What Are You Mindful Of Today?

Written by Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC

Mindfulness is a very popular notion these days, and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has gained fairly widespread acceptance as a viable way to control stress and improve health. If you Google MBSR, you'll see that Jon Kabat-Zinn and many other experts have championed mindfulness practices for decades, and mainstream medicine has only relatively recently caught on to the fact that mindfulness is real preventive medicine. 

Now, some of you might react negatively to the concept of mindfulness because it may connote images of yogis sitting in painful postures, meditating on their third eye for hours at a time. While that type of formal meditation is a part of many miundfulness practices (and Jon Kabat-Zinn and other experts do indeed recommend meditation for stress reduction and the improvement of overall health), mindfulness can be incorporated into many aspects of your life without having to sit in the lotus position. 

Mindful Eating

As busy 21st-century citizens of the world, how many meals do we eat without paying any attention to what we're doing? How many of us eat dinner while watching TV, talking, reading, or perusing emails? Multi-tasking is a normal way of being these days, but some studies show that multi-tasking doesn't really help us get any more done (but that's another story altogether). When it comes to eating, paying attention mindfully can become a simple pleasure.

When you eat mindfully, you take the time to look at your food, take in the smell, observe the colors, and appreciate your meal as the energy source for your body. You might admire the redness of the beets, notice how green the kale is, or make appreciative sounds for the benefit of the cook. There's great pleasure in eating, and we often miss out when we're distracted during a meal. 

You don't have to be silent in order to fully enjoy a mindful meal, but a little silence can help. Avoiding TV, reading, electronic devices, and other distractions will definitely help you focus on the food on your plate, and the food will be more central to your consciousness if you stay present. 

Whether alone or with a friend or loved one, try an experiment and eat a meal in silence. It doesn't have to feel like a punishment; light a candle, play soft music, dim the lights, and just enjoy eating in each other's company for 15 or 20 minutes, and then check in to see what the experience was like. 

Mindful Walking

Mindful walking can be a healthy pursuit, as well. You don't have to chant or focus on God. You simply walk with all of your senses open, feeling your feet on the ground, hearing the sounds around you, noticing where you are and what you are doing. It can be a very pleasant experience. 

Mindful Driving

Have you ever noticed that you get in your car, and all of a sudden you're at your destination, with almost no memory of getting there? No, it's not a blackout, it's just that you were on automatic pilot. Some time, just for fun, try driving to your next destination with full attention on your driving. Enjoy sitting in your seat, the heat of the sun on the steering wheel, the responsiveness of the car to your feet and hands, the sound of your tires on the road. Stay conscious of each choice you make as a driver, and focus mindfully on the task and experience at hand. 

Mindful Living

Mindful living can bring you into the present, lower stress, decrease levels of stress hormones in your blood, and help you stay calm in difficult situations. That physiological decrease in circulating stress hormones can actually lead to less inflammation in your body, and scientists and healthcare providers agree that many common chronic diseases (including diabetes) can be caused or exacerbated by inflammatory processes.

Living mindfully is a practice, and you can't always get it perfect. The point is to stay as conscious and awake in your daily life as possible, a practice that can improve your health on the emotional, physical, spiritual, and psychological levels.