Mindfulness in and of itself sounds like a relatively easy skill to master. How hard could it be to be aware of our thoughts and emotions? It turns out it is a lot harder than we think it is to master. Think of an instance where you are driving down the road, and someone cuts you off without any warning. Most of us would be pretty upset or angry, which is easy to understand. Noticing that we are angry in that moment is easy to do, but can we identify which thoughts are fueling that anger? These thoughts can be very hard to catch and are what are referred to as “automatic thoughts”. These thoughts are so quick and automatic they are nearly impossible to catch unless we slow down and pay attention to what is running through our mind. Are we just assuming that the person who cut us off is rude? Or maybe that they just do not care about the safety of others? Is it possible that in this situation we are attributing thoughts to this person that might not be true? This person could be rushing someone to a hospital, or even they just could not see us before they cut us off. Being able to catch these negative thoughts and give ourselves a chance to redirect them gives us the benefit of being able to regulate our emotions and keep ourselves in a much more positive state.
This skill can be applicable to most situations in our life. Our thoughts influence our emotions, and our emotions influence how we react to a situation. If we react poorly to these situations, it tends to reinforce the negative thoughts that we are experiencing. If we are able to regulate that initial emotion by understanding and changing how we are thinking, then it allows us to have significantly more control over our daily emotions and, by extension, how we perceive our daily lives and interactions. This can apply to how we deal with our friends and family, how we parent our children, or how we behave in general social situations. This practice, as mentioned previously, is difficult to completely master, but even small efforts or daily dedication to mastering our thoughts can result in a significant increase in our quality of life. Some practices that can lead to consistent mindfulness could be:
Meditation: Allows us to focus on ourselves and how we are feeling at any moment.
Taking walks: Allows us to pay attention to what is around us in a calm manner.
Pay attention to your body: Check for pain, tightness, or any tension in our bodies and attempt to understand where it is coming from.
Breathing exercises: Breathing evenly and consistently has shown to reduce stress and allow us to regulate our bodies consistently and at any time.
Some benefits of Mindfulness:
Being in tune with our bodies
This is a difficult skill to master by all accounts, but the amount of control it offers over our own bodies is astounding. This allows us to regulate how we feel in nearly any situation and gives us a mastery over ourselves that few can manage. These benefits can lead to healthier relationships, more positive interactions in our day to day lives, fewer stressors having impact on us, and more. It may take time and significant effort to get to a comfortable level with this skill, but it is most definitely worth it in the end.