May's My Mighty Month Challenge Is Practicing Mindfulness
When was the last time you just did one thing without juggling two other tasks, planning ahead or simultaneously checking social media?
If you consistently find yourself balancing a number of different tasks, you’re not alone. While multitasking can help us be more productive, it can also limit our ability to unplug and be in the present.
That’s where May’s My Mighty Month challenge comes in. This month’s challenge is all about mindfulness.
“Simply put, mindfulness is a way of paying attention,” said Allyson Pimentel, EdD, the program director of Mindful UCLA. According to Pimentel, mindfulness requires us to pay attention in three ways: On purpose, in the present moment and with acceptance, openness, compassion, kindness and willingness.
Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness
There are many benefits to practicing mindfulness. Research shows mindfulness can reduce stress, boost your memory and focus, improve relations, and reduce dwelling on distressing emotions.
“There is a growing body of research that supports the efficacy of mindfulness for a whole host of psychological and physiological, physical conditions,” Pimentel said. “There is empirical evidence that indicates that mindfulness can help, for example, build your attention, regulate emotion, lessen reactivity, manage stress, reduce implicit bias, promote compassion and many, many others.”
“Most times, since we’re human, we make judgments about lots of different things including our own thoughts and our own selves,” Nancy Sherman, PhD, clinical coordinator for the counseling program at Bradley University, added. “When you practice mindfulness one of the things that is really important is to let go of all that judgment and focus on things [with] compassion and be non-judgmental.”
You don’t have to commit a lot of time to each session or your practice in general to see benefits either. You can feel improvements after just one session, Pimentel added. Of course, like anything, benefits add up over time and with practice.
Incorporating Mindfulness Into Your Life
Almost everything you do you can do mindfully. “A lot of people think that in order to practice mindfulness you have to carve out a lot of time and maybe sit in an extended period of meditation practice. But mindfulness can extend to anything you do or think in your life,” Pimentel said, adding:
So for example, when you take a shower in the morning you can really be in the shower instead of being in the next meeting, the 9 o’clock meeting that you have, or the phone calls you have to make, or the emails you have to respond to or the bad nights’ sleep you had before. You can just be in the shower, you can feel the water pouring over your head, you can feel the temperature, you can experience the sensation of the soap against your skin. You can be fully in the moment as you take a shower and that’s a mindful practice.
When practicing mindfulness the most important thing you can do is be in the moment. If you choose to do something mindfully, commit to doing that one thing. To be in the moment, use all five – or as many as possible – of your senses. For example: If you are brushing your teeth, how does the toothpaste taste, what do you smell, what sensations are you experiencing? You can guide yourself through anything you are doing by taking a moment to reflect on how what you are doing affects your senses.
For this month’s challenge, we’re asking you to try and incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life. This isn’t about meeting a certain quota or dedicating 30 minutes a day. It’s about finding little ways to be mindful every day. These don’t have to be large or complicated tasks. You can be mindful while drinking your coffee at work or while taking your dog for a walk. You can pick a different task every day, but try and at least dedicate one part of your day to being mindful.
“If you’re consciously trying to focus in the moment and experience what you’re experiencing with all senses in brushing your teeth and that thought about the next meeting comes into your mind, practice just letting it go and re-focusing,” Sherman told The Mighty. “For some people, it’s going to take a lot of practice because we can be so in the future thinking about what’s going to happen next. Even in our conversations with people, we don’t necessarily listen to somebody else we are hearing what they’re saying but we’re typically thinking about what we’re going to say instead of really listening.”
An important message for those trying to be more mindful: “You don’t have to banish what is troublesome about your life, you can just try to work with it a little more mindfully,” Pimentel said.
Want to make May a Mighty Month? Join us on Facebook at My Mighty Month, and don’t forget to tag any social media posts with #MyMightyMonth. You can also sign up for our weekly email, (select “Mighty Monthly Challenges” from the newsletter options), and we’ll send you weekly emails with mindfulness prompts. Don’t need any reminders? That works too. Simply download our monthly habit tracker to keep track of your progress.
Thinkstock image via wissanu99.