By Jennifer Kelleher
I invite you to pause and come into the present moment with three intentional, deep breaths. Allow any distractions to gently fall away and find your full attention right here, in this present space.
What you just practiced is called mindful awareness, and it involves bringing your attention into the present moment so that you can engage more fully with whatever you are doing, witnessing, or experiencing. This practice is incredibly beneficial (read on below to discover how) and can be weaved into your everyday activities. It does not require any extra time and can be practiced anywhere and in any moment.
To begin integrating mindful awareness into your life, first identify the habits or rituals that you perform each day. For example, going to the gym, taking a shower, having a meal, etc. Next, select one or two of these habits to focus on. At the beginning, it is recommended to choose an activity that already brings you joy. Over time, you can expand your mindful awareness practice to more neutral tasks (like tying your shoes or washing dishes), and eventually bring it into the difficult moments (like an argument with a loved one or a hard day at work). After making your selection, set the intention to be more mindfully aware (present and fully engaged) during these activities.
One of the benefits of mindful awareness is that it helps us to recognize the meaning that we project onto the experiences we have and separate that from the experience itself. Our thoughts and emotions are the foundations for all our actions and behaviors. Without any awareness, our actions are habitual. However, when we bring mindful awareness to thoughts and emotions, we can recognize them as they arise and pause before unconsciously reacting. This pause gives us the opportunity to ensure that the actions we take are in alignment with our intentions.
Mindful awareness can also be used to increase positivity in your mind and life. We are wired, for reasons of survival, to store negative moments, emotions, and experiences in our long-term memory much faster than we do positive ones. A negative moment is stored in long-term memory instantly, whereas a positive moment takes over 12 seconds of holding the experience in awareness to store. This “negativity bias” comes from our ancestors, who used it to detect threats and protect themselves and their families from harm. With mindful awareness, we can rewire our brains to take in more good, and naturally notice the things that are going well, instead of being overly focused on the negative aspects. One way to practice is to let your attention linger on moments of gratitude, joy, love, etc. for 12 seconds or more.
Research shows that mindful awareness reduces levels of psychological distress and improves our ability to focus amid chaos and distractions. Next, it increases creativity and helps us to achieve a flow state, where we do less to accomplish more. Mindful awareness also positively affects the physical body by decreasing chronic stress and inflammation, improving sleep, suppressing genes that inhibit our natural ability to fight off viral infections and heal wounds, and increasing the anti-aging activity of telomerase, to name a few. Furthermore, it improves our relationships, helping us to listen with more ease, remain present, and respond to conflicts with awareness and compassion.
Finally, social transformation begins with personal transformation– as you become a healthier, happier, more peaceful person, the world around you will also reflect these qualities.
I invite you to join us at Ocean Bliss Yoga to learn more and start applying this knowledge! Classes and workshops available for a variety of ages, levels, and interests. Sign up at oceanblissyoga.net. Call or text me (Jen) with any questions at 917-318-1168.