Telling people to be mindful seems to be the in thing at the moment (even though the idea has been around for a long time). The dictionary describes mindful as “attentive, heedful and aware”. When someone says “be mindful” to you or you read that you should “be mindful” what does it mean? Mental Health Charities and organisations are even offering courses in Mindfulness to help reduce stress in our very often far too busy lives. You can take a stress test (courtesy of the Mental Health Foundation) to find out how stressed you are.
I have been trying to find what “be mindful” means, to me at least. Over the last year I’ve been endeavouring to find a better balance in my life and time and time again I come across “be mindful.” What does this phrase really mean?
Well I know what being mindless is. Mindless is walking the dog, holding my son’s small hand and being so busy in my own mind with my own problems that I fail to hear my little boy’s conversation, I fail to spot that my dog has gone to say hi (in his special doggy way) to some other dog on the other side of the field, I don’t hear the birds or see the squirrel, and I don’t appreciate the soft warm breeze and the gentle squeeze of my ever growing son’s hand. In my mind that is me being “mindless”.
So how does one become mindful? The next time I took a walk I tried to be more “aware”. I had dog on his lead, it was raining but it was pleasant, I tuned into the sounds around me and made my mind quiet. I could hear the gentle trickle of water as it ran down into the drain, quite a beautiful sound that I’d never taken time to hear before, some of the birds were singing and there was the buzz of the traffic in the distance. Was that me being mindful or aware, or are they the same thing?
So, what can you do to become more “mindful”? Well this how i try to be more mindful in my life.
- Stop. Just stop what you’re doing and empty your mind. Listen to the sounds around you.
- When you’re out and about, feel the pavement under your feet, listen for the birdsong, the children in the playground, look around you, notice things you’ve never seen before even though you may have walked the same route over and over.
- Focus your attention on the person you are talking to, don’t multitask. Give that person your full attention. This is not possible all the time, but when it is, do it. You will be more aware of that person and they will appreciate you for it.
I think to be mindful has different meanings to different individuals and we should all aim to pursue our own version of mindfulness.
Written by Holly Plackett.