As I edge closer and closer to age 50, I find that I'm losing touch with trends. It's not so much that I'm not paying attention. It's more like I'm becoming more comfortable marching to the beat of my own drum. I'm more comfortable just being me.
Still, some trends do grab my attention. Some, I’m simply aware of, with no desire to partake, like goat yoga and those Snapchat animal filters. For others, like novelty socks and salted caramel anything, I’m all, “Sign. Me. UP!”
And then there are those trends -- like mindfulness -- that I sort of dabble in.
The concept of mindfulness has been around for a long time. Originally a Buddhist meditation technique, it gained widespread acceptance in the West in the 1970s. But it’s picked up speed in recent years. By late 2017, Psychology Today called it “the hottest new wellness trend."
Today, the term “mindfulness” is often bandied about to remind people to turn off their screens and live in the moment. Put down the phone, countless articles advise, and enjoy the concert, the wedding, the vacation, the time walking the dogs. This is where my dabbling comes in and I expect that I’m not the only one. Because mindfulness isn’t just about tucking your phone in your back jeans pocket for a couple hours. Real mindfulness takes effort.
In a HuffPost piece, Dr. Kurt Smith explains that:
… being mindful is the practice of actively paying attention and exerting the effort to be purposely aware of your surroundings and the people with whom you interact. Being mindful also requires us to focus on what is happening now and everything that is a part of that “now” – things like sights, sounds, touch, smells, thoughts and feelings.
But wait. It goes even deeper. Mindfulness is about letting go of judgment, particularly judgment of ourselves. It’s about training your “mind to observe [your] own thoughts, feelings, and sensations with an objective view.”
So, yeah, it’s not as easy as turning your screens off. Rats. You actually gotta work at it.
The effort is worth it, though. Mindfulness practice has a whack of proven benefits, including:
- Reducing stress
- Decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Improving quality of life for those living with chronic illness
- Facilitating weight loss
- Bolstering our immune systems
- Increasing our happiness
Maybe it's not as easy as picking out a new pair of superhero socks, but it’s tempting to give this trend a whirl, isn’t it? But where do you even start? How do you learn how to be truly mindful? Well, since I blog for SohoSpark, you can give a good guess as to where I’m going with this.
Yep -- my suggestion is to start with a mindfulness journal.
Reflecting on your thoughts and feelings as you record them in a writing journal is already a mindful practice. But a little bit of guidance will help you delve more deeply into true mindfulness. Luckily for you, I’ve done the research. All you need to do is read on for tips. And then, you know, actually pick up a pen and start writing. Just sayin’. Because that’s where I, for one, will stall.
1. Stream of Consciousness Writing
Tapping into your stream of consciousness is a terrific way to improve self-awareness. It’s basically an emotional brain dump.
If you meditate, it can be helpful to do that before you start writing. Otherwise, Shelley Klammer has some great advice. Find a quiet, safe, comfortable spot. Relax, close your eyes, and quiet your mind. To keep your stream of consciousness mindful, ask yourself what you’re feeling in that moment. Once thoughts start filtering back in, write them down, uncensored, even if they don’t make sense. You can give yourself a time limit (10-15 minutes is a common suggestion) or a page limit (like the three “morning pages” suggested by Elizabeth Cameron). Or, if you’re in a groove and have the time, you can just write until you deplete your stream of thoughts.
This type of journaling is incredibly powerful. As Paul Schlosberg points out: “Practicing regularly can increase mindfulness, self-awareness, deepen one’s sense of mental and emotional clarity, and generally improve one’s sense of self, and self-efficacy."
2. Write Yourself a Letter
A big part of mindfulness is being objective, non-judgmental, and compassionate about our own thoughts and feelings. That can be difficult. When you’re wrapped up in worry, or feeling regretful or embarrassed, it can be hard to let go of those emotions.
Sarah Garone over at brit.co has a terrific tip. She advises writing yourself a letter. Do it up in the cute notebook that you’re using as a mindfulness journal. (And if you need a cute notebook for this purpose, why not check out the Writing Journals at SohoSpark?) Write in the third person, as though you were offering a dear friend reassurance and kindness. These “letters” can guide you towards self-compassion and personal insight.
3. Keep a Gratitude Journal
Gratitude and mindfulness are very much interconnected. Gratitude is about being attuned to what’s going on around you so that you can notice your blessings. Keeping a gratitude journal is one way to become more mindful.
So, what about you? Do you already keep a mindfulness journal? Or do you practice mindfulness in other ways? I’d love to hear from you if you do. Drop me a comment below and keep being your fabulous self.