Have you ever driven somewhere and realized you don’t remember the drive? Or eat something and it’s gone before you’ve really tasted it? Have you ever blown up on someone and wondered where it came from? We tend to rush through life, living in the past or worrying about the future, instead of living in the moment and enjoying life.
I think that life is about the here and now. If we dwell on the past, we are missing out on what could be today. If we spend all of our time worrying about or planning the future, we actually never get there. The future we want for ourselves will never happen unless we are taking steps towards it right now, today.
This is where mindfulness comes in. I’ve talked a little bit about mindfulness in some of my other posts, like this one on gratitude. But, I wanted to put mindfulness in the spotlight for once, because it can bring so much goodness to your life.
What is mindfulness?
But first, what is mindfulness? According to Merriam-Webster, mindfulness is “the quality or state of being mindful” or “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis”.
Mindfulness is bringing your attention to what you are experiencing right now without judgment. It’s paying attention to your thoughts and feelings. It’s being aware of what is happening in and around you.
For me, mindfulness is living in the moment. I find that living in the moment is the most important thing we can be doing at any given time. After all, if you’re not living in the moment, you’re missing the moment.
My Experience with Mindfulness
I started practicing mindfulness without knowing what it was. I had decided I wanted to live a better life. For starters, I wanted to enjoy every moment and I wanted to be more present with my kids and husband. And I NEEDED to let go of the past and stop worrying about my future…for my mental health. For me, it started with simple things like putting away my phone more and actually looking at my kids and listening better when they were talking to me.
When I noticed myself feeling bitter or resentful of things in the past, I chose to shift my thoughts toward all the things I have to be thankful for right now. When I started to worry about the future and lose confidence, I switched my thoughts to what I can do right now to make my future better.
Sometimes that meant I needed to learn how to do something, like promote my blog on social media. (So unnatural for me!) Or sometimes I needed to reach out to someone and take the first step to make amends.
I know that if I want tomorrow to be better, I need to do something about it today.
Once I learned what mindfulness was, I started using mindfulness practices for my mental health in other ways as well. I struggle with depression and anxiety at times. Mindfulness has helped put my mind at ease during these times.
In fact, mindfulness has at times stopped an anxiety attack about to happen. I would feel the anxiety coming on, so I would turn my focus to the present. I would pay attention to what I was seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and even tasting.
Being mindful of what was happening in the moment allowed me to see the moment for what it really was and snap out of anxious thoughts that would cause me to spiral out of control.
8 Benefits of Mindfulness
From my experience, mindfulness has many benefits for your life. Mindfulness has completely changed the way I live, the way I view life, and the way I approach any given moment.
Now, I’m not always being mindful, but I am increasingly more often, and with that has come more and more positive change in my life.
Here are the benefits I have seen from practicing mindfulness:
1. It helps you slow down.
We live in a fast-paced world where we have lost the art of slowing down and enjoying life. In any given moment, we are usually preparing for the next one, even if just in thought. We’ve forgotten how to leave space in our lives for spontaneity and the unexpected.
We treat a phone call from a relative we love like a terrorist to our schedule. Because we fill said schedule to the brim with things we think we have to do, as a parent, as a citizen, as an employee, when we really just need to live our own life purpose uniquely.
2. It helps you know yourself better.
When we are more mindful of our thoughts, we learn how our minds work. We may learn what causes certain behaviors from us.
When we are more mindful of our feelings, we get to find out what makes us happy, scared, worried, and a myriad of other emotions. We can recognize our thoughts and feelings for what they are and give them proper labels instead of the power to unravel us.
3. It helps you focus or concentrate.
If you’ve never practiced mindfulness, you may not realize how hard it is for you to concentrate. I bet many of us would struggle to be present for one whole minute!
Regularly practicing mindfulness has made it easier for me to focus. Now, when I’m talking with a friend, I find it easier not to become distracted by my phone or other people/things in the room.
4. It helps you ruminate and stress less.
If you’re at all like me, you may do a lot of living in your head. I relive past experiences and I think about all of the possible scenarios in which my life could unfold. Instead of preparing myself for the future (like I tell myself I am), I am really just getting more and more stressed.
But mindfulness puts a stop to that. It allows you to deal with your emotions and thoughts in healthier ways. For more help on improving your thought life, check out this post on renewing your mind.
5. It helps you change bad habits.
If you have a habit you are trying to break, mindfulness might help.
I had a habit of self-sabotaging relationships because my thoughts went from bad to worst-case scenarios in a matter of seconds. Mindfulness helped me change my thinking. It helped me see a situation for what it really was instead of blowing it out of proportion.
Mindfulness can help you alter your habits. Instead of letting your emotions take control and dictate your behavior, you begin to pause and choose how you will respond.
6. It helps us be more resilient.
Life isn’t suddenly always beautiful and rosy because you are living in the moment. Living in the moment doesn’t necessarily mean that every moment is worth enjoying.
There will be moments that suck and we will wish to get out of them as soon as possible. But, mindfulness helps us bounce back. It helps us stay in control of our reactions, so we recover more quickly when bad things happen.
7. It leads to self-acceptance and compassion for others.
When you get to know your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors better, you learn to accept yourself. You acknowledge your thoughts and feelings without judging them. You learn to understand why you think, feel, and act the way you do.
This helps us feel more connected to ourselves and others. When we understand how we work, it helps us understand where others are coming from and why they may react the way they do.
8. It leads to a happy, more enjoyable life.
Mindfulness can lead you to enjoy your life more. Not because life got better, but because you see it differently.
You are able to enjoy the little moments of life because they don’t go unnoticed. You can stay mentally healthy because you don’t ruminate on things that aren’t worth your time and energy.
And you enjoy yourself and others for who they are without judgment. Life will never be perfect, in fact, some of it will be really hard, but mindfulness gives you the tools you need to rise above and overcome.
Looking for ways to practice mindfulness? Check out The Little Book of Mindfulness: 10 Minutes a Day to Less Stress, More Peace. This little book is so calming and helpful if you are trying to make mindfulness part of your everyday life!
What do you do to stay living in the present? Do you have any mindfulness practices to share with us? Let us know in the comments!