Mindfulness – Fad or Real Health Benefit?
A concept that has recently been at the forefront of health and wellness magazines and discussions is that of mindfulness or mindful thinking. At first blush, this might seem like new-age nonsense or incite thoughts of monks meditating for hours on a mountaintop, but in reality, it is a concept that is much easier for anyone to achieve than they may think. Mindfulness is essentially defined as paying attention to the present moment that you are in or thinking and acting with specific and realized purpose. It is a way of redirecting your mind out of auto-pilot or to intentionally move your thoughts away from stressful and negative ones. Particularly in a day and age where we are constantly connected to everything through our phones and technology, it can be very easy to simply go through the motions of your day and wonder, what was I even doing? We have probably all experienced a time where we go to the store for the sole purpose of buying the soap or milk that we need, then arriving at the store and having no clue why we came. Or watching a television program and having to rewind parts of it because you simply cannot remember what just happened. These are examples of thinking in a way that is not mindful, and can contribute to stress and anxiety, inefficiency, and a lack of satisfaction in activities of daily life, hobbies, careers, or relationships.
Mindfulness efforts attempt to reset thinking into being aware of what you are doing or thinking about at that very moment. The goal is not total calm or relaxation, or a blank slate of a mind free of all bad thoughts. It is simply to realize and recognize what you are thinking or doing and make a conscious choice of your next thought or action. While the actual act of practicing mindfulness is fairly simple, it can be tough to get used to at first. Mindfulness activities can include taking a few minutes in the morning when you first wake up or before you go to bed at night to focus your thoughts on something of your choosing. You might dedicate your thoughts to an entire task at work without looking at your phone, in an effort to train your brain to be less concerned with immediately responding to an email or text that will interrupt you from the task at hand. It could also be something like picking a simple activity, such as washing dishes or brushing your teeth, and focusing your attention on just that activity for the duration. You can also acknowledge a bad or stressful thought when it enters your mind, and choose how you will respond to it, whether that be redirecting your thoughts to something more uplifting or deciding how you will cope with that particular stressor. Mindfulness can also include more in-depth practices, such as yoga or meditation, but can be as simple or as involved as you choose for it to be. As a simple, free, and beneficial activity for people of all kinds, it certainly seems that mindful thinking is more than just another health fad and is a worthwhile practice for everyone to try.
Mindfulness is a daily practice that we can all get in the habit of but how do we do it?