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Mindfulness For The Mindless

As a key part of self-compassion, mindfulness asks you to be focused on the present moment and to suspend judgment. By spending a few moments each day in a mindful state that can range from a daily affirmation, meditation, prayer, pondering, quiet time in nature, etc, you start to enjoy an amazing list of benefits like: Improved physical healing, greater immune response, reduced stress reaction, ability to perceive non-verbal cues from others, and develop the executive centers of the brain. Pretty cool, isn't it. And it does not cost a dime, only a few minutes of your day - a great value by any measure.

How might this practice look for you? Only you can answer that. Just know that you don't need to become a spiritual leader, yogi, or learn a foreign vocabulary (Ayurveda anyone?). Not that there is anything wrong with those, they are simply not necessary for regular people with busy lives to enjoy the benefits of being mindful. All you have to do is try to focus - recognize interruptions may happen and allow them to pass without focusing on them - and avoid judgment of what does come into your conscious. If you can do this for 30 seconds or one minute to start - Good! That is a start. Being consistent helps, so find a time, anytime that works for you, and use that cue as a reminder. For me it works great when I first wake up and before bed - so waking up and going to sleep are my cues. For you it could be getting on the bus, going to bed, taking a break, or eating a meal - no matter - find a cue that works for you.

Neurologically (so, in your brain), one of the things that happens is you start to build pathways to your Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC) - your executive control centers. I am not aware of an ideal amount of time to spend in mindful activity, but there seems to be some support for the idea of 15-30 minutes a day. So if you can only tolerate one minute, great, do that regularly and after a week or so try two minutes. Over time you can work up to a couple of 15 minute sessions, or one 30 minute session, or whatever works for you. Just like building muscle, building pathways in your brain takes time, and the benefits endure well beyond the actual exercise time. By building pathways to and within your PFC you benefit from those pathways even when you are not being consciously mindful, just like you get to use your muscles all day - not just when you exercise.

If you don't already have one, I hope you see the benefits of developing a mindfulness habit. I hope you start - ideally today. Pick a time that you normally do something regularly as a cue, and begin with a minute. If you journal, write a note about your experience. If you don't journal, that is another great habit :). As a habit, it becomes a normal and natural part of your day. I sometimes think about the opposite of being mindful, being mindless. That does not sound like such a good thing - yet it is the most common state of mind. I love the idea of being mindful, it feels like caring about myself, being thoughtful, and living with intent. This habit has no downsides, and the upsides are amazing. All my best!


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