Have you ever pulled into the driveway and thought, “I’m home,” and then realized that you have no recollection of the drive? Or maybe it’s after you’ve hung up the phone after the conversation and thought, “what was it we agreed to?” This is how the distracted mind works, and we all have one from time to time.
As pointed out in the March/April Scientific American Mind article, “Being in the Now” by Amishi P. Jha, the opposite of a wandering mind is a mindful one. She goes on to explain how having a “focus in the present” can make us happier and healthier, and that being mindful improves our ability to pay attention and concentrate. While this sounds like an easy fix for everyone, there is far more too it.
Mindfulness is being engage in the here and now, without reacting to it or evaluating it. Just being. Jha reviews recent studies completed at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard Medical School, and Carnegie Melon University that all demonstrate the broad application of mindfulness, and how your quality of life can be enhanced physiologically, emotionally and cognitively. Being able to direct and monitor attention can improve your performance in all aspects of your life.
The good news is, the path to becoming mindful is not as hard as you might thin. It all starts with your breath. Find a comfortable place to sit, close your eyes, and pay attention to your breathing. Follow the movement through your body. How do you breathe? Are you breathing short, choppy breaths with the air stopping in your chest? Do you feel the air push down into your abdomen and feel your stomach expand?
When you start to find your mind wandering off – and it will – come back to your breath. Focus on the breath coming in, pause, and the breath going out. Finding focus can be hard to do, but this is training you to become mindful.
An optimal breathing rate is between 4 to 7 breaths a minute. When we are talking with our family and friends, we are breathing 12 – 14 breaths a minute, as we have to, to fuel conversation. You’ve probably never thought about how you breathe. The physiological effects of an optimal breathing rate can have profound impacts on your health. Imagine a car never getting the correct mixture of gasoline and oxygen, always running at half of it;s capacity. But once the two are synched up into an optimal mixture, the car runs like it never has before. This is exactly like your body.
Becoming more mindful can enhance your life in many ways, and the first step is to master your breathing. Block out 10 minutes a day for the next two weeks for your “workout”. Feel your whole body move with your breathe, think about what is going on around you, what you hear and smell. Be receptive to all the sensations and breathe. You are on the path to becoming mindful, improving your brain and most importantly your life.
To read the full article on mindfulness, click here: