Mindfulness: Take Control of Your Life
Do you hate being alone with your thoughts? Do you get angry easily and struggle to control your emotions? Do you feel anxious all day because of a fake scenario you created in your head? These experiences are far too common, and people are claiming that mindfulness is the answer to all these problems. But what does that really mean and how can you practice mindfulness too?
What does mindfulness mean?
The term ‘mindfulness’ has been thrown around by everybody over the last couple of years. But what does it really mean? You’ve probably seen buzzwords like ‘consciousness’, ‘awakening’ and ‘higher-self’ on the internet and although this idea being spread is a good thing, sometimes the core message can be lost. Being mindful simply means being aware and conscious of what you’re doing. You might be thinking, ‘well I already am aware of what I’m doing’. Have you ever had your day ruined just because you think something will happen?
Imagine you wake up and realise that your boss hasn’t replied to your email about going on holiday. Your brain tells you that they're angry with you and are waiting to give you the bad news. You spend your day anxiously waiting and making yourself sick with worry that you can’t concentrate on anything else, but this bad thought. But in reality, they just haven’t seen your email. Through one thought alone you managed to create an entire false narrative that completely ruined your day.
Our thoughts are extremely powerful and influence the way we see the world around us. When you’re conscious and mindful of your thoughts, it’s easier to look at them objectively. Is this thought true? Is it beneficial to me? Seeing as though you’re having 6000 thoughts on average per day, not all of them are going to be facts!
How can being mindful help you?
If the thoughts in your head manifested into a person, would you like them? Would you want to spend time with them? Would they make you feel good about yourself and others? If the answer is no, something needs to be done.
When you look at your thoughts and feelings as something separate from yourself, you can decide whether or not they will serve you. If a loved one lashes out at you for seemingly no reason, it’s easy to want to argue back with the same energy. When you are mindful of what you’re thinking and feeling, you’ll find yourself noticing and asking:
- My anger is taking over me, when this emotion leaves, how will I have wished I responded?
- Clearly this person is upset, I think it’s more to do with them than it is me.
- Should I go take a breather before reacting out of anger?
- How can we sort out what’s really happening here?
It’s easy to let your ego take over at this point. You might want to be defensive and give them the silent treatment or yell at them in return. Feelings can be overwhelming but being aware of them is a great first step.
When you start to become mindful, it can actually be quite frustrating. You might find yourself telling your brain to shut up or stop talking, because you’re finally realising how much nonsense it speaks. The voice in your head can be very entertaining, but it can also be difficult to live with sometimes. Here are a few key things you can do today, to start being mindful.
Ask yourself, what will my next thought be? Sit and wait for the next thought to come. It might be about work, school or a person. Acknowledge it and let it go. You might find that your brain thinks about certain things more than others and that’s okay! You’re becoming aware of your thought patterns and that’s a great first step.
Notice your surroundings. Right now, notice the way the temperate feels on your skin. If you’re sitting, standing or lying down, what does the surface beneath you feel like? We can get so caught up in our inner dialogue that we forget to observe what’s right in front of us.
Pay attention to your breathing. Our breathing changes depending on the situation we’re in and what we’re doing. If you’re relaxed, you’ll find your breathing is deep and slow. When you’re anxious your breathing can become rapid and shallow. By intentionally trying to slow down and control your breathing you can calm your nervous system when you find yourself in a stressful situation.
You might find yourself living your life on autopilot most of the time. Going about your daily routine, thinking about what you need to do and what you haven’t done. Although we can try to predict what will happen, we never actually know. The only moment that truly exist is this moment right now. Your thoughts like to dwell on the past and anticipate the future, but when you’re mindful, you can bring yourself into the now and live happily exactly where you are.