Posted September 14, 2019
By Tommy Showerman
One of the greatest buzz words in the wellness field right now is mindfulness. This is not a difficult concept to define, but it is an incredibly difficult practice for most of us to master. Taken from Buddhism and revised to western secular practices, mindfulness is our ability to be present where we are, as we are, regardless of thought or feeling, while observing through a gentle lens of curiosity. When regularly practiced, mindfulness has been proven to reduce depression, anxiety and stress. It can re-hardwire our brains through neuroplasticity to be happier and more focused. Mindfulness can even improve memory and help combat obesity.
Sounds great, so how do we practice it? At the most basic level, we must stop multitasking. Totally doable right? Not really. I would argue most of us, even when not consciously multi-tasking, are unconsciously planning the next move in our life. Inadvertently, we have become human DOings instead of human BEings.
So how do we control this thought life? Ironically the goal is not to control anything! The goal is to be a passive observer of your thoughts and feelings and begin to create a little more distance between you and them. There are a couple of key practices that we must establish in order to generate this distance.
Most importantly is the mindset with which you approach mindfulness. The goal of this practice is not to control or get rid of anything. This is very hard to understand, as we crave control of nearly every aspect of our lives. However, it is critically important that you understand this. We can have a busy mind, lots of feelings and emotions and still be mindful. It is the distance between us and these events that is mindfulness. So rather than reacting to a thought or feeling you can start to acknowledge them, become curious about them, or completely let them go because they do not resonate with who you are or who you want to become. This separation is how mindfulness works to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
To cultivate this, one must meditate. Meditation allows you to be present and focus on one thing, usually the breath, and observe thoughts and feelings as they arise. Every time you become distracted from your object of focus, you acknowledge you were distracted and come back to the point of focus without judgment. As you become more advanced, you begin to notice that your thoughts and feelings slow down. Instead of being on a roller coaster, you are on a gentle Sunday autumn stroll. Once you become very advanced, you can actually release all focus and allow the mind to do what it wants.
Lastly, align your other aspects of wellness and life with mindfulness. This is so important as we constantly try to become more healthy, more wealthy, raise a perfect family, get the perfect job, and one day wake up and entirely miss the process of doing everything we set out to do! Meditation and life are not separate, and the more advanced you become in the practice of mindfulness, the more you will begin to notice this. So if you are working out, immerse yourself in the feelings of working out. Reach out to old and existing relationships for an authentic conversation. Re-examine your spirituality and see if what you believe is what you practice. Feel when you are tired; instead of drinking more coffee, actually sleep! Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings and let go of them appropriately.
If you trying to do this alone, stop and seek help. There is no shame in receiving the help you need, evaluating your life, ditching the aspects of your life that are no longer valid, and learning the mindfulness skills you need.
About the Author:
Tommy Showerman is the owner of Iron Health and Wellness LLC, an online learning platform and professional wellness network focused on transforming people’s lives through wellness, weight management and athletic development. He is also a personal trainer at Genesys Athletic Club; Strength and Conditioning Coordinator of all sports at Goodrich High School; and Co-Director of Commit to Healthy Hearts, a teenage healthy lifestyle intervention program through Genesys Hospital.