By Charlotte Watts
Mindfulness is the practice of intentionally experiencing the present moment – with compassion and without judgement. It means paying kind attention to how we are feeling, not just think we are feeling at any given time. This moving away from feeling we live up in our head allows us to become aware of the sensations our body is feeling and how these constantly change. We can be used to living with the constant chatter of thoughts, opinions and decisions to be made, but if we can drop beneath them or step away from them, we can find profound and enjoyable ways to let go off the stresses of day-to-day life.
Mindfulness can be practiced as a formal meditation, sitting to notice the sensations of our breath and our body. Feeling that we allow ourselves to be patient, accepting, soft and open-minded means that we can start to meet any thoughts, feeling or emotions that arise without the need to label them good, bad or even neutral. We can learn to simply be with them and cultivate not needing to react or be taken away from the present moment.
Mindfulness can also be brought into daily life to find more space, calm and peace. So being attentive to the whole experience while you eat, during a conversation, at a work meeting, in a yoga pose or as you’re washing the dishes brings a full engagement and we’re not simply off ruminating on the past or conjuring up an imagined future. At any point in life, we can ‘drop in’, notice how we feel and simply make the choice to be present in one or two breaths.
Spending time in mindful states has shown to actively change the ways our brains are wired and so how we respond to challenges and the world around us. Mindfulness helps your brain by:
- Lowering resting cortisol levels – this means that you more easily come back to a calm state after a challenge where your brain can function away from the stress response. This means we make decisions from a more reflective and less impulsive place; less knee-jerk reactions that we might not be happy about later!
- Helping your mind become more adaptable, flexible and resilient. Mindfulness actively helps us build grey matter in the brain and create new neural pathways, so continually creating new thought patterns and not getting ‘stuck in our ways’. This means thought processes can be more creative and inspired, more open to possibilities and curious rather than fearful of change.
- Allowing us to adopt the dietary and lifestyle habits that keeps us most healthy. When we are paying attention to how good looking after ourselves makes us feel, our minds and bodies register that this is good for our survival and we are more and more drawn to repeating them and enjoying the consequences. That feeds back by taking in the nutrients that feed our brains and reducing the stress that reduces the number of brain cells.
Charlotte Watts is author of The De-stress effect, a great resource that can take you through a transformative process to help find new relationships with your body, food and health attitudes. Don’t miss out on this new revolution in eating, exercise and relaxation that will return you to vibrant health by gently bringing balance back to your body and your life. Buy The De-stress effect here today
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This is one of our favorite articles. It was originally published on April 13, 2015.
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