Mindfulness is the New Black

Since my wife’s breast cancer diagnosis we have taken a step back and reevaluated many of our priorities. Our mission is to financially, mentally, emotionally, and physically simplify our lives. This includes limiting our spending, purging the clutter, and being aware of our reactions to the constant stream of upsetting news in the world.

The buzzword around our house is now mindfulness. While the process has been therapeutic and enlightening, it has also had its fair share of blech moments. For example, not long ago our family dropped our cable service.

Admittedly, I was not looking forward to losing my entertainment companion of nineteen years and felt anxious about the change. I knew where every channel was and which of my favorite shows I could watch after my day ended. Thank you DVR.

Staying up late and catching up on our shows filled both of our brains with unnecessary noise, images, and useless information. We watched anything we could to avoid dealing with our thoughts and feelings. Zoning out was more enjoyable than processing how deeply affected our lives were because of cancer.

Sound familiar? A classic move that only prolongs and delays the inevitable. Something had to change so we cut the cord. Literally and figuratively. What exactly is mindfulness?

It is the quality or state of being mindful, which is not the most helpful explanation. A more descriptive definition is the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.

Mindfulness

Now we are getting somewhere. Whether at work or play, mindfulness can be challenging if you regularly seek out constant activity and stimulation. Having a full mind and being mindful are not the same thing. It is difficult to believe mindfulness will work when feelings of anger, sadness, or fear are bubbling inside.

Remaining present means paying attention to not only the tasks which need to be completed but also how we are feeling, thinking, and behaving in the moment. Finding the sources of negative self-talk and patterns of old behavior which are rooted in the past are also included. Learning to slow down and be present is a skill requiring both practice and patience.

Many steps and changes may be necessary before true mindfulness is possible. Circumstances or situations which create a full mind are around every corner. The brain is a powerful machine and learning how to keep it from overheating is a lost art.

We have been conditioned to believe idle minds belong in the same category of hell as idle hands. Thoughtful, slow, and deliberate living can be viewed by some as a weakness or a flaw. Who has time to be mindful?

Today, people must be constantly thinking, creating, or performing in order to be seen as successful or productive. Busy is the new black. Being bored can feel unsettling for many who have become reliant upon technology to constantly occupy the mind.

Down time happens only when sleep comes. Well, not really. It has been shown sleep and health is affected when the brain does not have an opportunity to wind down before going to bed. On or off is not how we were meant to exist.

Learn to be mindful.

Busy minds can be productive but can also create chaos, exhaustion, and conflict at home, work, or play. Cutting the cord helped us realize we were unintentionally adding to our stress level by blowing through life and jumping from one distraction to another.

Practicing mindfulness has helped create a more positive and peaceful energy for us individually and in our home. Meditation is one way to learn mindfulness however it can be as simple as noticing rising anxiety and stopping to pay attention the feeling. It passes when you acknowledge it.

Mindfulness is not problem solving, overthinking, or looking for answers. It is feeling while being in the moment. Failing to deal with lingering emotions or feelings has a cumulative effect on the internal noise level within.

Mindfulness helps to lower the volume and heal. Breathing, exercise, or just sitting in the quiet. Find what works for you and go with that. There are no wrong answers when it comes to minding your thoughts. Freeing up this valuable space within is the key to peace.

Refer to these 6 exercises for practicing mindfulness to get started. Be patient with yourself in the beginning. Commit to doing one thing every day which helps focus on the present moment. Be intentional about the things you give attention to. Awareness is the first step toward reducing stress and improving your mental health and well-being.