Let’s try a little exercise. Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard the word mindfulness. (I’m imagining all hands are raised right now.) Now keep your hand raised if you actually know what it means or how to really practice it. (Did some hands just go down?) By definition, mindfulness is:
A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts + bodily sensations.
By my definition, mindfulness is about fully feeling every emotion and physical sense that comes to you, letting them resonate with your mind and body, and then letting them go so as not to get weighed down or distracted. It’s about not being stuck in the past or looking too far into the future, but rather knowing that the present moment is all that matters and making the most of it while it’s here.
It’s about acknowledging and accepting the hundreds of thoughts and sensations that may distract you on a daily basis, but choosing to remain calm and present with them as much as possible. Rather than taking a walk and getting lost in thoughts of what’s to come in the day ahead or how long your to-do list is, mindfulness is noticing the weight of your feet hitting the ground, the way the leaves dance softly in the morning breeze and the smell of freshly cut grass wafting through the air.
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Mindfulness is about reconnecting with your body and the sensations it experiences; reconnecting with your mind and the thoughts that float through your head; and not taking any of them for granted. It helps you become aware of your emotions, both good and bad, allowing you to better cope with the negative ones and bask in the positive ones.
And mindfulness doesn't just sound great; it is great for you. Many studies have shown that practicing mindfulness can improve your memory capacity, increase attention span and focus, reduce stress and anxiety, enhance relationship satisfaction, and in some cases, even improve the function of your immune system.
That's why we're dedicating the entire month of May to the practice of mindfulness. Each week during Mindful May, we'll focus on a different mindfulness topic—from mindful eating and movement to mindfulness meditation and communication—and sharing our favorite tips + tricks for living a more mindful life.
To get started, I want to leave you with a few simple tricks for beginning (or enhancing) your mindfulness practice:
- Notice the things that pull you away from the now. Are they fears about the future, anxiety about a relationship, guilt for not calling your parents enough? Give these feelings a name, acknowledge them, and then accept them for what they are without judging yourself for feeling them.
- Acknowledge the everyday. From the hearty oatmeal you have for breakfast to the smell of your shampoo or the softness of your child’s skin, take the time to notice the sensations and emotions common in your everyday life, and make sure to appreciate how incredible they are.
- Make mindfulness a habit. Even the most mindful of us can’t remain fully aware and present at every moment of the day. Instead, start small by setting aside a dedicated time each day to be actively mindful about everything going on around and inside of you (maybe 5 minutes each morning when you get out of bed, or 15 minutes in the evening when you take the dog for a walk). Build on this time as you go until you spend more time living in the now than anywhere else.
- Give yourself a reminder. Choose something physical that reminds you to be more mindful every time you see it or hear it. Of course, my mala beads are my reminder. Every time I look at one of my bracelets or feel the weight of a mala against my chest, I’m reminded to stay present in that moment and as many moments as possible.
What are your go-to tricks for staying mindful? Share them in the comments section below, or tag us on Instagram @malaandmantra with #MMtakeover and a photo that embodies one of your favorite tips. And don’t forget to stay tuned all month long for more Mindful May tips.