When we slip into autopilot (47% of the time) our attention is absorbed in our wandering minds and we are not really ‘present’ in our own lives. On autopilot we tend to get lost in ‘doing’ so we find ourselves constantly striving and struggling and ‘getting stuff done’ instead of really living. We also become vulnerable to anxiety, stress, depression and reactivity. Research shows, in fact, that the more our minds wander, the less happy we are.
Mindfulness is the opposite of mindlessness. It means waking up out of autopilot and ‘taking the steering wheel’ of our attention again. We practice mindfulness by maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and the surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves non-judgment, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings with the attitude of an impartial witness — without believing them or taking them personally.
How do we practice Mindfulness?
There are two forms of mindfulness practice. The first is the formal practice of mindfulness, which is commonly referred to as meditation. A meditation practice is commonly done sitting, usually with eyes closed, but can also be done lying down or even walking. Some meditation practices also involve mantra (sound) or movement.
The informal practice is the rest of your life! You see, anything we do in daily life with full awareness can be said to be mindfulness practice. You can do the dishes mindfully, wait at the traffic lights or go for your morning walk mindfully. Any routine activity can be made into a mindfulness practice when you bring your full attention to it.
What are the benefits of Mindfulness?
- Mindfulness reduces stress, anxiety and other destructive emotions
- Mindfulness reduces depression (clinical trials are showing that mindfulness is as effective as medication with no side effects!)
- Mindfulness reduces insomnia, increases your sense of well-being, reduces lethargy and increases energy both mentally and physically.
- Mindfulness is also very effective for pain management.
- Mindfulness sharpens your memory and increases your focus and attention
- Mindfulness improves your emotional and social intelligence and develops your empathy and compassion. It is also shown to improve relationships
- Mindfulness improves health and boosts immunity. In fact, mindfulness is shown to have beneficial effects on many serious illnesses such as cancer and heart disease
- Mindfulness creates clearer, more focused thinking and improves efficiency at work and at home
- Mindfulness improves confidence and emotional resilience
- Mindfulness reduces compulsive and addictive tendencies and has also been shown to work better than any diet for effective long-term weight loss
- Mindfulness turns out to also be the single most important determining factor in whether or not you will be happy in your life (once your survival needs are met).
In other words, the more mindful you are the happier you are! Mindfulness can literally transform your entire world from the inside out and for the millions of mindfulness practitioners around the world it’s doing just that!