The word mindfulness can actually be quite confusing. It isn’t about having a full mind, so why does it suggest that? It is about having less in your mind, isn’t it? Though it wouldn’t be right to call it mindlessness obviously, as that has other connotations. If it is, in fact, about emptying your mind of negative thoughts and giving yourself the headspace to be ‘in the present moment’ perhaps then,
‘mind emptying’ might be a better term, were it not such a clumsy phrase!
The word ‘mindful ‘actually means being attentive, aware or careful, and the phrase ‘being mindful’ means taking things into account or being cautious or respectful. But mindfulness is not just about the mind. Well, that is to say, it isn't about the mind alone. It is in fact about the whole body. Being mindful is choosing to react to situations in a considered way, without becoming overwhelmed by what is going on around us. Being ‘in the moment’. Noticing your feelings and reactions, what is going on in your head or in your mind, being able to respond calmly to situations that present themselves without having ‘knee-jerk’ reactions.
Once we learn the ability to respond rationally, in the present moment, we can often avoid feelings of stress, anger or even sadness. So, this actually keeps both our minds and bodies relaxed. Imagine you are on your way to work. The traffic is heavy, and you are late. Someone in a car at the side of the road pulls out and cuts in front of you. They then decide to stop short, right in front of you, at a green light to let someone cross, causing you to brake hard. Didn’t they even notice you?
As the car pulls away, the lights turn to amber and then within moments you are left sitting at the red light. Now that could make you pretty annoyed!
So how would you react?
Some of us would be so annoyed that we become angry.
Events like this have been known to lead to incidents of road rage. We think so much about the thought: the annoyance, that we actually play back that thought, turning it over and over in our minds.
We focus on it, living that thought, reflecting on it. Which makes us even more angry. You may speed off down the road as soon as the lights change to green and chase the inconsiderate car driver until you catch up with them, where you can gesture what you really think…… show them how thoughtless they were.
But does this situation really need to make us angry?? If you practice mindfulness, the answer is NO!
Because you don’t have to act on that thought. You can choose to respond differently, and not react blindly in the heat of the moment.
When such an event happens, here is what to do.
You can notice your thought:
then put it out of your mind.
It is up to you. It is your choice.
Sometimes I like to imagine the negative thought in a ‘thought bubble’, and then blow it away. If I do this, the physical act of taking in a deep breath and blowing it slowly out to remove the thought bubble calms me down.
And that is the power of mindfulness. It really is a ‘Superpower’ to have. It is the ability to choose how to react and we can practice it in any situation.
It can be all too easy to rush through our busy lives without stopping to notice much or pay attention to your surroundings or even your thoughts and feelings. But if you take time to notice your feelings and deal appropriately with them it can improve your mental and emotional wellbeing. Being mindful can help us to enjoy the world around us more and can also help us to understand ourselves better too.