Editor’s note: This is part of 30-day challenge series written by Hanane Anouna. You can follow along and read the full series here.
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You cannot take decisions in your life if you are constantly busy with your work, family, friends, your phone and connections. You cannot improve, develop your awareness or observe your thoughts if you don’t give a break to your mind.
All the subjects discussed so far in the last articles require inner reflections and deep concentration. How can you shift your negative thoughts if you are not aware of them? How can you overcome your fears, anxiety or define your future goals if you don’t find time to reflect on them?
To grow mindful, you need focus, and clarity of thoughts. How can you build the muscles of Mindfulness?
Before answering this question, take a short personal assessment of your awareness to the events, people, your emotions, or the environment around you.
What Is Mindfulness About?
Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally as defined by John Kabat-Zinn, the founder of MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction).
Mindfulness has always existed since Buddhism but John Kabat pioneered a new meditative approach of mindfulness to treat stress, anxiety, depression by focusing on the present moment and allowing the mind to make breaks from time to time considering the stressful circumstances people are faced with nowadays.
What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness?
Mindfulness has a range of benefits when you practice it on a daily basis but the three core benefits are focus, clarity of thoughts and enhanced decision making.
Mindfulness can also help you develop more self-control as you will become aware of your emotions when they happen. It will enable you to reduce your level of stress and grow more resilient. It can improve your relations by being more present, avoiding judgments and enhancing your listening skills.
Mindfulness has become one of the major skills to develop nowadays.
How Can You Practice Mindfulness?
You can pick up of these activities at home to grow more mindful.
Take few minutes: pause and observe the environment around you. Try to describe 10 details you would not have otherwise noticed.
Practice mindfulness when eating: focus only on what you are eating, on the tastes, the colors, the ingredients without allowing the mind to wander.
You can practice it when taking your shower, when cooking, brushing your teeth or during your prayers.
You can also download applications of mindfulness in your phone or guided videos from the internet.
Embarking on the journey of mindfulness can be difficult in the beginning but once embraced on a daily basis, it becomes even natural. The only thing you need is to take at least ten minutes out of each day to remain mindful when drinking coffee or before sleep.
You may be wondering how the mind can develop the muscles of focus by simply being present and mindful?
Mindfulness is not only about being conscious of the present moment when drinking your coffee. It is also not allowing your mind to wander. This process of bringing back your thoughts whenever your mind starts wandering is what will enable you to build the muscles of concentration like any physical activity.
You don’t build muscles by going to the gym once a week or once a month; you develop them by daily practice and consistent efforts, similar to your mindfulness.
My Experience with Mindfulness
I started practicing mindfulness since 2015; I came across a video talking about its benefits and my curiosity led me to dive even deeper in the subject. It just never stopped since that day. I learned a lot about it but mainly how to apply it in my life. I went through a complete program of mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) with more than fifty hours of formal and informal practices and the result was amazing.
I struggled for many years with physical and emotional pain because of health issues. My struggle was almost daily, if it was not physical, then mental or emotional. For many years, I kept reacting the same way whenever challenged or in pain; I was suppressing the pain, blocking it by always keeping myself busy and being tense against the discomfort; sometimes, even feeling exhausted, depressed and drowned, feeling sorry for myself “why me?”
Maybe I wanted to prove to myself that I was strong but this was the only alternative I had anyway and I often ended up hurting myself because that strength was hiding a lot of non acceptance, tension and fear. I kept doing the same mistakes (by lack of consciousness) by ignoring the pain which led to more pain.
This stopped the moment I experienced the turning around meditation which was part of the MBRS program. It is about an attitude of open curiosity and willingness to explore emotions and pain even when they are uncomfortable instead of suppressing and ignoring them.
This is how I realized how harsh I was with myself. I realized that I was tough and non compassionate with myself and that my life could have been better with this new consciousness. My best take away from it is to develop more self-compassion and kindness towards myself. “Kindness is having the courage to see at those places where we don’t want to see. Kindness bathes with dopamine’s ad gives us the resources to change.”