How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life
In a world trying to capture your attention to sell you something and convince you that you need this widget, this makeup, this car, or this house to make you happy, we forget to pay attention to what we really want inside.
The reason we want something outside of us, is that we think that once we get it, that it will help us feel better. We usually want something because of the effect we think it will cause. We think it will fill a void that is inside of us and make us happy. But in reality, nothing from the outside (things, people, trips) will truly make us fully complete and worthy inside.
Have you heard of mindfulness? It can be described as focus on the moment...how we pay attention, or training the mind on how to be here and now. It’s a mental state of being conscious or aware of something. When we learn to practice kind mindfulness something extraordinary happens. A state of joy, bliss, peace, and true happiness abounds.
Research shows that our mind wanders 47 percent of the time!!! That’s almost half of our lifetime that we are not here enjoying the present moment; no wonder we have a society full of worriers, depressed, and anxious human beings.
When I first started meditating and practicing mindfulness, it was hard because my mind would wander and then I would judge myself harshly, which was actually counterproductive. I wasn’t practicing kind mindfulness.
When we think of something repeatedly we strengthen the neural connections “neurons that fire together wire together.” So in my case, I was strengthening the brain pathways of judgement. Not good!
There have been studies that reveal the brains of meditators, especially the areas of attention, learning, and compassion were bigger and the neural pathways were stronger.
Grow bigger and stronger…… it’s known as CORTICAL THICKENING in response to what we practice grows stronger.
If you meditate with judgment you grow judgment.
If you meditate with frustration you grow frustration.
If you meditate with kindness you grow kindness.
What do you want to practice? Judgment or kindness. Mindfulness is about paying kind and loving attention.
Benefits of kind mindfulness:
Strengthens our immune system
Helps us sleep better
Challenges of practicing meditation:
The challenge with mindfulness is that thoughts of shame and unworthiness pop up a lot when we first start this practice. When this happens the areas of the brain associated with growth and learning shutdown.
The amygdala is stimulated, a part of the brain that is associated with fear and survival pathways, and redirects the blood flow to the areas that allow us to grow.
When we feel this way, we want to AVOID it because it’s too painful to look at. You've heard of growing pains, right? So what do we do? Do we avoid the situation? Do we avoid looking at what is not right in our lives? Of course not.
We look at the situation from a different perspective……..kindness.
Kindness will actually help us look at the areas in our life we don’t want to see. We get a release of dopamine, which turns on the learning centers of the brain, and allows us to be resourceful and acquire the resources and tools we need to change.
You've experienced the release of dopamine at times when you have done something good for someone else and it makes you feel good. Kind of like patting yourself on the back for helping someone. It just makes you feel good.
Mindfulness hacks to do daily:
In the morning wake up and look in the mirror, place your hands over your heart and look in your eyes and say "good morning beautiful." When you feel comfortable with that say “good morning (your name) I love you.” In the beginning you may feel ridiculous or uncomfortable, but as you know the uncomfortable will become comfortable and the neurons that fire together wire together. There is a cortical thickening in the brain that occurs. This is neuroplasticity, your brain's ability to change and create new nerve pathways. So the saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks," is definitely not true.
How to practice kind mindfulness
Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit--on the floor, on a pillow, yoga mat, or chair.
Set a timer for 5-10 minutes and close your eyes.
Notice and feel your body.
Notice your breath.
Your mind will wander and when it does go back to your breathe.
Be kind to yourself during the process because your mind will wander so don’t judge yourself and always go back to your breath.