and feel.
2) Describe what is happening within and around you. Put words to it. Avoid judgment. Nothing is good or bad, right or wrong. Simply state the facts—I feel a tension in my stomach, I think "I can't do this," I hear the air conditioner.
3) Participate fully in the moment.
You can begin experimenting with mindfulness by doing a mindfulness meditation. Find a quiet place to be alone. Put on some soothing music. Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Observe the objects in your line of vision and describe what you see objectively, focusing only on what you see in each moment. Accept the moment as it is, without judgment. Observe the sounds around you and describe what you hear. Take your time. Observe your body in its environment. Can you feel your feet on the floor? What do you feel under your hands? Describe what you feel. As you meditate, observe your thoughts and feelings like clouds passing in the sky, changing moment by moment. Describe them as they come and go. You're not trying to understand, but just putting words to your thoughts and feelings, making the abstract concrete. Your thoughts are neither good nor bad; your feelings are neither good nor bad. Each moment is different from the one before. If you find yourself judging, don't judge your judging. Everything is exactly the way it was meant to be in this moment.
Engaging in mindfulness meditation is a good way to learn the skill, but mindfulness isn’t just about meditation. Practice mindfulness while you're washing dishes, mowing the lawn, driving to work, eating a meal. How much more do we enjoy our food when we take the time to really experience it? Next time you sit down to a meal, try eating mindfully. Before you touch a thing, observe and describe the food before you. Notice all the colors and shapes of each food item, and don't forget the plate! Lean in and smell the food. How many different scents can you detect? Now select a bite and bring it to your mouth. How does it look on the fork? What do you smell now? Put it on your tongue and hold it there for a moment. How is the temperature? The texture? As you chew, swallow, and take another bite, continue to observe, describe, and participate with all your senses. It's the holidays. Good food abounds. Don't gobble it down. Enjoy it!!!
When you’re fully focused on what is happening in this moment, you can't be worried about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. Life suddenly becomes fuller, more vibrant, more fulfilling. To learn more about mindfulness, you can start by watching Jon Kabat-Zinn videos on YouTube or perusing the resources at www.mindful.org.