Updated: Oct 29, 2020
I don’t know about other people, but I used to hate the mention of mindfulness. I thought it was some Zen, Buddah, meditation bullshit that I wanted no part of. (not to exclude Buddhism, it's just not me) All I could think about was how it was apparently about being in my own head at the current moment. Being someone who was consistently depressed and hating myself, the last thing I wanted to do was spend more time in the moment. Don’t even get me started on meditation. Like, who the fuck can sit still for a decent amount of time to meditate?
One of the things people fail to share when they are discussing mindfulness psychology and mindfulness meditation, is that they aren’t the same thing. All meditation is mindfulness, but not all mindfulness is meditation. Essentially, you can be a person that practices mindfulness without being a meditator. You can get all the benefits of mindfulness without doing some dumbass breathing techniques (they have validity, but aren’t everyone’s cup of tea).
You’re probably wondering how in the world you could practice mindfulness without just doing deep breathing or meditating. I’m not here to sell you on some book, bear with me, here. So, mindfulness in its simplest form is living in the here and now, in the present moment, just as it exists. Now, I know it sounds like some peaceful woo-woo. It can be so much more than that and can pretty much be anything you want it to be. As long as you are existing in the present moment as it is, not as you would like it to be.
If you have ever been to a concert, you know what mindfulness is. When you are at a concert, you aren’t thinking about the problems you had before, your childhood traumas, or your fears for the future. All that exists is the band in front of you, the music that surrounds you (my favorite is when you can feel the vibrations of it through the ground), and maybe the people you went with to the concert. Those are the moments where you find yourself headbanging or jumping into the mosh pit. I don’t know about you, but thinking about your problems when you are in a mosh pit feels like a major hazard to me.
It doesn’t have to be big events like that in order for you to practice mindfulness, though. You can practice mindfulness when you are singing along to the guttural vocals of your favorite song, when you are dancing alone in your car, when you are playing a game with your friends, or when you are putting together a cosplay costume. Whatever it is, it's just about recognizing that the current moment normally isn’t as bad as our heads make it. What makes moments negative is normally us getting caught up in our own shit. Our negative perceptions. Our fears of rejection. Our inability to let go of a previous hurt or a future concern.
So think about whatever it is that allows you to let go of the craziness in your own head. Be careful of avoidance though. For instance, Netflix binges don't necessarily count for mindfulness even if you feel absolved of the noise in your head. Part of the reason they don’t count: because you lose yourself by trying to lose the noise. If you lose yourself for long periods of time in activities, it's more so mindlessness than mindfulness. Don’t get me wrong, small amounts of mindlessness are good. But when it comes to avoidance; the party has to end sometime. You eventually have to leave your mindless escape and the world comes crashing back in.
Mindfulness doesn’t have that crashing feeling. The pain will come back at times (sometimes frequently when you are first learning some of these skills), but it comes back more gradually and less aggressively. Mindfulness allows you to embrace moments, but you don’t have to cling to them for survival. Eventually you get to the point where you can start being mindful with mundane activities on top of more playful or exciting activities. You can do the dishes… and only think about doing the dishes. It's not as miserable as it sounds. I promise. I used to think about how miserable it was to do the dishes, but it was always because I was flooded with other thoughts and minimal distraction to spare me.
Start with some of the more playful or exciting ways of being mindful and recognize the moments you are mindful. Here’s some examples of mindfulness:
Singing Bohemian Rhapsody (because honestly, who doesn’t get into that song and try to sing every voice, guitar solo, and drum roll)
Playing air guitar to a badass song
Lift some heavy ass weights
Hopscotch (it worked when we were kids *shrug*)
Coloring a swear word (try not to think of all the people you want to use the swear word with)
Play with a pet (seriously though, how can you not be in the moment when you’re watching a cat freak out about a laser pointer while cracked out on cat nip?)
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