- Mindfulness is a mental state of being engaged in the present moment without evaluating or emotionally reacting to it
- More than 250 medical centres worldwide now offer mindfulness-based therapies for mood and other disorders
- Mindfulness training works, at least in part, by strengthening the brain’s ability to pay attention
Pulling into a parking spot, you realise you have no recollection of the drive that got you there. On reaching the bottom of a page in a book, you are frustrated that you have failed to understand what you just read. In conversation, you all of a sudden become aware that you have no idea what the person speaking to you has said. Have you ever had the experience of watching a television show or movie and suddenly realising you missed a good portion of it because your attention drifted? Or had to ask someone to repeat something? Or had a partner accuse you of not listening?
These episodes are symptoms of a distracted mind. Whether the mind journeys to the future, or the past, whether the thoughts that distracted you were useful, pleasant, or uncomfortable, the consequences are the same. You missed the present, the experience of the moment, as it was unfolding.
Distinct from daydreaming, our mind gets offtrack almost half the time. Such mental meandering is associated with negative mood. Severe psychological stress may be cultivated by rumination, worry, or fear about many topics. This type of diffused and unstable focus impairs performance too.
The opposite of a wandering mind is a mindful one. Mindfulness is a mental state of being engaged in the present moment without evaluating or emotionally reacting to it. Evidence reveals that mindfulness reduces psychological stress and improves both mental and physical health, alleviating depression, anxiety, loneliness, and chronic pain.
HOW TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS:
10-MINUTE MINDFULNESS EXERCISE:
- Sit in an upright, stable position, hands resting on your thighs or cradled together
- Lower or close your eyes, whichever is more comfortable for you
- Attend to your breath, following its movement throughout your body
- Notice the sensations around your belly as air flows into and out of your nose or mouth. In this moment, you are simply noticing your breath.
- Select one area of your body affected by your breathing and focus your attention there. Control your focus, not the breathing itself.
- When you notice your mind wandering – and it will – bring your attention back to your breath.
- After 5 to 10 minutes, switch from focusing to monitoring. Think of your mind as a vast open sky and your thoughts, feelings, and sensations as passing clouds.
- Feel your whole body move with your breath. Be receptive to your sensations, noticing what arise in the moment. Be attentive to the changing quality of experience – sounds, aromas, the caress of a breeze, thoughts.
- After about 5 or so minutes, lift your gaze or open your eyes.