Modern Mindfulness For Beginners
Welcome to the Modern Mindfulness series.
Each week we will discuss ways in which you can integrate mindfulness into your life.
Here is a foundation of the basics of mindfulness before we jump into more in-depth topics.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is to be fully present and living in the now.
It is about intentionally paying attention to each moment, being fully engaged in whatever is happening around you and within you.
It involves bringing an attitude of curiosity, acceptance and friendliness to whatever is experienced, rather than habitual patterns of judgment and criticism.
Mindfulness also refers to the cultivation of this basic human ability through methods, including meditation, mindful movement, mindful eating, which are known as mindfulness practice.
Why does mindfulness matter?
Research shows that when we are not deliberately paying attention to something, our brain clicks off into Default Mode. This is characterised by mental chatter, mind wandering, operating on ‘automatic pilot’, dwelling on the past and worrying about the future, judgment and criticism.
Default mode has been found to activate specific areas of the brain, including the brain’s “fear centre” which becomes over-activated. This activation pattern tends to result in experiencing the world through thoughts and ideas, rather than directly through the senses, and is increasingly being linked to mental health problems such as stress, anxiety, depression, ADHD and even autism and schizophrenia3.
When we pay deliberate attention to what we are doing, we engage different parts of the brain. We experience things directly, through the senses, and avoid getting caught up in worrying, dwelling, judging and fight or flight reactivity.
When we bring this open and accepting awareness to ourselves and others, we tend to act and relate with more compassion and care. We become gentler and kinder and our relationships start to change. And as we become able to sense this clear, open awareness in each moment, we become able to maintain emotional equilibrium in any situation.
We all experience this way of being at times – while exercising, playing music, being in nature, engaging in hobbies or spending times with loved ones. In these moments, we are effortlessly in the present, fully engaged in our senses and fully present.
How can we practice mindfulness?
It’s way easier to experience being mindful when we’re watching sunsets on a holiday than when we are working our way through emails on Monday morning. At these times, mindfulness becomes a practice – we need to deliberately and intentionally focus our attention on the senses, and bring it back when it wanders off into default mode.
A simple way to get started is to set up triggers or cues to pull you back into the present when your mind inevitably starts to wander throughout that day. Examples includes:
While eating, remember to savour each bite every time you put your fork down.
At work, you can set a reminder on your computer (we use Break Reminder on Chrome) to pause in the moment.
Pausing before you respond to a loved one can also help you become more mindful in your relationships.
Do you want to continue learning about mindfulness?