The first time I attended a mindfulness class, I expected it to simply involve guided meditation. In my mind, there was no distinction between the two terms. However, I quickly learnt that whilst meditation can help with mindfulness, there’s much more involved.
Put simply, mindfulness is about staying present and engaging with every moment fully. That can mean savouring every bite of a meal, giving your full attention to the person you’re speaking to, or staying focused whilst studying or in class.
An important step, then, is to eliminate distractions. For me, that means putting my phone away and on aeroplane mode whenever I’m talking to someone, studying, in class or sleeping. When we look at our phones during class, not only do we miss what was said at the time, but we also take a few seconds to refocus afterwards. Whilst it’s easy to get distracted, we do lose a lot of time when that happens, which is good reason to stay focused.
Similarly, it’s important to allow ourselves to fully enjoy our downtime. That helps us to be well-rested and in a better state of mind when we do sit down to study.
Next, when we struggle to stay present, a helpful step is to engage with each of our senses. What can you see, hear, smell, taste and feel? Asking those questions not only reconnects us to the present moment, but also allows us to experience it fully. A beach, for example, is more beautiful when we really listen to the sound of the waves, and feel the wind on our arms and the sand under our feet. We can also use our senses to reengage when worrying or unwanted thoughts distract us and keep us from being present.
Of course, no matter how well-practiced we are at mindfulness, there will always be times when we get distracted. That’s why staying aware is an important part of the practice of mindfulness. When we notice our thoughts wandering, we need to gently guide ourselves back to the task at hand or the present moment. Remember to be kind to yourself during this process, rather than reprimanding.
Finally, mindfulness is not a to-do list item, but something that you can incorporate into your everyday life. Start small by studying without distraction, putting your phone on aeroplane mode for a while, or really savouring your next meal