“Mindfulness” seems to be a buzzword in the media lately. It is given credit for everything from weight loss to stress reduction. It is the subject of numerous studies, including one released this month that indicates mindfulness has a positive effect on physical health. So, what is it?
It is simply the idea of observing the present, including your inner thoughts and your outer surroundings. As a spiritual and psychological concept – mindfulness is nothing new! People often plow through the day reacting to external stimuli or a mental hamster wheel. Awareness of this can be a tremendous help in personal growth, relationships, and stress reduction.
Here are a few ways to train your brain to be more mindful:
1. Develop a quiet discipline. Begin your day with a few minutes of silent meditation, journaling, or prayer. Go for a run, walk in the park, or just sit in your car on a lunch break. During these breaks, begin observing your thought patterns and triggers and mentally prepare for stressful stimuli.
2. Focus. Observe colors, flavors, sounds and surfaces. Try it tonight at the dinner table. Don’t just shovel in your food, take notice of every aspect of that steak and sweet potato I hope you are having for dinner– the juices, the aromas, the textures, the sweetness, the temperature. (Sorry… am I making you hungry?) Take notice how they influence your thoughts.
3. Count to Five. An important aspect of mindfulness is to be a conscious observer, instead of a participant, in your feelings. For example, if something makes you angry, instead of succumbing to the anger, take a moment to observe it. Notice your heart rate, your thoughts, or your clenched fist. I admit, this may not come easily at first, but if you begin this practice in simple situations, eventually you will advance.
While mindfulness is effective, it will not resolve major mental health problems or complicated family issues. If you would like to begin a deeper counseling or coaching journey, contact me for an appointment at (770) 641-8726.
Thanks for reading,
Steven D Brand
Psychotherapist and Life Coach