I’ve previously written an introduction to mindfulness, what it means, and the main forms of mindfulness approaches.
In this article I look at six good reasons to consider making mindful habits more a part of your life today.
1. Enjoy and appreciate your life more
Mindfulness can have the welcome effect of helping us enjoy and appreciate our lives more. And who doesn’t want that?
Imagine how much better food tastes when you focus fully on the experience of eating and savouring, rather than expending half of your brain power pondering something else, or watching TV.
Imagine how much better the quality of your conversation can be when you focus fully on what the other person is saying without already thinking about what you want to talk about next.
Imagine how much more you could appreciate the town you live if you paid more attention to the sights, sounds and smells of a walk in the park, rather than rushing through it on the way to wherever you are heading, distracted by whatever autopilot narrative is playing in your mind today.
Put another way, we can spend our time and money going on exotic, adventurous holidays, dining at fancy restaurants and spending years pursuing our dream careers – but what is the point of any of that if, when we get there, our minds are already on the next thing, or indeed something completely random like why our last relationship was such a disaster or what colour are we going to paint the spare bedroom?
Really enjoying the lives we have, as they are actually unfolding, begins with mindfulness.
2. Gain a greater understanding of your thoughts and emotions
Once we’ve become adept at focusing on the here and now more often, the next level is becoming aware of the thoughts and emotions that interrupt our focus.
Over time, as this awareness builds, we can begin to see and question repetitive patterns. You may find yourself feeling angry, or thinking negative thoughts in certain situations or around certain people.
Without mindfulness you might react to that every time, prompting confrontational situations, or at the very least making you anxious or uncomfortable. But noticing your negative thought patterns is the first step to questioning what might be causing them and working on a resolution.
3. Gain greater awareness of your body
It’s amazing how many diseases or serious ailments start as small complaints before developing into much more serious things. Yet so few of us even notice the small aches and pains that we carry until they develop into something more serious.
A common feature of mindfulness meditation is a ‘body scan’ where one runs an observational scan from our head to toes, really paying attention to how the body is feeling, looking out for any tightness, discomfort, or energy blockages. This can take as little as 30 seconds, but can help spot problems early before they develop into anything further.
Yoga is a fantastic way to practice and develop body awareness, observing how the body feels when in motion and adjusted into different shapes, poses and situations.
4. Supercharge your focus
A common misconception about mindfulness practices like meditation is that it isn’t compatible with a high achieving work life. That it is somehow at odds with the intensity people believe is required to be successful in the workplace – but on the contrary, mindfulness and meditation can improve focus and mental clarity.
Just as mindfulness helps to develop awareness of distracting thought patterns, so it also helps identify the distractions trying to steal your mind away from work, and develop in you the strength of focus to let them pass without succumbing.
It’s no coincidence that so many super high achievers in so many fields, from Michael Jordan, to Steve Jobs, to Jerry Seinfeld, and Paul McCartney have all spoken passionately about the role mindfulness and meditation plays in their life.
5. Better handle difficult emotions
Think that you aren’t impacted by emotions? Then it sounds like you’re a prime candidate for some mindfulness practice.
Whether we recognise it or not, all of us are emotional beings and carry around emotional energy from our life experiences. Whether we recognise them or not, they are there somewhere influencing our behaviour in some way.
Mindfulness allows us to better identify the emotions we carry and the triggers that prompt them to stir, allowing us to put a distance of perspective between our emotions and our reactions.
That means that we aren’t necessarily swayed so drastically by every little negative or indeed positive thing that happens. We can understand our tendencies, but choose not to get carried away with them.
6. Lose excess weight
Mindful eating strategies, like focusing intently on the sensations of food when we eat – its taste, texture and smell – increase our awareness of what we have eaten, and evidence shows that this makes us less likely to overeat, both in the same mealtime and also later in the day.
Another good reason to give mindfulness a go.
Convinced? For tips on how to get more mindfulness in your life, read my list of 14 Mini Mindfulness exercises you can try today.