Why be Mindful?

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Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present.  When you are mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad.  Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”

Worrying can wreak havoc on our mindfulness.  Whether you worry about past problems or future concerns, it causes anxiety, frustration, depression and feelings of hopelessness.  Excessive worrying can cause various physical effects on our bodies.  Headaches, irritability, inability to concentrate, dizziness and fatigue have all been associated with worrying.

This internal turmoil can trigger the fight or flight response causing our nervous system to release stress hormones such as cortisol.  These hormones can boost blood sugar levels and triglycerides (blood fats) that can be used by the body for fuel.  When this fuel in the blood is not used for physical activity, we can encounter some series effect, such as digestive disorders, muscle tension, short term memory loss and even heart attack.

By training ourselves to live in the present moment, we can push our fears and worry from our minds.  The point is not to ignore the problems.  If we consciously make time to address our worries and fears, hopefully, we can gain some clarity and practice towards a more mindful existence the rest of the time.

Helpguide.org offers multiple ideas for practicing mindfulness, such as:

  • Basic mindfulness meditation – Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra.
  • Body sensations – Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment and let them pass. Notice each part of your body in succession from head to toe.
  • Sensory – Notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. Name them “sight,” “sound,” “smell,” “taste,” or “touch” without judgment and let them go.
  • Emotions – Allow emotions to be present without judgment. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions: “joy,” “anger,” “frustration.” Accept the presence of the emotions without judgment and let them go.
  • Urge surfing – Cope with cravings (for addictive substances or behaviors) and allow them to pass. Notice how your body feels as the craving enters. Replace the wish for the craving to go away with the certain knowledge that it will subside.

There is not a right and wrong way to practice mindfulness.  What techniques have you found to increase your mindfulness?

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