Have you ever got into your car, driven to your destination and upon arrival have no awareness of how you got there?
We spend a lot of time with our brains stuck on autopilot where we’re only half paying attention and going about our day mindlessly. This is often because we’re thinking about things that aren’t happening right now but rather thinking about the past and future. In a 2010 Harvard study about happiness, they concluded that “people spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing” which ultimately perpetuates feelings of unhappiness, uneasiness and an inability to relax. In the same study, it was also determined that people were most happy when doing something with full conscious awareness such as having a conversation, exercising or doing a favoured activity.
The opposite of mindlessness however is mindfulness.
The practice of mindfulness is taking back control of our life by focusing our full awareness on what we’re doing. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn “mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally”. When we live more mindfully, we start paying attention to what we’re doing, we’re less distracted and overall more content.
Here are a few ways mindfulness can help you:
Coping during change and uncertainty
Often during times of change and uncertainty, we get caught up in the “what ifs” and hypothetical scenarios about the future. Getting caught up in the what ifs typically leads us to catastrophize or assume the worst, which feeds our anxiety. Much of the anxiety we feel during change comes from wanting a situation to turn out a certain way. The future is unknowable, and when we practice mindfulness we learn to bring our attention back to the present to what’s actually happening and where we have the upmost control of our destiny.
If struggling to fall or stay asleep mindfulness can help quiet the mind in order to sleep more soundly. Often we get stuck worrying about sleep or trying to force ourselves to fall asleep which ultimately makes falling asleep even more difficult. Practicing a mindful meditation before bed helps to quiet the mind, creating the same changes that are similar to those that happen in your body during the early phases of sleep (slower pulse rate, blood pressure drops, and stress hormones decrease). The more you practice mindful meditation the more you’ll be able to get into a sleepy state on demand, when you need it most.
When we’re under stress, we feel tense and have difficulty relaxing our mind and body. Often we find our mind wanders unproductively, heightening a sense of danger and panic. Mindfulness counteracts worry and rumination by bringing us back to the present. Mindfulness also helps us to better handle stress by having an increased awareness of our thoughts and feelings so we can better respond versus react to situations.
Mindfulness has many more benefits that can help improve our emotional and mental health, however according to the American Psychological Association, there are various physical health benefits too. Those benefits include increase and improved memory, reduced blood pressure, reduced chronic pain and improved immune functioning.
If interested in learning more about Mindfulness and speaking to a professional book an appointment with our resident therapist. Psychotherapy and Counselling services are available at Bronte Wellness Boutique.