Every week I answer, in layman’s terms, some exciting questions I have been asked about Mindfulness. The top 3 this week are:
“Will mindfulness make me a pushover?”
I’d say it’s likely to be exactly the opposite. One of the (many) great benefits of practicing mindfulness is that you learn to respond rather than react. When someone upsets you and you react without giving your reply much thought, you give your power away. In most cases, that will make you feel even worse. However, when you mindfully appreciate what’s happening and you are able to identify your thoughts and emotional resonance to the triggers in real-time, you will be able to choose your response instead. And a response that’s delivered calmly and is based on genuine self-respect and aligned with your values will hardly make you look like a pushover.
“How on earth can I become more mindful of what I’m thinking?”
It’s a choice you can make. First, you make the decision you want to become more consciously aware of what you are thinking. Then, you practice mindfulness. Until being aware of your thoughts becomes more of a habit, it’s best to build in some time for meditation every day. Not with the intention to “empty your mind” (that’s never the goal, by the way) or escape to a dreamworld for a while, but simply to become more aware of the incessant stream of thoughts going on in your head. Five minutes of meditation here and there throughout your day is a great way to start your practice. Simply observe the broad categories of your thoughts and how you usually react to them emotionally. It’s essential to be totally non-judgemental toward yourself as you observe your thoughts and feelings during meditation. Simply recognise the thought and your corresponding reaction and see it for what it is: A mental event taking place in your mind, not an actual event. Soon, you will become more aware about your thoughts and feelings throughout your day, outside of your meditation practice.
“Mindfulness sounds like overthinking/overanalysing”
If you have been told that you should pay careful attention to each and every detail about an object or situation, I can see why you might believe mindfulness looks like overly focusing on something. The good news? It’s not! Generally speaking, mindfulness can be practised in two ways: Formally (sit-down meditation, for example) and informally (mindful engagement throughout the day). The latter is about changing your relationship to whatever you’re engaged with so that you can notice things you’ve never appreciated before and also give your mind a break from being lost in the past or future. Engaging with something doesn’t equal overanalysing. For example, when you are doing the dishes, you could simply challenge yourself to describe what your senses are telling you, such as the temperature of the dishwater, the smell of the washing-up liquid, the shape of the plates and cutlery, etc. That’s mindful thinking about your activity, not overthinking whatever else is going on in your life…