I have recently read about the importance of mindfulness. While it may be hard to take the time to actively pay attention to our inner dialogue, mindfulness benefits us mentally, physically, and emotionally.
So many of us (myself included) are often in a state of mindlessness in which we are always hurrying, distracted, and not fully present. But with a “wise mind” we will notice a more positive mood, an improved immune response, better relationships, and more mental clarity.
Our brain benefits too; it actually establishes new neural pathways through mindfulness so that a “greater degree of pleasure” can be experienced according to psychologist, Dr. Richard O’Connor. Positive feelings in the prefrontal cortex increase and fear and anger are controlled more efficiently in the amygdala.
Mindfulness is not easy, though. Known as “metacognitive awareness”, one must practice simply observing your thoughts as they pass by, without judgment or punishment. It is essential to practice this skill even though at first it will feel very unnatural. According to Dr. O’Connor this is known as “resistance”, when we have the “stubborn tendency to cling to our problems even though we know our behaviors are harmful.” If we dedicate the time and patience to mindful living though, I believe we can be more connected and happy with our true selves.
So what can you TODAY to be mindful?
1. Notice what you think about when you are not fully present. This could be when you’re walking, driving, or falling asleep- that subconscious feeling almost. Do you think of your fears, goals, or worries? These thoughts may give you insight about what you truly fear or desire.
2. Write down your dreams. Keep a journal by your bed and write down what you remember as soon as you wake up. Notice themes in your dreams.
3. Look for patterns in your personality. What emotions do you usually feel? Happiness? Anger? Sadness? Love? Fear? Excitement? Be accepting of whatever those emotions may be; love yourself with “compassionate curiosity.”
4. Pay attention to your physical symptoms. Bodily aches and pains may reflect stress or conflict. For example, a backache may mean you are overworked or a stomachache may mean you don’t want to accept something.
5. Talk to those that are closest with you. What do they notice about you that you can’t necessarily see for yourself? Try to be open to their feedback.