I enrolled in a Mindfulness Awareness Practice class through the UCLA MARC program. This is a research center that focuses specifically on studying mindfulness. Eventually, I’d like to be able to instruct others on how to use mindfulness in their daily lives, but I have a long way to go, and many questions that need answering.
What really IS mindfulness? How is it taught? What are some specific tools to help implement it in my life and in the lives of others? Does it really work?
I decided to write this blog in two parts. First, I'm discussing Mindfulness Basics, and in the next post, I will go a little more in depth of how to actually begin to change some thinking patterns.
When we find ourselves in a stressful situation, our animal instinct activates a part of our brain called the amygdala, which triggers our “fight or flight” survival mechanism. This was helpful when we were hunters and gatherers, needing to protect ourselves from prey, but now it’s a reaction that can cause us great and unnecessary anxiety, fear, and other stressful feelings. When we use mindfulness to bring us to the present moment, we are activating the prefrontal cortex of our brains. This lessens the attention in the amygdala, and creates calmness, compassion, and space in our emotional body.
Mindful Eating: Being conscious of where food comes from, how it tastes, how it feels in our mouth, and how much fuel our body actually needs at one sitting. Taking time to slow down and appreciate each bite is something we rarely practice, but it can have major benefits to our overall health.
Mindful Listening: Having conversations where we’re actually focused on what the other person is saying, and not what we’re going to say in response. It’s about putting our attention on the other person, not on distracted thoughts or our every-present tech devices.
Mindful Self-Awareness: Doing our best not to judge ourselves about how we feel and look. Acknowledging how memories of past incidents might still be affecting us physically and emotionally, and how releasing our attachment to those memories can bring us a different perspective.
Mindful Practice: Mindfulness is a skill that can be developed, just like anything else, but it does take effort. We learn to celebrate the little victories, such as appreciating the natural beauty of a flower, slowing down to help others around us, and sitting quietly each day in stillness.
By Allison Wells