Mindfulness Part 1
When you think of inspiration, what comes to mind? A friend, loved one, relative or celebrity? Maybe it’s nature, sunlight or a good book, music or movie? Or perhaps it is difficult to think of something… anything. It’s actually quite common to lose your inspiration or drift away from the things that inspire you in life. Let’s face it… bills, schedules, steady 8-5 and exhaustion get in the way most days. It’s also possible that life happened and somewhere along the way, your inspiration just didn’t fit. Generally the drift happens over time, in small increments almost unnoticeable in the moment. We just do what we have to do to either get by or move forward.
Or perhaps there’s more to it. Perhaps, we lose sight of what inspires us unconsciously. Meaning, we aren’t aware of the distractions that arise in the moment or we are guided by unknown thoughts and feelings, that if understood and known, could have an entirely different effect, helping us stay on track, in control and connected. This type of awareness allows us to stay connected regardless of what is going on around us and is present when we become more aware of our internal states, ultimately resulting in more energy, gratitude and mental clarity to stay connected to our goals and live inspired.
The difficulty with all of this is finding ways to minimize the clutter in our mind. Most of the time we aren’t even aware that we have drifted from a goal, lost sight of reality or replaced our original target with one that is less significant or helpful. Before we know it, we’re tired, cranky, restless or even depressed because of how far we’ve journeyed away from our authentic self. The truth is that living distracted and outside of the moment happens all the time, to everyone. Our brain is a highly efficient machine; once it learns something or experiences a situation it categorizes and recalls the a previous experience to know how to react, respond or perform tasks without even thinking through the process. Otherwise, with just simple tasks through the day our brain would end up overloaded with insignificant information. Instead our brain automatically and without involvement of our consciousness makes decisions and responds to what is going on within and around us.
Mindfulness helps us to see more clearly, hear more vividly, feel more intensely, thus opening up all of our senses to just be present. It allows us to be more objective and clear headed to distinguish between what is true or false for us. The practice of mindfulness clarifies our thinking by gradually reducing the amount of distracting thoughts, helping to keep us aware of our automatic reactions and able to actively choose a different, more appealing alternative. In the National Bestseller, ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People,’ Dr. Covey, discusses how mindfulness helps us clarify a clearer picture of our ideal situation by increasing our levels of self-awareness. As a result, we’ll be less likely to unconsciously sabotage our efforts because we will be much more conscious of what we’re thinking, desiring and aiming for. It’s incredible to think that just by increasing our ability to be mindful we gradually weaken the strength of our undesirable habits and reactive responses in life, creating a better ability to not only observe our impulses but rather change them as they are occurring. This means so much for all those daunting resolutions you might have made as the New Year began! Or maybe you beat yourself up with guilt over not following through with a planned commitment or lifestyle change (i.e. dieting, quitting smoking, exercising more, watching less TV, etc.)
Throughout mindfulness research it is shown to be one of the most, if not the most, powerful tool there is for decreasing stress that we experience in our bodies. One commonly known and well researched practice called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction has been used for over 40 years to decrease levels of stress experienced in the body and teach individuals to literally control their responses, thoughts and behaviors all by actively focusing on their thoughts, internal state and clearing their mind to be present in the moment. Interestingly enough, mindfulness has been shown to increase levels of happiness. One study actually found the “happiest people ever measured by science,” to be a group of mindfulness practitioners who scored almost twice as high as the norm.
Next week, we will look more closely at mindfulness and how you can begin to practice it. Because everyone could use more space in their brain and the ability to decrease stress.