The evidence is clear – living mindfully is much better for you than living on auto-pilot …
Have you ever been doing an activity, such as driving to work, but your mind is on a hundred other things?
You might be thinking about a meeting you have on later that day, and remembering a conversation you had with your colleague.
Then you might be thinking about stopping at the supermarket to pick up dinner on the way home, or needing to take the dog to the vet.
You might be wishing you could go away on holiday, and start dreaming of possible destinations.
Living on Auto-Pilot
It’s amazing how much of the time we spend inside our heads, thinking about the past and the future, or worrying about lots of different things.
When we are spending so much time in our thoughts, we aren’t focusing on what we are actually doing in the present. This state is referred to as being on ‘auto-pilot,’ and it’s very common for us to spend most of the day in this state.
I’d like to introduce a healthier alternative: living mindfully.
Mindfulness is about experiencing life in the ‘here-and-now,’ and being fully present in the moment.
The first step to being mindful is to just observe your experience, rather than analysing it. Mindfulness aims to shift one’s focus away from thinking, to simply observing one’s surroundings, thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations.
Mindfulness also involves focusing on one thing at a time.
When trying to observe one thing at a time, it can be natural for distracting thoughts to emerge. Mindfulness teaches us to acknowledge that we have drifted off into thinking mode, and gently return to observing your experience.
The Benefits of Living Mindfully
Research on the practice of mindfulness meditation suggests that being mindful on a regular basis is associated with the following benefits:
- Lower stress levels;
- Less worrying and rumination;
- Fewer depressive symptoms;
- Improved concentration levels;
- Improved memory;
- Effective emotion regulation;
- Greater relationship satisfaction.
Have I convinced you yet that living mindfully is better for you than living on auto-pilot? If so, here are some simple ways to make living mindfully part of your day to day world.
2 Simple Ways of Practising Mindfulness
- Mindful breathing: Perhaps the easiest way to start practising mindfulness, is through something we usually take for granted – breathing. Sit down in a comfortable chair. Slowly breathe in through your nose, bringing your awareness to the air filling your body. Notice your stomach rise as the air reaches your diaphragm. And then slowly breathe out through your mouth, focusing on the feeling of air leaving your body and your shoulders relaxing. Repeat this a few times, allowing yourself to be still. If you notice that you are distracted by thoughts, just gently bring your awareness back to your breathing.
- Mindful eating: Another way to practice mindfulness is to select a piece of food, such as a raisin or piece of chocolate. Take a moment to hold the food in your hands. Look at it. Notice the colour and the texture. How would you describe it? Bring the food up to your nose, and bring your awareness to the smell. Is it sweet? Does it make your mouth start to water? Then place the food in your mouth and notice the taste. Focus on this. Allow yourself to be immersed in the activity.
One of the ways that a psychologist can help you, is to teach you how to go about living more mindfully, instead of living on auto-pilot.
Author: Tegan Gonczar, BA (Hons), Grad Dip Ed (Secondary).
Tegan Gonczar is a Brisbane psychologist with experience in providing psychological counselling to children, adolescents and adults; she has a passion for working with people of all ages, to help them overcome obstacles, learn effective ways of coping and lead happier and more fulfilling lives.
Bookings and Fees: To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Tegan Gonczar, try Online Booking – Loganholme or call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129.
- Davis, D. M. & Hayes, J.A. (2011). What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness? A Practice Review of Psychotherapy-Related Research. Psychotherapy, 48(2), 198-208.
- Doyle, O. (2016). Mindfulness for life: A six-week guide to inner peace. Orion publishing group, London.