What is mindfulness?

Think of an after dinner mint. Sweet and flavorful, but typically only distributed in small quantities at a time, they are the perfect way to completely clear your palate, wiping clean the last remnants of a tantalizing meal. A small dosage completely nullifies the aftertaste, so that the attention is no longer on the meal that has just passed. It’s the gustatory equivalent of a reset button, clearing and preparing you for whatever sensory experience comes next.

This is the concept of taking a moment, just a moment, to do something that feels organic, indulgent, calming to the senses. In short, mindfulness. Mindfulness is focusing one’s awareness on the present moment. Taking a moment to break from the energy of the last experience, as well as to break from the anticipation of the next one, feels essential to good mental wellbeing and to surviving a busy day.

Why is mindfulness in these moments important? It’s important for you, because you deserve a moment to take a breath. And for the people around you, because they deserves your complete mental presence. Because if you are running on autopilot, meaning not truly being aware or present in any moment, you really aren’t fully able to engage in whatever responsibilities you might have at that moment. Because mindfulness is proven to reduce overall stress. Because when we become mindful, we are far less likely to be easily reactive or overwhelmed. Because once you start to regularly practice mindfulness, you’ll be more easily able to be present during other times in your life (i.e. being able to actually leave work at work, being able to be mentally present when you are home with your family, being able to actually focus on emotionally connecting when you grab that cup of coffee with your friend, etc). Because even if all it achieves is to make you healthier and happier, you’re worth that investment in yourself.

How does one start practicing mindfulness? Here are some tips on how to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine:

 

  • Breathe: Either sitting or standing, take a deep breath. Focus on your breathing and on exhaling and inhaling but especially the momentary pause in between. Pay attention to all aspects of the breathing; make note of the feeling of air entering and leaving your nose/mouth and the rise and fall of your belly as your breathe.
  • Pay attention: Take a moment to listen to the other sounds around you, the ones that you might not have noticed before. For example, listen to the air conditioner switch on and off. Or the cars whizzing by outside your office window. Bringing your attention to that moment draws you into the present.
  • Accept your emotions: Take inventory of all the emotions you’re feeling at the moment. No matter what you are feeling (anger, sadness, happiness, frustration), accept it openly. Remember that you are not your thoughts (i.e. feeling a moment of anger does not make you an angry person). And then let it go and let your mind clear.

 

Easy right? And while many sources will advise you to take a block of time to sit down in a quiet environment with a cushioned chair, most of us simply don’t have that luxury in our busy lives. Mindfulness practices can be helpful no matter how little time you have or where you are located, whether at work, at a child’s soccer practice or barefoot at home on a quiet evening. Your practice of mindfulness can start in your car before you walk into your office. And in between clients it feels almost essential; taking a moment to sit quietly at your desk or in the break room could be a quick way to practice before you go about the rest of your busy day.

The best part is that anyone can practice and benefit from mindfulness, no matter the age (even a toddler!), practice setting, religious background or medical history. It’s a compassionate way to bring calm and harmony to your mind and allow your mind to be it’s most powerful version of itself. It’s a wonderful, simple way to bring yourself into the present, so that you can be the best and the healthiest possible version of you for yourself and your family.

Photo credit: Kegfire / Bigstockphoto.com

DISCLAIMER: All information and content in this post are for informational purposes only. The author does not provide any medical advice on the site, and the information should not be so construed or used. Nothing contained in the site is intended to create a physician-patient relationship, to replace the services of a licensed, trained physician or health professional or to be a substitute for medical advice of a physician or trained health professional licensed in your state. The information expressed here are the views of  Dr. Iyer only and are not the opinions of any hospitals or academic facilities with which Dr. Iyer has an affiliation. You should consult a physician licensed in your state in all matters relating to your health. 

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