Mental Health, Motivational

Minding our Minds through Mindfulness

The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” -John Milton

Mindfulness

We hear it all the time. Mindfulness. The advice to practise mindfulness as a way to deal with troublesome thoughts.

Why does Mindfulness help?

It’s impossible to stay strong when you’re rehashing something that happened last week or predicting that horrible things are going to happen tomorrow. Mindfulness is about staying present in the moment. And since the only time you can change your behavior is right now, it’s important to be able to focus on the here-and-now.

http://www.psychology.com

Our minds become more resilent to stress and less prone to anxiety, if we maintain focus on the here and now; meaning the present moment. The future and the past are, after all, not our reality, but only mental constructs over which we have no, or little, influence. Trying to live in two dimensions at once creates stress for ourselves.

The present moment is the only real time concept we can fully experience, with our senses.

Confucious understood this saying,

“Remember, no matter where you go, there you are.”

Buddha considered the secret of good health was not to mourn the past, or worry about the future, cautioning against anticipation and encouraging the use of each moment wisely and earnestly.

As if each moment was a priceless gift.

Because each moment is a priceless gift that will never return again.

Staying mindful removes the immediate stress for a mind that might continue to worry or dwell on what has gone before.

The present moment is a concept so very difficult to grab hold on to; for it is transient, dynamic and we might rail against letting it go. Even as we ponder its nature, it has passed us by. Gone.

Some of us keep the past, or future, alive in our minds, through repetitive thoughts. Our minds, in idle moments, stray back to past events, or happier times. If those thoughts are negative, and we think them often enough, we can do ourselves real mental damage or initiate a stress reaction in our body.

Strategies for Mindfulness

  • Stay in the moment
  • Look around you and note your environment
  • Observe
  • Notice where your focus lies and your own body’s natural breath
  • Is your breath short, sharp and shallow, or deep and long? Focusing on the breath is a way to stay mindful
  • Be Mindful and Ground yourself with the following exercise

Questions for the Self

Are you able to be mindful, keeping thoughts aligned with the present moment?

Can you break your day down and stay with those moments?

Besides Grounding, what is it that helps you to do this?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

83 thoughts on “Minding our Minds through Mindfulness”

  1. Good one, Amanda! “each moment is a priceless gift that will never return again.” I was just thinking that thought. I have done a lot of practice on being mindful of each beautiful moment in my day in these last few years. Our thoughts determine how we feel. Byron Katie did a wonderful book on that. I read it in the early 2000’s and hated it. Was the best book I ever read and still sits on my shelf. Today I clipped yard debris that was dropped by the tree trimmers. As I picked up bits and pieces, I thought that some could be enjoyed by my nest making Blue Jays so I brought them to the front porch to see if I could entice them to sit a bit longer for me to enjoy. Watching nature in action is a wonderful way to stay mindful. Just clipping branches for the mulch machine brings a peaceful feeling. You are so in that moment and thinking of nothing else. I think we could be such good friends. I wish we would be able to meet one day.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I definitely feel that connection between us, Marlene and that our thoughts align. Nature is a great healer and I love that you highlighted it as a way to stay mindful. Seeing creatures such as birds or even our own pets, soothes our spirits and brings a smile to our face! Perhaps we are such natural sensual beings more so than the explorative, searching, enquiring entities we seem to be?

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  2. Nice post! Full of good reminders. When I’m having difficulty focusing on the here and now, I head to nature. Watching a river flow by or staring up into the leaves of a tree or listening to wind or rain or birds or insects… these things always seem to calm.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Listening to the sounds in nature and switching off the notifications and messages that interrupt our attention can be incredibly calming and restorative. It is really good for the soul. I think that is why camping, hiking or being outdoors despite the weather is so appealing to many. The affection of pets can also be soothing for people and assist with mindfulness. Pets are always living in the moment.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Haha! Love your sense of humour, Carol. Good to hear cats are theraupeutic for your blood pressure. The purring sounds are also calming, I think. Similar to humming in meditation practices.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds exactly right. That is what causes us distress. Some cope better than others or are able to filter the salient information better. Do you think ‘dreamers’ would suffer more anxiety?

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      1. I am a dreamer. But dreaming should be positive and would not cause anxiety. I think there is a big difference between dreaming and getting stuck in negative thoughts like you described. There is a time for dreaming, a time for deep thinking. But it should not take away enjoying the moment. Maybe it comes back to living in balance? It was never intended that we must multitask, that caused a downgraded life experience, living in the moment gives us a quality life, don’t you think?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I believe that it has been shown multitasking actively deteriorates our ability to concentrate and takes away our enjoyment of life.
          Living with balanced thoughts is always preferable. Dreaming might be detrimental without any kind of grounding, at the inappropriate time or perhaps if it is negatively oriented. Dreaming in the way of deep thinking is usually explorative and often has a positive outcome or brings a level of peace or satisfaction. Would that be accurate?

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  3. My apologies for being somewhat corny but I have always lived with that old saying ‘Yesterday is a cancelled cheque and tomorrow but a promissory note . . . well, today is the only ruddy cash you have – do spend it wisely !’ Methinks true . . . . besides with my very typical Gemini character of there always being two (Huh ? More like ten !) things to do, who on earth has time to think back . . . or that much forwards . . . 😉 !

