If your mind is constantly replaying what happened in the past, or what might happen in the future, you may miss things that are going on around you now. It could be hard for you to pay attention during a conversation when you are distracted by your own thoughts. Maybe you’ve been accused of not listening or not paying attention at times. If so, you might benefit from practicing mindfulness.

Mindfulness is one of the easiest concepts to explain, and one of the hardest to practice. Mindfulness refers to being fully present in the moment. This includes noticing your thoughts and feelings without judging them. When you are mindful, your awareness is completely focused on what is happening as it is happening. Being fully present and experiencing what is occurring without judgment is good for your mental health as well. It helps increase your ability to regulate your emotions and calms anxiety and depression. The more you practice mindfulness, the easier it becomes, and the more you will notice the benefits.

Why Mindfulness Is Needed

In your everyday life, there is a lot of stimuli that you are constantly exposed to. Between cell phones, work, computers, Netflix, social activities, relationships, and the fear of missing out, multitasking almost seems like a necessity. It can be difficult to stay focused in the moment when there is so much going on. When you focus on many things at once, it can seem as if there is too much to do. You may feel overwhelmed as there appears to be no end in sight.

Your thoughts are also something that takes your attention away from what is happening in the moment. When you engage in past oriented or future oriented thinking, your thoughts become distracting and even overwhelming at times. The amygdala, the emotional processing center of the brain, and the fight, flight, or freeze response is sent into overdrive when you fixate on negative or worrisome thoughts.

Practicing mindfulness teaches you to notice your thoughts and allow them to be and then move on without the need to ruminate on them. The more you are mindful, the less outside distractions and thoughts interfere with your ability to be present and engaged in your life. Mindfulness allows you to notice the situation or thoughts that are occurring without absorbing them. This provides an opportunity to pause before reacting which can improve your general well-being and relationships. Although mindfulness can be tough to master, there are some simple ways that you can make it a part of your everyday routine.

1. Notice Your Breath

Breathing is something that you generally due mindlessly. When you think about it though, your breath can let you know quite a lot about what is going on. When you are exercising, you probably breathe harder. If you are anxious, you probably breathe faster. When you are relaxed, your breath is most likely more even and less noticeable. To breathe mindfully, notice your breath, practice breathing slower and deeper and pay attention to the sensations in your body and how you are feeling. Breathe in through your nose for a count of three and out through your mouth for a count of seven. Focus your breath in your belly instead of your chest and notice the difference. Allow your thoughts to clear as you breathe in and out.

2. Meditate

Take time out each day to meditate. Meditation helps you become better at being mindful as it allows you to practice being focused without allowing your thoughts and judgment to take over. Meditation helps you to focus on the stillness and your breath as you allow your thoughts to come and go without judgment. There are a number of meditation apps available, such as calm and insight timer. Simply being is a meditation app you can do in as little as five minutes. Meditation has been shown to improve mood, energy, and general well-being.

3. Engage Your Senses

Engaging your senses during everyday tasks helps you to focus mindfully on what you are doing. For instance, when you do the dishes, notice the temperature of the water, the way the soap smells, the sound as you rinse, and the way the clean dish feels. When you are eating, notice the way the food smells. Focus on the taste and texture, the sound you make as you chew and the way it looks on your plate. Doing this helps you stay more present in the moment as that is where your attention is.

4. Learn Something New

It is easy for your mind to wander when you are engaged in routine tasks. Doing something new requires you to focus. When you are mindful, it is easier to learn a new skill. Creating something requires focus and mindfulness. When you travel somewhere new, you need to pay attention to all of the things going on around you. Driving to work a different way, learning a new language or skill, traveling, and being creative are good ways to practice mindfulness.

5. Listen Actively

You can’t focus on what someone is saying to you if you are distracted by your own thoughts or your attention is elsewhere. When you do really focus on what someone is saying, it helps them feel valued, heard, and understood. If you are actively listening, you are fully present and hearing and absorbing what the other person is saying to you. This requires you to listen without judgment and without attempting to formulate a response. When you actively listen, your attention is on the other person and you are able to paraphrase what they are saying.

6. Be An Observer Of Your Thoughts

When you are distracted by your thoughts, you are not being mindful. Being mindful requires you to notice your thoughts without becoming attached to them. You can observe your thoughts as separate from you, as if you are on the outside looking in. Your thoughts come and go and can change. It is helpful to notice them without judging them or fixating on them. When you observe your thoughts without judgment, and see them as separate from you, it is harder to allow them to distract you.

The more you practice being mindful, the easier it becomes to be fully present in what you are doing and experiencing in the moment. Symptoms of anxiety and depression improve and internal and external distractions become less problematic when engaging in mindfulness. When you learn how to be fully present in each moment, you can improve your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

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