If you’re running late to work on the day of a big presentation, there are a million thoughts running through your head. You’re stressed out and angry, but the train isn’t moving any faster. So the best thing to do is just let it go.
Mindfulness, the practice of being aware of the present moment and accepting it, is an ancient meditation practice that can still be used today to ground you in everyday life. Forget the past, don’t dwell on the future and work with what you’ve got right now. Here are some of the benefits you’ll start reaping by taking a few deep breaths and focusing on the now.
1. Don’t Be So Judgmental
If the key to mindfulness is to take everything for what it is, being mindful means putting an end to judging, according to Psychology Today. Instead of conjecturing about what in the world your co-worker was thinking when she put on that dress, just silently acknowledge what she’s wearing. Then let it go. You can’t change the situation, and if it doesn’t harm you in any way, it’s not worth thinking about. Freeing yourself from the impulse to judge means fewer negative thoughts swirling around in your head and a more uplifting outlook overall.
2. Give Your Love Life a Boost
Whether you’re looking for your next date around every corner or stressing about when your last one is going to call, mindfulness can help you navigate the dating world. It teaches you to be content with your life, which increases your confidence. So what if you’re single? Being mindful means being comfortable enough in your own skin that you don’t assume anything is wrong with you – it’s just not the right time for a relationship, and that’s OK.
Mindfulness isn’t just about accepting everything as it comes. It makes you more objective, which means that in time you’ll be able to take the emotion out of situations and evaluate them a bit more reasonably. If something is seriously wrong in your relationship, being mindful will help you figure out what it is and how to deal with it.
3. Remember, Remember
Part of being mindful is acknowledging thoughts as they pop up, but not thinking about them to the point that they send you into a spiral of what if situations. This helps you maintain focus on the task at hand and possibly improve your memory as well, according to Forbes.
This kind of mindfulness is easy enough to practice at work, while studying for a test or even just doing chores around the house. When you start thinking about all of the other things you need to do later or worrying about whether you’re doing something right, stop for a minute. Bring yourself back to the current task, and tell yourself that everything else can wait until later.
4. Thought for Food
Have you ever taken a bite of something so delicious that you force yourself to slow down and really savor the next one? That’s mindful eating, and it can help you lose weight and maintain a healthy one. For some people, overeating happens when they don’t realize they’re full or when what they’re eating is so good that they can’t get enough.
Being mindful of your food, though, means that you can get the same satisfaction out of just a taste and be aware of when you’re actually full. This also promotes a healthier relationship with food. Instead of depriving yourself of the foods you enjoy and seeing it as bad, learn to savor smaller portions. That way, you can still eat just about anything without resenting it.
5. Stress Less
You’ve heard that you are what you eat, but did you know that you become what you think, too? Concentrating on the present moment and being calm in that moment leads to less stress, tiredness and irritability over time, a study from Northern Arizona University found. That’s because mediating, or at least concentrating on the present, can actually strengthen your brain’s sensory processing and empathetic response regions. This makes you more adaptable to everyday situations and able to remain calm when things don’t go according to plan. Another one of the great benefits of being mindful and consciously remaining in the present is an increase in endorphins, which makes you happier and less-stressed.
6. Have Mercy
Chances are that the more you practice mindfulness, the more likely you are to give up your seat on the bus, according to a UC Berkeley study. This might be because mindfulness gives you a heightened perspective about your surroundings, including other people and how they might be feeling. It could also override your worry – “If I offer my seat and they don’t take it, will that be awkward?” – and let your more nurturing instincts take over.
7. Break the Cycle
Maybe you’re a compulsive nail-biter. Maybe you twirl your hair while you answer questions, or have a tendency to stare off into space during conversations instead of looking at the person you’re speaking with. Because being mindful means being aware of what’s going on in the present moment, practicing that can help you catch yourself mid-action. Pay attention to when and why you do something, then substitute a more positive behavior for it instead. You’ll soon be on your way to breaking the habit and maybe even creating a new, better habit.
Mindfulness sounds tricky, and it does take practice, but all it really entails is a few minutes to breathe deeply and slow down your day. You can do that in stressful moments to regain perspective, or practice it in daily meditations. Either way, you’ll start seeing the benefits sooner than you think and be on your way to a healthier life, mentally and physically.