Train Your Brain to be Mindful of…

Close-up of Water Lily

What are you mindful of?

Want to find mindfulness but not sure what to be mindful of?

Being mindful or practicing mindfulness seems to be a new catch-all word. You hear everyone from your doctor to Oprah talk about the need to be more mindful of… What does it really mean?

The mindfulness practice has been around for over 2,500 years, and researchers are just now confirming its many benefits. The exploration and practice of mindfulness has grown on a global scale.

Many believe the practice of being mindful is the same as meditation. While it can have similarities, you don’t have to sit cross-legged chanting “ohhhhhmmm” to reap benefits from practicing mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a state of active attention and focusing of the mind on present moment experiences. When you are being mindful of, you deliberately observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them as positive or negative, simply allowing them to exist and acknowledging them.

Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment, on purpose, without judgment. You keep getting distracted by certain thoughts, you keep letting go of the thoughts and returning to your breath, and in time the amount of thinking decreases. By simply becoming aware and focused on the experience of the moment, whatever the moment may be, and quieting your inner commentator, mindfulness can be reached.

The most effective way to improve mindfulness is with daily meditation. However,

Learning to listen intently can teach you to be mindful

this meditation is simply directed focus on a particular thing. I like to introduce my clients to the practice of mindfulness by asking them to focus all of their attention on sounds for 1 minute. We begin by taking a few deep breaths and then for 1 minute we sit and listen. Then we compare what we were able to hear.

Often during the exercise clients find they are being interrupted by the mindless chatter that occupies their brain. When this happens, they’re reminded to direct their focus back to sounds. If they need a sound to focus on in order to bring them back, we start with their breathing.

Mindfulness can also be practiced with sight. Choose a picture or item that you can stare at intently for one minute. During this exercise I ask my clients to notice every detail about the item. How light reflects or doesn’t, what material the item is made from, texture, and anything else they could use to describe the item. I tell them to imagine they will need to draw this or describe it exactly when they are done so not to let any detail go. What I’ve discovered when practicing mindfulness using sight with clients is that they are able to reach a level of appreciation for something seemingly insignificant just by taking the time to study.

Mindfulness can also be practiced with touch. This doesn’t have to mean your hands or fingers. Instead, notice how your body feels in whatever state it is in right now. Notice how your legs are positioned if you’re sitting. Are you comfortable? Is the chair, couch or bed you’re sitting on soft? Hard? Just right? Is your body completely relaxed or tense in some areas? Which areas? Just by simply being mindful of your own body, you’re practicing mindfulness.

These exercises are great starting points for beginning to practice mindfulness. Ultimately, you’ll want to be able to be “present”, or mindful of almost all you do. Especially when you’re connecting with other human beings. You’re entire experience with others will change when you can begin appreciating people for the most simple reasons. Once you realize how special each of your moments are, you can begin to greatly appreciate the things and people that share them with you.

To read a previous article about mindfulness, click here.

To Your Continued Growth Mindfulness,

Jason Magill, MA, LPC