One definition of mindfulness is, “The basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are, and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Sounds simple right? The definition itself includes the word “basic”… so why is mindfulness such a difficult concept for some of us to comprehend and engage in?

woman practicing mindfulnessAs humans in today’s society, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the anxieties of daily life. Stressful jobs, raising kids, car and mortgage payments, the list of adult responsibilities can go on and on. Most of us have such busy schedules that we don’t think we have time for mindfulness. But here’s the thing – mindfulness is something we can engage in in just a matter of minutes and it’s something that can help us drastically in the long run.

What is mindfulness … in layman terms?

Mindfulness is being aware of where you are and what you’re doing in the present moment. It includes acknowledging your thoughts and your feelings as they come, without casting judgment upon them.

Who can practice mindfulness?

When you hear the word ‘mindfulness’, what immediately comes to mind? Is it a yogi sitting cross-legged on top of a mountain? Buddhists and monks and yogis aren’t the only people who practice mindfulness – this is something that anybody can engage in.

When and where can you practice mindfulness?

The simple answer is anytime and anywhere. While some places and times might be easier to practice mindfulness in than others, there are no set rules or restrictions for engaging in mindfulness. A common mindfulness misconception is that there are designated times and places to practice it. Sometimes the most productive mindfulness practices come at the most unplanned moments. If you’re having a stressful day at work, give yourself just 60 seconds to sit alone at your desk and observe your thoughts.

How do you practice mindfulness?

Just as there are a variety of places and times to practice mindfulness, there are also a variety of ways to do it. It’s important to remember that the goal of mindfulness is NOT to quiet your mind. It’s not to try streaming only happy thoughts or to picture a life filled with sunshine and rainbows. The goal of mindfulness is to simply sit with yourself and be completely in tune with the present moment.

If possible, find a quiet place where you can sit alone so that you can close your eyes and be still. As you sit, notice the way you feel physically. Do you feel any tension in your shoulders? How about your neck? Any tingling in your toes? Notice the smells around you. Do you have a candle lit? Did your spouse just heat up something for dinner? Once you are feeling physically present, notice your breath. Focus on the pattern of your breathing.

It is inevitable that your mind will start to wander when you are sitting in complete silence – maybe you begin to think about what’s on your agenda for the rest of your day or maybe you start to worry about something you forgot to do this morning. Even the best meditators experience a wandering mind. When you begin to notice that your mind is wandering, simply bring it back. Don’t be too hard on yourself for allowing your mind to wander – passing judgment is the opposite of the mindfulness goal.

Why practice mindfulness?

Now that you’ve read the how, mindfulness still sounds easy, right? If it’s such a simple concept, why does it work?

Mindfulness helps you process each one of your experiences – good and bad. Research proves that mindfulness lowers stress and improves your physical and mental health. It allows you to appreciate life’s positive moments instead of dwelling on the bad. It also helps you think before reacting. By taking the time to observe your thoughts, good and bad, you can more productively move forward.