You may have heard the word mindfulness bandied about and wondered what it means. Mindfulness is not about walking around in a Zen like state, it is about paying attention, in a particular way, on purpose at any given moment. Studies have shown that mindfulness is effective in reducing the odds of having major depressive episodes. It also helps reduce anxiety, chronic pain and assists in relaxing so you can deal with difficult situations effectively.
How many times have you eaten something but haven’t actually tasted it, or driven to a location and not remembered how you got there? How would it feel to slow down and take your time over a meal? Or maybe take a shower and actually pay attention to the shower gels that you purchased because you like the smell? Over time we learn to do things subconsciously. We drive on autopilot and think about past conversations or the things we need to do, or we shower and think about what we will be doing that day or creating a mental to-do list.
We spend a great deal of time either in the past; ‘I should have said, I should have done etc’ or in the future ‘I need to do this, I need to do that’. Sometimes we find it hard to be in this present moment, and as a result thing’s happen to us that go unnoticed. Something may have happened that day that has affected our mood and before we know it, we are in a terrible mood but can’t pinpoint when and what caused it. Maybe if we checked in with ourselves more often with the use of mindfulness, we could acknowledge what is taking place in the here and now.
Let’s look at the three states of mind that we to work in, and how this is connected to mindfulness. The first state of mind is the emotional mind where we experience feelings which we run with .
We can sometimes become caught up in the emotion and it runs away with us. Have you ever been in the heat of an argument where you were angry and instead of walking away you have started shouting? When we are in the emotional mind we tend to act impulsively and react accordingly, because we feel like we ARE the emotion. Would it be better in an argument to walk away rather than shout? However, there are occasion when it would be good to be in the emotional mind, such as at a wedding or christening where we would want to be more emotionally connected
The next state of mind is the reasonable mind. The reasonable mind looks at facts and works in a very logical way. Someone who is in the reasonable mind may be factual, dry and emotionally detached, for example Sheldon from the TV series The Big Bang Theory. There is obviously a place and time for this state of mind, such as making the numbers crunch whilst sorting through finances, or completing tasks in work, but it is about recognizing which state of mind you are in and maintaining a healthy balance.
As a way of maintaining a balance we have our wise mind, where we make healthy decisions. The wise mind is a combination of the emotional mind and the rational mind together. When we are in the wise mind, we tend to slow things down and for some, this can resonate in the stomach, sometimes known as a ‘gut feeling’ but ultimately it is about making decisions for the ‘right reasons’. If you make a decision in the rational mind, then you need to be certain that you can buy into it emotionally and vise-versa. An example of this is when we purchase an item of high value, we can sometimes get caught up in the emotional feeling from buying it, but you need to ask yourself if it meets your long-term goals. Once the excitement of the purchase has subsided you may be left with a purchase that doesn’t meet your needs. Putting all this together means that if we slow things down and connect with the here and now more often, we can recognize the state of mind we are in. We can look at the emotions and the rational in our wise mind, allowing us to stop the drop in mood from running away with us.
I hope this has helped you understand the benefits of mindfulness, and in future articles we will look at meditation and mindful eating.