Oppenheim said “the foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise man grows it under his feet.”
Mindfulness is about looking at what is around us and under our feet rather than missing the “now” because we are worrying about the future.
One of our biggest challenges in life is focusing on what is right in front of us. We are either chasing the happiness that will come if all the stars align, or regretting the past where we made mistakes and didn’t do things we should have done.
Practicing Mindfulness is one way to experience the gift of the present. Observing and appreciating what we have and what is around us today helps us find peace. Having gratitude that we have made it where we are, sets us up for a better future by giving us hope and confidence.
Mindfulness has been shown to improve immune function as well as reduce muscle tension, headache, and other forms of chronic pain. It has longer-term impacts such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Mindfulness has also been shown to help with stress, anxiety, and depression.
Mindfulness can help with diet and weight management. Many of us are caught up in “mindless” eating. We are too busy to pay attention to what or how much we are putting into our mouths. Research by Liesal showed that women who are mindful about eating ate fewer calories, and men who consciously focused on chewing their food at least 40 times ate 12% less than those who didn’t.
Mindfulness is the ability to remove the distractions of what might happen and what did happen, and focus on what is happening right now, this second. It includes being curious and open to discovering new inspirations and information in the current setting. As a society, we tend to place a high regard on our ability to multitask. The challenge is that, according to an increasing amount of research, multitasking doesn’t really work. We tend to shift between multiple tasks quickly and for short periods of time. We are eliminating parts of the task in order to quickly shift in and out of it. The parts we are eliminating include focus, thoughtfulness, and appreciation. Instead of living in the moment, we are attempting to live in several moments. Think of one of the most common and rude forms of multitasking: we are having a conversation with a person and we receive, read, and answer a text while they are talking. We are physically in the same space as the person and we probably get the overall idea of what they are saying, but we miss the opportunity to connect with them, to stop and really think about and feel what they are communicating. Most importantly, we are not allowing time to stop and appreciate the here and now of our lives. We are focused on the message on our phone which is often trivial in comparison to our feelings about the person with whom we are actually visiting. The result is, we go from activity to activity throughout a day or a week and our memories are not of the great moments in our lives, they are about how busy we have been. We have missed our opportunities for happiness by attempting to do everything rather than choosing the few things that will make us happy and productive.
To be more mindful, wear a rubber band around your wrist and pop it or move it to your other wrist every time you catch yourself worrying about something you did in the past or what might happen in the future. Stop and appreciate your surroundings. Give people your full attention when you are with them. Slow down and enjoy your food. Think about the smell, taste, and texture of every bite. Schedule electronics free zones and times so you can absorb your surroundings or just think without distraction.
“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.”
Alice Morse Earle