Most of us have heard the terms mindfulness and meditation thrown around and used interchangeably – and if you’ve ever taken the time to look into them, you probably know that “meditating” is a form of mindfulness expression. It’s a singular tool you can use to help you ground yourself, slow down, tune into what you are feeling, and hone in on what you really want in your life. It’s a way to give yourself space to speak and act more intentionally rather than automatically -much of our behaviour is simply what we’ve learned – we’re not always “choosing” our reactions the way one might think. Whether you have a regular meditation practice, or have never convinced yourself to sit cross-legged on your living room floor, we’ve got some ways to think about mindfulness you might not have realized yet.
Check them out!
Mindfulness is letting go of the illusion of control
In other words, mindfulness can really be thought of simply not trying to minimize the uncertainties in your life – it’s accepting the fact that there are just some things you don’t know and some events you just cannot predict. For those of us that struggle with feelings of anxiety, our default reaction to something that is uncertain and potentially bad – such as missing a flight – is to try to do everything we can to prevent that bad thing from happening, and then still “worry” about it. The thing is, no matter how much preparation we do – we are never fully in control of what happens. To feel calmer, more content, and happier in our overall lives, we’ve got to increase our tolerance for uncertainty. We need to be at peace with not knowing how things will turn out. This isn’t to say that we can’t try to set ourselves up for success, only that after we’ve taken reasonable measures to prepare ourselves, we have to remember that being fully in control is an illusion and that we are going to be ok no matter what happens.
Mindfulness frees us to live more intentionally
So much of what we say, do, and think, are products of our education, relationships, and socialization. They are not necessarily reflections of what we believe in a given moment. Mindfulness means overcoming our automatic behaviours that maybe aren’t serving us as well as we would like. These are things like feeling your emotions bubble up in response to an email you perceive to be passive-aggressive, or heading down a spiral of negative self-talk in response to a friend’s comment. Mindfulness is simply giving yourself the time and space to see feelings and thoughts for what they are – a physiological reaction or idea that takes up a moment in time and space. They only have as much power as you give them – and for many of us, we have reliable, comfortable ways of reacting to our environment simply because it’s what we’ve always done. Mindfulness is jumping from the driver’s seat into the backseat – it’s giving yourself time to let the obstacle pass so that you can more clearly see the path you want to take.
Mindfulness is resisting the urge to judge
Judgment is the enemy of compassion, both towards yourself and others. Mindfulness is about refraining from passing judgment on situations and behaviour. It’s about living more in the moment, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. In other words, the vast majority of the time we’re all doing the best we can. We’re making our best-informed decisions with the information we have at a given time. As they say, hindsight is always 20/20, and harping on “what ifs” not only contributes to emotional pain, it prevents your ability to focus on the present moment and what you want for your future self. Judging past experiences, choices, and interactions with others can deny you opportunities sitting right in front of you, if only you shift your focus from the past to what you know now. Take what you can learn from your experiences and move on. Use that information to make better choices next time. Finally, when it comes to others, don’t assume you know what someone was going through when they made a choice you disapprove of. This is unfair and impedes authentic connections that could enrich your life.
Mindfulness is an incredibly helpful tool we can use to live more intentionally and build happier, more vibrant lives. Remember that you’ve survived 100% of your worst days so far. No matter how scary or uncertain the future feels, trust in yourself and be confident that you are strong, resilient, and can get through whatever life throws at you. Remember that we can try to prepare ourselves for what’s to come, but that at the end of the day, we can’t predict or control the future – but we can handle what it holds. Mindfulness allows us to put space between our emotions and our actions and beat automatic behaviour patterns that don’t get us any closer to where we want to be. Finally, the more you’re able to resist judging yourself and others for their choices, the more freedom, joy, and connection you will feel in your life.