Mindfulness is a popular topic these days, and I know why. Increasing mindfulness in our lives is sooo helpful! What is mindfulness, you might ask? Although mindfulness has grown in popularity in the past two decades, the Buddhist technical term was first translated into the word “mindfulness” in 1881 by T.W. Rhys Davids. The initial definitions were created from ancient Buddhist texts. Since the initial translation and introduction into the Western Culture, mindfulness is known as a way of paying attention to the present moment with intention and a willingness to accept what is.
If you’re looking to improve your life, here is a list of ways it’s been proven to help:
· Effective tool in emotional healing
· Improves relationships
· Eases anxiety
· Shifts unhelpful thought patterns
· Reduces stress
· Helps depression
· Aids in dealing with infertility
· Assists with eating disorders
With this list, there is no question it’s helpful. Why then, is it so hard? Check out the list below:
1. “Busy” is glorified
Mindfulness is all about being aware of the present moment. If that’s the core of the definition, you can see why that would be hard if we are constantly busy. I don’t know about you, but I feel pretty scattered when my schedule is overly packed. Why has our society made it such a badge of honor to say that we are “busy” when asked how we are doing? It’s sad that we use this term more often than words like “present”, “happy”, “joyful”. Some people might say when they are busy they are happiest, but I think that just points to the fact that our identity is so wrapped up in production. What are we if we aren’t doing a lot? I think the hard thing about increasing mindfulness is that it would push us to redefine ourselves.
2. We are glued to technology
This one is obvious. How long do we go without our phones until we are reaching for them? If we are constantly available to people not with us, how can we be fully present with those right in front of us? In many ways technology is absolutely wonderful, but in this way it has robbed us of the present moment. Turn off your ringer and pay attention to the moment at hand.
3. Who was taught to be aware of emotions?
An aspect of mindfulness is being aware of emotions and to respond non-judgmentally. In my work as a marriage and family therapist I would say majority of people were not taught this skill growing up. But, even if there is some awareness of emotions there is another problem…we fear certain emotions. We have been taught to run from feelings like sadness, pain, and anger. Mindfulness encourages us to accept ALL emotions and let them be. We don’t become consumed by sadness, yet approach it thinking, “I’m sad, but I know just like the clouds in the sky this will pass. Sadness is here now but won’t stay forever.” Mindfulness invites us to take a lighter approach towards emotions and let them be what they are.
4. Life. Period.
Even though mindfulness has been a pillar of my research and a major goal to incorporate in my life, I’m finding that it’s hardest now to be mindful. In my course I included a questionnaire that rates our level of mindfulness, and one question in particular has been standing out to me. The question asks about our ability to eat slowly and soak in the taste of the food we are eating. For all of you who have had children, you know it’s just a victory to eat…tasting it is just an added bonus.
The beauty of mindfulness is that I don’t need to beat myself up about the fact that I’m a therapist encouraging others to be more mindful when I myself am struggling. Mindfulness is not a task to be overcome, but an invitation to slow down to find more enjoyment out of life. Some days we might feel like buddha, and others, well about as far from it as humanely possible. And you know what? That’s ok. That’s life.
If you’re looking for more ways to practice mindfulness, check out my online course!