What exactly is mindfulness?
A word I am sure we have all heard before.
Mindfulness has become extremely marketable and so has turned into a buzzword used casually by conglomerates selling us things that we do not need and a word quoted daily by affirmations, articles, doctors, therapists, friends, family and pretty much everyone in between.
So much so that it’s probably losing its meaning entirely, but I want to challenge us on that, because can something lose its meaning if we don’t even really know the definition?
Do we genuinely all know the definition of mindfulness?
Well, I’d like to think that we do, but I have a feeling that we don’t, and trust me, I am including myself in this.
We assume a lot of the time that we understand a concept because we’re exposed to it on a regular basis, but being exposed to something doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a deep understanding of it, and that you know if you wanted to, you could practise it in your own daily life.
Woah, deep right? Sort of.
So, what is the genuine definition of mindfulness?
Let’s see. According to the dictionary, one meaning for mindfulness is “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.”
The other is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
Well, let’s start from the first definition. How many times in our day do we genuinely feel that we are in a quality conscious state? I will readily admit that it is not frequent, so much of my day requires me to get rest and then get going that I autopilot as much as possible. Even my sleep the night before. I tell myself, sleep well, or you’ll be even more tired or grumpy, I don’t tell myself sleep well, because the rest is important and you are important. It’s a function that is spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally vital.
So how can I challenge myself to be more consciously aware throughout the day?
Here are a few things I realise are essential to make sure that I don’t slip into unconscious, subconscious or autopiloting during my day.
Work on my breathing
It isn’t until my breath is out of whack that I notice something is wrong, but we also don’t need for our breathing to be out of place to know we should be working on it throughout the day. Consciously connecting to deep and articulating breaths is a great way to remain grounded. Breathing is connected to our mental state and helps in the processing of emotion.
Control Your Thoughts
Thoughts can spin out of control so easily. Many of us struggle with intrusive thought. We find our thoughts jumping from one thing to the next, but when we make our thoughts as purposeful as possible and focus on separating fact from fiction, we can take more control. It also helps me to be careful about what I expose myself to in terms of content. When I’m struggling, I am careful with what I watch, listen to, and read. Keep a positive space for yourself, IRL and online.
This is hard to practice when so many of us are witnessing the end of so much and living in constant uncertainty. Listing small things you are grateful for is an anchor in the midst of all of that uncertainty, and it also acts as a way to remain present enough to navigate this new world.
This is something we all find hard to do because we spend most of our days trying to get from A to B, but in this current environment, we now have the luxury of taking a few minutes or even a few seconds in our day to regroup. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, even doing the things that don’t usually overwhelm us.
I know this seems like a no brainer but if you’re anything like me you need reminders throughout the day. I know there’s an amount we’re actually meant to get through in a day, but focus on consciously drinking throughout the day. Dehydration can be linked to increasing levels of stress because your body is working overtime to keep your body going. Give your body the help it needs!
Opening image: photographed by Flora Maclean