The Calming, Remedial Influence of Mindfulness
Mindfulness, put simply, is an exercise in attention. It’s a practice that revolves around calming the mind through meditation.
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This generally begins by focusing on the breath — taking in deep breaths through the nose and out through the mouth — and starting to pay more attention to things than one usually would.
This sharpened attention primarily targets things within yourself — thoughts, feelings, annoyances, distractions and so on. As a result of paying more attention to these thoughts and feelings it’s possible to eradicate unproductive and unhealthy thought patterns.
For example, you might be obsessing over an exam — wondering whether you answered things in the right way, devoted enough time to certain questions and used the appropriate language. These sort of concerns can easily precipitate a great wave of anxiety.
Mindfulness, although not a simple click-of-the-fingers solution, can effectively liberate you from the intensity of such outbreaks of anxiety. Of course, it won’t change the reality of the exam performance, but by calming down and paying attention to the objective nature of our thoughts, you can move beyond unproductive worrying.
In this blog we’ll have a look at how mindfulness serves as a balm against suffering. But, it’s important to mention that mindfulness is also a wonderful tool for enriching our experiences and feeling a closer connection to the various phenomena we interact with everyday.
A calm mind is a clearer mind
Feelings and perception are closely intertwined, and feelings commonly twist the nature of what we perceive. A calm mind, however, won’t be so easily swayed by feelings, which means we can get a more accurate reading of what we perceive.
Once the mind is calm, we can witness the way in which thoughts show up seemingly from out of nowhere. After all, we’re all prone to assigning meaning to random thoughts and assimilating them with our worldview.
It’s perfectly natural to feel in control of our own decisions and thoughts, but mindfulness draws attention to the essential unpredictability of thoughts. When it comes to perception, this can lead us to attach negative meanings to things we hear, see and smell without much basis or symmetry with the rest of our beliefs. A clearer mind will be less inclined to pass rash judgement.
We’re all incessant storytellers
We’re all constantly in the process of writing our own narratives; assigning meaning to anything that happens and slotting it into the ever-expanding story of our lives and identities.
While this gives us a sense of control, it doesn’t accurately reflect the way the mind works. We’re not denying intentionality, but mindfulness reveals that we needn’t claim ownership of, and assign meaning to, every single thought and emotion we experience.
This is particularly useful to remember when it comes to interpersonal conflicts. Feelings such as frustration and indignation, for example, tend to be kneejerk responses, and latching onto them can quite quickly become both unpleasant and unproductive.
Resist the emotional pull
We all know the feeling of being swamped by our emotions to such a degree that they determine our outlook, mood and behaviour. While there is great value in strong emotions, mindfulness offers some respite from this sort of flood of feelings.
This isn’t about disregarding the significance of strong emotions, but rather to instead gain enhanced clarity about what underpins our feelings. Then, with this insight, you can redirect focus to the concrete persons, things or circumstances which stirred up the emotions (rather than getting caught up in the gale force of raw emotion) and devise a more practical and productive response.
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Billy has been writing blogs for Happy since 2017, covering mindfulness, stress management, confidence building and emotional intelligence as well as offering handy tips for Office 365 users. He's also an established arts, culture and lifestyle writer.
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