The Benefits of Being Mindful

When I say mindfulness, some people may think of early morning yoga classes and hours of meditation and reading self help books, which are all good things, but may seem out of reach. In reality, mindfulness at is bare core is just being aware. To be mindful, you are aware of how you feel, mentally and physically, and how that is making you engage with the world around you.

 

This quarter, one of my TA’s started off every Monday discussion by having us all do stretches and deep breaths. He’d make us shake all our worries off and tell us to ground ourselves through straight postures. And no, this was not a meditation class or a psychology class or anything like that, it was just a discussion for how to write screenplays. The first day everyone looked at each other, giggling, thinking the whole exercise was a bit silly, especially for college students. But as we had more and more classes, those intro stretches became less silly and more helpful.

 

Photo by Valeriia Bugaiova on Unsplash

 

How many times a day do you really stop and think about how your body feels? How your mind feels? Most of us college students can go the whole day, and maybe even week, without pausing to adjust our slunched postures over the computer or to take a breath to silence the constant to do lists going on in our minds. My TA’s mindfulness exercise helped me realize that, though it may seem like it in college, your mind does not always have to be running. Taking that moment to recenter myself before every discussion helped me pay more attention, engage more with my peers, and overall be more interested in my own day again. Instead of going through the Monday in a tired haze and just waiting for it to be over, I was alert and ready to be active toward my week after that start.

 

Most of the reasons for not being mindful are worrying about responsibilities, digital distractions, or heightened emotions. For me, I am usually the least present when I feel upset or angry. The world could fade away and I don’t care about anything or anyone around me. But this can be harmful. The practice of mindfulness does not call you to be peaceful or happy or ready to go all of the time, it merely calls for you to acknowledge your own mental and physical state so that you can be active in the choices you have going forward. In other words, if you’re feeling upset or your body is tense, do not try and ignore it or push it away, because that can only cause more harm than good. The more in tune you are with yourself, the more you will have to give to your work and to others.

Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

Making an effort to be mindful doesn’t have to be a daunting task, it can be as simple as making a few easy changes in your daily life or how you see it. Start with taking a few moments out of your day to catch your breath and listen to your body and mind. In times you feel like you are distracted when you need to focus, like in class, ask yourself “am I really in the moment?” to re-center. If you want more ways to do so, Catherine Beard’s article “12 Ideas For Being More Present In Your Life” is a great way to start. Some of my favorites from that list are “feel your feelings” “savor your rituals” and “listen without intending to respond.” These little attitude adjustments may seem like common sense, but are actually not often practiced as much as they should be. So if you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed, overworked, out of time, and out of breath, try giving mindfulness a shot and see how it goes!