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Mental Benefits of Mindfulness

Just as the aim of mindfulness isn’t to relax the body, though this sometimes happens, so the aim of mindfulness isn’t to calm the mind, though this sometimes happens too.

Your mind is like the ocean – occasionally wild, and at other times calm. Sometimes your mind goes from thought to thought without stopping to rest. At other times, your thoughts come slower and have more of a space between them. Mindfulness isn’t so much about changing the rate of your thoughts, but about noticing the thoughts arising in the first place.

Listen to your thoughts with mindfulness

Everything man-made around you was originally a thought in someone’s head. Many people consider thought to be all-powerful. All your words, all your action and activities – everything is motivated by thought. So, being aware of the kind of thoughts going through your mind makes sense.

The brain easily gets into habitual patterns, as your thoughts travel their paths within the brain. Each time you have a particular thought, or carry out a particular action, you slightly increase the chance of having the same thought again.

Through repeated thinking or action, the connection between neurons strengthens. If you aren’t mindful of these thoughts or actions, you may have all sorts of negative, untrue, unhelpful thoughts or behaviors that influence your life without you even being aware of them or questioning the truth or validity of them.

Mindfulness encourages you to watch your thoughts, emotions and actions; then you’re better able to notice unhelpful thoughts and question their truth.

Use mindfulness to make better decisions

Every moment of every day you make decisions, whether you’re aware of them or not. At some point, you’ll decide to stop and do something else. More significant decisions you have to make have a bigger impact, and a ‘good’ decision is highly desirable. All that you do and have at the moment is partly due to the decisions you made in the past.

Awareness of your body can help you make better decisions – a gut feeling is a signal from your belly telling you what to do and has been found in some experiments to be faster and more accurate than logical thinking. Research shows a mass of nerves in the gut that’s like a second brain. This intuition is routinely used by top CEOs of corporations to make critical decisions.

Come to your senses through mindfulness

One of the key ways of becoming more mindful and of calming the mind is to connect with your senses – sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. People’s use of the word ‘sense’ shows they appreciate and value being in touch with our organs of perception. You know innately the value of connecting to your senses if you want to make a sensible decision.

What is the benefit of purposefully connecting with your senses? Well, if you aren’t paying attention to the stimulation coming through your five senses you’re only paying attention to your thoughts and emotions. You’re not aware of anything else. Your thoughts are mainly based on your experiences from the past, from memory.

You may imagine something new, but on the whole, your mind reworks past experiences, or projects ideas into the future based on your past experiences. Emotions are also very much influenced by your thoughts. So, without paying attention to your senses, you’re stuck with your own thoughts and emotions based on the past instead of the present.

By purposefully connecting with one of your senses, say, touch, you begin naturally to calm your mind a little. In mindfulness you can begin by focusing on your breathing. Focus on your belly stretching or your chest expanding or perhaps the movement of the air as it enters and leaves your body.

By focusing on a particular sense, in this case the sense of touch, you’re focusing your attention. Rather than your mind wandering wherever it pleases, you’re gently training it to stay on one object, namely your breathing.

By coming to your senses mindfully you are

  • Training your attention to focus.

  • Being kind to yourself when your mind wanders off.

  • Realizing that you’ve a certain amount of choice about what you pay attention to.

  • Understanding that you can deliberately choose to shift attention away from thinking and into the senses.

  • Calming your mind.

Create an attentive mind with mindfulness

Attention is essential in achieving anything. If you can’t pay attention, you can’t get the job done, whatever the job is. Mindfulness trains your attention by sustaining your attention on one thing, or by switching the type of attention from time to time.

There are several types of attention:

  • Narrow attention is focused and sharp, like the beam of a laser. You may use this type of attention when chopping vegetables or writing a letter.

  • Wide attention is more open and spacious, like a floodlight. When you’re driving, ideally your attention is open so you’d notice if a car moved closer to you from the side, or if children were playing up ahead.

  • Outer attention is attention to the outer world through your senses.

  • Inner attention is an awareness of your thoughts and feelings.

  • Observer or witness awareness is your capacity to know what type of attention you’re using. For example, if you’re drawing a picture, you’re aware that your attention is narrow. If you’re walking through the countryside, you’re aware that your attention is wide.

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