We live in a world of almost endless choices, where we are overwhelmed by advertising which assaults our senses, and the busier we become the more difficult it can be to remain in the present, and concentrate on what is happening around us. It can be easy to get lost within our heads, and become caught up in our thoughts without stopping to consider how our thoughts drive our feelings and behaviours. This article aims to explore what mindfulness is, how it can help and how you can be more mindful. It also aims to look at how to make more mindful choices and how therapy can help.
What Is Mindfulness?
The origins of mindfulness lie within the Buddhist religion, where it is considered to be a highly important part of becoming enlightened. In today’s world, mindfulness is a way of developing direct knowing and knowledge of what is going on both inside and outside of our minds in each moment. It is a technique that allows us to better understand ourselves. It assists us in lessening the feelings and experiences brought about by narrow or tunnel minded thinking. It assists us to focus on the now more effectively, especially during times of stress or anxiety or when we are stressed or tired.
How Mindfulness Can Help
Mindfulness can assist us in a variety of different ways, from giving us back power over our own decisions and life choices, and can help to free us from often redundant and circular patterns of thinking, which are often more destructive than productive. Below are some of the benefits of developing a more mindful way of living.
- Reconnect with our bodies
- Begin to notice things more: smells, tastes, sights and sounds
- An increased awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen from moment to moment
- Allowing ourselves to see the present moment more clearly
- Make positive changes to our lives and how we experience our lives and relationships
How You Can Be More Mindful
When we are able to take notice of our thoughts, feelings and the sensations within our body, we are taking the first step towards mindful practice. Even within our daily lives we can find different ways to experience, be and notice the world we live in. Becoming more mindful takes practice, and it can be difficult at first to to put your mind in a different mode. Below are some tips to assist you in being more mindful in your daily life.
- Notice small things such as the movement of air
- Interrupt the body’s natural inclination to go into autopilot
- Take a new route to work
- Sit in another chair during a meeting
- Pick a time in the day to become aware of your sensations and concentrate on recognising them
- Observe your own thoughts, and allow them to drift past you
- Seeing thoughts as another mental event, which do not hold sway over your life
Making Mindful Choices
As written above, there are many benefits to using mindfulness in everyday life. So, what does it mean to make a mindful choice, and how does one go about doing this? Well, this really comes down to your thought processes behind your choices and developing a better understanding of what is going on, when you are faced with making a choice, be it whether to take a new job, or what to order in a restaurant.
Choice is inherently difficult because built into each choice is both loss, of what you didn’t choose, as well as the possibility of what could be chosen. This internal struggle, which often happens at an unconscious level, makes it very difficult to decide on certain things. This is where mindfulness comes in. Below are some ways in which you can make more mindful choices.
- Place yourself in the moment when making a decision, concentrate on now instead of the future
- Understand the choices laid out in front of you as well as the alternatives
- What are your emotions doing during this moment? Are they affecting your decision?
- Honour your own values and stick to your beliefs
- Be aware of where it is that you wish to be in life in both the short and long term, and make a choice that will take you that point
How Therapy Can Help You To Be More Mindful
If you find yourself feeling as if you are unable to make choices, or feel as if things are getting out of control in your lives, then mindfulness techniques in therapy can be a way to assist you in helping yourself to regain control. Mindfulness in therapy is recommended for both people with mental health needs as well those who are seeking a way to better understand themselves and improve their mental well-being. Therapy can help you to begin to deconstruct your thoughts and stop feeling paralysed by choice and fear. Some of the ways therapy can help are listed below.
- Work on changing the things within your power
- Accepting that you cannot change everything.
- Improving areas of your life where you struggle to make choice.
- Develop strategies to allow you to manage feeling overwhelmed.
- Focus on assisting you in becoming more in control.
- Giving you the tools to consciously choose options which are right for you
We all at points find it difficult to make choices, not worry about our futures, lives and relationships. We all also at times make impulsive decisions, which we may regret afterwards. It is important to find a balance of considering the future, as well as remaining in the present. This may seem a tall order, however with the implementation of mindful techniques, therapy and formal practices such as yoga or Tai Chi, we can regain control of circular patterns of thinking, ultimately allowing us to live more happily in the present.