What is Mindfulness?
You might have glanced at the title of this blog post, somewhat intrigued, without really knowing what “mindfulness” is. Here is the definition from Psychology Today:
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.
My biggest takeaway from that is living in the moment and not letting life pass you by. I want to enjoy each and every part of my life, free of judgment. How about you?
Why Practice Mindfulness?
How many of us use how busy we are and how much we accomplish as a measure of the quality of life we are living? I know I’ve been there before. “I got __, __ and __ done today, so I had a really quality, productive day.” Except I put myself on autopilot to get it all done and allow myself to really take in and enjoy so little of the day. Instead of getting everything on your to-do list done on autopilot, take a step back and really observe your thoughts and feelings (meditation or journaling is a great way to do this).
Allow Yourself Grace
It can be an awesome thing to have high standards for yourself. All through high school and college, I had high standards for my grades. As a result, I always worked hard and always got good grades. Believing that you can achieve is a good thing. But there comes a time (and I know I’m not the only one who experiences this), when perfectionism goes too far and we can’t seem to forgive ourselves for falling short. Have you ever fallen just short of your goal in school, or at work? I have, and looking back it seems absurd how long I allowed myself to dwell on it and beat myself up over it. Had I shown myself a little more grace, I might have refocused sooner and been able to surpass my goal the next time around. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we fall short. In the long run, those aren’t the things that matter. What does matter is showing yourself grace, accepting that you aren’t and never will be perfect, and moving on from it.
Accept Imperfection in Others
Mindfulness is not simply about acknowledging and accepting imperfection in ourselves, but in others as well. I know many people who hold much higher standards for themselves than they do for those around them. But I also know individuals who have very high standards for those around them and show their disappointment pretty freely when people fall short. No, I’m not saying you can’t have standards for those around you. I think we all have certain expectations for the people in our lives. But also, remember that people are imperfect. Our friends are imperfect. Our spouses are imperfect. Our parents are imperfect. Don’t hold their imperfection against them.
Observe Without Judgment
When it comes to group settings, I’ve always been more of an observer than an active participant. However, I can’t say that I have always observed without judgment. Honestly, we spend far too much time judging things that don’t impact us at all. If the actions of someone else don’t directly affect you, don’t allow them to change your mood. Don’t allow them to impact your life. And even more importantly, don’t judge someone when you don’t know what their situation is.
Mindfulness isn’t just about refraining from judging others, but yourself as well! Learn to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings without deciding if they’re “good” or “bad”.
An important part of mindfulness is being aware of what we have, and then showing gratitude for those things. I think many of us spend too much our lives always thinking about what comes next. I know I’m guilty of this as well! When I’m able to just pause and be grateful for what I have right now, I get so frustrated with myself for wanting to fast-forward through any part of my life.