3 Key Reasons to Practice Mindfulness

in Relationships

By Kristen Tang

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Mindfulness is the practice of “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” This means focusing carefully on the present moment, instead of the past or the future. It also means openly accepting the present moment for what it is, instead of struggling against it.

Mindfulness is an important aspect of many emerging psychological therapies. For example, being too concerned about the past or future is a key issue in depression and anxiety. Allowing emotions to dictate our actions is a key issue in addiction and anger management. Practicing mindfulness teaches us to focus on the present, and to accept our emotions instead of letting them control us.

Mindfulness also improves our daily life. Here are three major reasons to consider practicing mindfulness.

1. Mindfulness helps you to reduce stress

 The Good Life
(photo: Mr TGT)

As we all know, too much stress can be bad for your health. Mindfulness can help reduce stress, and improve your health.

Stress tends to come from worrying about things that you can’t change – the past or the future. Unfortunately, the only time you can control is the present. With practice, you will be able to mindfully direct your attention to the present. When you are less focused on things that you cannot change, you can focus your energy on the things that you can change right now.

For example, if you are busy worrying about a presentation you have to make, you may not be able to concentrate on practicing for it. However, if you can focus fully on practicing, you will do better for the presentation.

2. Mindfulness helps you to cope with emotions

Though stress comes from worrying about the past or the future, stress-related feelings are in the present. Focusing too hard on these emotions can be distressing as well. However, mindfulness helps us to change our relationship with our emotions, allowing us to experience them with less distress.

We usually wish that negative emotions do not exist and are impatient for them to disappear. Everyone copes with these feelings differently. Some avoid them by distracting themselves. Avoidance behaviours, such as procrastination, may end up increasing stress and making the problem worse. Also, avoiding our internal problems generally does not make them go away. When we try not to think about something, we end up thinking about it even more.

Here is an exercise: try not to think about a pink polka-dotted elephant. You probably just thought about a pink polka-dotted elephant!

Others act on their negative feelings, such as by comfort eating or shouting in anger. However, such actions may not be desirable. For example, acting on your anger can harm your relationships with others.

Positive feelings can have undesirable consequences as well. Pleasure and desire can lead us to impulse buying, which could become financially unsustainable.

Mindfulness helps us to cope with these emotions. Being mindful of our feelings involves being open to them and accepting their presence. If you feel guilty about your desire to have another slice of cake, that will only add to your distress. Simply acknowledge that these feelings exist, instead of thinking of them as good or bad.

Know that thoughts and feelings are transient, and allow them come and go freely. Learning to observe your feelings non-judgmentally helps to create a sense of distance from them, so that they do not control you.

3. Mindfulness helps you to enjoy life

 Enjoy moment
(photo: Prachanart Viriyaraks)

Mindfulness is a skill that improves with practice. We should remember to practice mindfulness even when we’re not having problems.

Thankfully, we can be mindful about any activity, such as eating, walking, showering, or spending a lazy afternoon in bed. We usually do these things mindlessly, not noticing their nuances. Being mindful helps us to fully enjoy these activities.

Try focusing on the subtle flavours and textures of a piece of chocolate. Cradle a mug of hot Chinese tea in your hands and notice its aroma. Look at familiar places as if you are a tourist. Experience familiar activities like they are happening for the first time.

Live in the moment. You will find that even mundane things have more to offer than you think.

 

By guest contributor Kristen Tang.

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