Several years ago, during a period of my life when wellness seemed to be beyond my grasp, I began practicing mindfulness. My intention was to find a way to lessen my anxiety–both the physical anxiety symptoms that my body generated in its unwell state and the psychological worries that had become a part of my daily life. I am grateful that I began using mindfulness, because it has benefited me in many ways.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is simply defined as awareness without judgement. This means that you are aware of what you are sensing (both physically and emotionally) but you aren’t naming it or deciding if it is good or bad. You’re just aware that it exists.
For example, if I am frustrated over a problem to which a solution is not easily found, I sit with that frustration. I’m aware that it exists. I don’t try to stop it, but I also don’t fuel it. I clear my mind, pay attention to my breathing and muscle tension and say to myself, “I feel frustration.”
The frustration is neither good nor bad in that moment. It just is. After a few moments of this mindful state, my physical symptoms of elevated blood pressure or anxiety will lessen. Often I’ll either come up with a solution in those mindful moments or I’ll be able to detach from the problem enough to walk away from it for a while.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness has benefited me many ways, but there are several very specific ways that practicing mindfulness has made my life better.
1. Stress Reduction
Learning to recognize the tell-tale signs that I am becoming stressed has been an important step for me. Before I practiced mindfulness I would often feel annoyed or sad and not understand that I was actually overwhelmed or that I needed a break.
I like to complete projects as quickly as possible, often preferring not to stop for breaks at regular intervals. Although this behavior satisfies my need to cross the finish line fast, it also leaves me more vulnerable to mistakes due to tiredness or frustration due to obstacles. Practicing mindfulness allows me to pace myself and results in less mistakes and frustration overall.
2. Less Reactivity
I’ve become less reactive since learning how to be mindful. This means that I am better able to hold my tongue, less likely to become annoyed with the small things and better able to rebound when things don’t go my way.
Most importantly, mindfulness has made me a better parent. I know what my triggers are and can prepare myself to respond to my children firmly, but gently when they push too many of my buttons.
3. More Enjoyment
Learning mindfulness has made life more enjoyable. Before I understood how to practice mindfulness, I felt a lot of anxiety and worry. Now that I am mindful of my emotions and my worries and I recognize what I feel like just before anxiety starts to creep in, I’m better prepared to deal with it.
Now when a worry surfaces I can acknowledge that the worry exists without letting it take over. This enables me to come to a solution faster and to spend less time worrying. In return, my life has become much more enjoyable.
4. Lessens Cravings
Practicing mindfulness has allowed me to better deal with food cravings. Instead of reaching for a snack out of boredom or overeating at meals, I am better able to recognize the difference between boredom and hunger and to realize when I’m full.
This has enabled me to eat smaller, more nutritient-dense meals and chose better snacks. Mindfulness was a crucial part of my 50 pound weight loss.