We’re all so busy. From the minute we wake up until we finally collapse into bed (perhaps only a few hours before needing to get up again), our days are often rigidly scheduled. With work, family, and personal priorities, it can be nearly impossible to find quiet time to just sit, breathe, and pay attention to ourselves.

You’ve probably heard people talk about mindfulness. Perhaps you wonder whether it might be a useful antidote to being perpetually “on the go” and feeling rushed most of the time. Maybe you’ve heard the term in discussions about meditation or seen social media posts about it. You haven’t followed up to see what, exactly, mindfulness is–after all, you’re scheduled for two meetings in the next 15 minutes and then have to run to a dentist appointment.

We want to take at least one thing off your plate today. We’re going to tell you what mindfulness is, share with you some of its benefits, and a few ways that you can practice it. We know you’re busy, but this will only take a few minutes of your time–we promise! And, one of the great things about mindfulness is that doesn’t have to be a time-sensitive activity, either.

What is mindfulness?

When someone tells us to “be mindful” of something or someone, they are telling us to be careful, and to pay attention to ourselves, others, and our surroundings. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you practice mindfulness, you pay attention to what you are sensing or feeling, without interpretation or judgment. You become aware of, and acknowledge your current state of being, your thoughts, and your feelings without allowing yourself to get distracted by them.

When you practice mindfulness, you focus on being in the present moment rather than thinking about what you had for breakfast this morning, an argument you had yesterday, or what you are going to do after dinner or the meeting you have next week. Spending time worrying about the past, trying to plan for the future, continually problem-solving, daydreaming, or getting bogged down in random thoughts can be draining.

Those behaviors can also make you more likely to experience stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression. Engaging in mindfulness can help you shift your thinking away from these potential pitfalls and, instead, allow you to engage with your immediate surroundings.

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

There are many possible benefits of mindfulness, including:

  • Reduced stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Less negative thinking and distraction
  • Improved mood
  • Improved overall health
  • Better ability to cope with rejection and social isolation
  • Offers a healthy way to identify and manage hidden emotions that may be causing problems in our relationships

Sounds great! How can I effectively practice it?

Glad you asked! There are numerous ways that you can practice mindfulness. Here are three:

Idea #1: Engage your senses

Use all of your senses (or as many as possible) to engage with the world around you. For example, where are you sitting as you read this? Are there other noises in the room where you are? Is a delicious-smelling meal cooking? It might seem silly at first, but by paying attention to what your senses are telling you, you are focusing on yourself in the present, and not on the future or the past.

Idea #2: Focus on your breathing

Read this over, and then close your laptop or put your phone down:

Sit in a quiet place with your back straight, but relaxed. Feel your breath move in and out of your body. Let your awareness of everything else fall away. Pay attention to your nostrils as air passes in and out. Notice the way your abdomen expands and collapses with each breath. When your mind wanders, gently redirect your attention to your breath. Don’t judge yourself for getting distracted. You’re not trying to achieve something specific, only be aware of what’s happening around you.

Idea #3: Pay attention to others

At work, you’re likely to interact with lots of people throughout the day. The next time you talk with someone, pay attention to their words–what they mean, and what the person’s intention is. Focus on listening to understand what another person is telling you, rather than on being ready to respond quickly, possibly with judgement or criticism.

You should aim to practice mindfulness every day. Start with one week, then try two, then try a month, and so on. Over time, you may discover that it becomes easier to do. Remember, don’t judge yourself if you forget a day or two (or ten), or if you find yourself easily distracted.

The amount of time that you spend practicing it depends, of course, on your schedule and what activity you are going to do. You may have only a few minutes in the morning to actively focus on your breathing before getting ready to go to work, but discover that you enjoy it and are able to make more time at night. If you want to focus on paying attention to others, that will depend, of course, on the length and content of your conversations, as well as how many people you are able to speak to during the day. But a good starting point may be for 15 to 20 minutes, four to eight times a day.

How can the doctors at South Orange Chiropractic Center help you? Contact us today to set up an appointment.