By Kimberly Kostashuk
Mindfulness is quite the buzzword-du-jour.
It is seen everywhere from the walls of our local yoga studio, to our favourite wellness brand’s advertising campaign. We see it in inspirational social media posts, and written in health blogs across the internet. Though it seems like a relatively new idea in our society, mindfulness actually originated in Buddhism and has been around for centuries.
So what is this practice, how is it achieved and why is it increasing popular?
First we must understand that Mindfulness, just like yoga practice, is not a destination. It is an ongoing practice that if we incorporate it into our daily lives, we will cultivate a better overall grasp on our thoughts, emotional triggers, and understanding of our inner selves. By regularly taking time out to observe our present thoughts and experiences, we can continually ease stress, increase our ability to concentrate, better manage physical and emotional pain, and strengthen the ways in which we enjoy life.
According to the Mindfulness Institute, cultivating this kind of “awareness offers opportunities to step out of autopilot and conditioned reactions to consciously choose more adaptive, healthy responses – for instance, disengaging from maladaptive thought and behavioural patterns, including those causing vulnerability to stress reactions and psychopathology”.
Further, the American Mindfulness Research Association cited a study that suggested “that present-moment awareness of one’s actions, thoughts, and feelings during stressful events promotes feelings of self-efficacy and acting in accordance with one’s values, and that these beneficial effects extend into the next day”.
So maybe all the buzz is worth it. Who doesn’t want the mental tools to cope with the tough parts of life, stop from getting consumed by thoughts and help us perceive the world in a way gives us more emotional control. But how do we incorporate the practice into our day to day so we can reap the benefits?
For starters, you don’t need to be a Buddhist or even religious to practice and benefit from mindfulness. Though meditation is at its core, you don’t need a regular meditation or yoga practice. To feel the benefits of mindfulness, you only need to incorporate the practice of presence through bringing awareness and intention to everyday situations.
Here are a couple easy ways to start:
Master how you spend your morning:
What is the first thing you do after you open your eyes? My guess is that most of us go straight to our phones. I know I am certainly guilty of going straight to checking social media and emails. But this is basically the act of bringing our focus to the outside world, before bringing focus to our own.
Instead, what if the first thing we did after opening our eyes was setting an intention about how we wanted to spend that day? Being mindful can be the simple practice of focusing on how you intend to live and deciding how you can cultivate more joy. So before you reach for your screen, take a moment to check in and ask yourself what is it you want more of today? What is it that you want to create? How do you want to feel and how can you bring that feeling into each moment of your day?
By being clear on what you want, it is easier to make the right choice to achieve it throughout the day. And by bringing your focus inward for a few minutes every morning you will be incorporating mindful living into your life without even having to leave your bed.
Make the active choices that help you align with your intention:
Another way to incorporate mindfulness into your life is by making space to focus on the decisions that will help you stay with your set intention. For example, if your intention is to bring more connection into your life, then take time to be more present with those around you. Make the active decision to give your present attention to the people that pass through your day, whether that be talking with the grocery clerk, or turning off your phone so you can have and uninterrupted coffee with a friend.
Incorporate self-awareness and go easy on yourself:
While going about your day, paying attention to what emotions arise will help you gain control of overthinking. Being able to identify events that trigger the worry, anxiety, and self-doubt that create run away thoughts will help you separate yourself from those thoughts. When these thoughts and feelings come up, do not react, but practice asking yourself what has triggered you. When do you experience fear, unworthiness, or sadness? Is there a pattern? You will soon start to see that these run away thoughts are often a preconditioned reaction to an event and not necessarily the truth or reality.
Just like how we start the day, many of us are on our phones right before bed. But instead of closing out your day scrolling through social media, spend the last moments being present in where you are at right now. Find something to be grateful for by knowing though life isn’t perfect, this is where you need to be. Find the good, the joy and the opportunity and sit with it. Being mindful of our unique path and being present in it is how we can continue to learn, grow and cultivate joy. The true beauty of mindful practices is in the opportunities it brings to recognize the happiness that already exists in the here and now.
Author: Kimberly Kostashuk
Kimberly is a writer, photographer, and communications professional. An all-around words aficionado, She loves good books, bad jokes and prefers her puns intended. When she’s not exploring new cities, you can find her wandering Canada’s breathtaking west coast with her camera in hand or on her mat practicing presence, peace, and patience. She craves story swapping, discussions with depth and food for thought—anything but small talk. You can connect with her at her website or Twitter and Instagram.