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      1. Two things – One: I definitely do not ‘get busy’ to avoid having to think about problems – I just happen to be that kind of person and I am talking about a ‘positive byproduct’ here 🙂 ! But after a busy period I may ‘ask for help’ ! I have used Deepak Chopra’s relaxation and meditation tapes for more than a decade – take the phone off the hook, even draw the blind and ‘do what I am told’ ! Half an hour listening to his peaceful Indian voice, emptying my head of all ongoing matters, relaxing my body, trying to ‘forgive everyone’ (not always easy !!!) and ending up grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat cannot be a waste of time, now can it 🙂 ?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Indeed. A calming solution is to sit, relax in a quiet environment and listen to Deepak Chopra. I haven’t heard him directly, but have heard of him in flattering and inspirational tones.
          I like that you do not have to distract yourself with keeping busy. For some, it works to keep their mind disciplined. But you have found a more chilled solution.
          Well done! Does Deepak speak about forgiveness a lot ?

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          1. Some – in a very logical, medical way – remember he was a cardiac specialist before in the US and saw how people could hurt their physical health, especially blood pressure, heart action etc, by anger, tenseness and worry. So his attitude in general is – you get mad at someone > that someone may not even know but > you sure are going to hurt your own body and mind, so let it go !!! Forget it buddy . . . is the other bod really so important ? Sure makes sense to me ! *smile* He is never boring – whilst one is ‘doing’ the relaxation bit he is likely to tell you ancient Indian fables and make you recite relaxing verse . . . . . .

            Liked by 1 person

              1. Actually no = more like ‘words of wisdom’ from the past . . . nothing new under the sun !! But, yes, on occasions one may think or verbalize ‘mantras’ during various relaxation exercises . . .

                Liked by 1 person

  4. I liked the blog. Yes, every moment we live the time will come to say it was a priceless moment and might not come back again.
    The idea of doing two thing at one time is not preferrable as you mentioned here, sure doing two things at one time will lead to an unaccurate result.

    Perfect blog

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was first introduced to mindfulness about 10 years ago. After a long period of illness, I was sent on a course by work to try to help me with my anxiety and mental health. I was sceptical at first, but I went with it and was amazed at the difference it made. One of the things they told us was that it wasn’t about clearing the mind, the mind will always be working, but it was about recognising when the mind starts wandering off and just gently bringing it back, focusing on whatever you were trying to focus on during that meditation (e.g. your breath, the sounds around you, etc). That was a bit of a light bulb moment for me in trying to get to grips with it. I don’t practice much anymore, but I still use the techniques I learnt on that course, such as if I’m getting a bit stressed during the day at work, I might take a few minutes to do a breathing exercise. And when I go out for a walk, I feel like I’m much more aware of my surroundings – or at least I try to be and employ that technique of bringing my mind back to noticing the trees, birds, etc, if I find my mind getting carried away too much 🙂 It definitely has to be one of the most powerful tools I’ve encountered to try to manage stress and anxiety.

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    1. You are so right, Dusty about the mind wandering off into worrying or distracting thoughts and what to do about it. I should have included that in the post. As it does happen all the time.
      We must learn to gently remind ourselves to bring the mind’s focus back to the breath. The breath is our guide and rudder! It is our teacher about the state of our mind! If we are stressed, the breath might be shallow and short, if we are relaxed it is long and deep. Therein if we can make the breath long and deep we will relax our bodies and nervous system.
      I am so glad to hear that you use this technique of grounding whilst you are out in nature too! It sounds like it was a valuable technique that has become a life long practice even if you don’t do it regularly. It is there for you, when you need it. It kind of affirms what I feel about mindfulness. It is an aid in emotinally distressing times, might require practice initially to get the hang of it, but is a valuable tool to have in our mental first aid toolbox.
      Hope you are doing okay in the travel restrictions, and enjoying time at home?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I couldn’t agree more, it is such a useful tool to have. It did take me a little while to get to grips with it, but, yes, it’s definitely something I’ve taken forward in life with me. I’ve been using it a fair amount this week in fact as work has been quite stressful! The technique of bringing that wandering mind back to focus on the breath is so valuable to me. It makes me notice when my mind is starting to get a bit out of control and it helps to stop the cycle too. Does that make sense? I’m so glad I got the opportunity to do the course all those years ago, it has made a big difference to my ability to cope with difficult times. I’m doing ok thanks, we are just emerging from lockdown here, which in a strange way is making me anxious as we wait to see what impact it has (cue more use of mindfulness!). It’s been a really hard start to the year, but we’ve had a few really sunny and warm days which has been lovely and Spring is definitely on its way! How are things with you?

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  6. Dear Amanda, your post was just what I needed at this moment! Every single word of it sound in my soul like the gentle rustle of drops falling on the desert sands … And where they fall, flowers sprout and bloom! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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    1. I like your descriptions, Elena. And so happy to hear it came at the right time for you. Rain on desert sands. That I think would be a rare but very welcome sound for I have heard that after the desert rains fall, the flowers bloom in profusion in order to make the most of the moisture.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Life is really tenuous but we repeatedly take it for granted.
      Seeing that rainbow would definitely have reinforced not only the power and beauty of Nature but also the transience of such picturesque moments. Rainbows are here one minute, gone the next.

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  7. I like your grounding exercise. It’s simple and perfect. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last year, it is to be in the moment. Both for safety from disease and as a way to calm anxiety. This post is a great reminder to keep on, keeping on.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Ally. Had your heard of this before? I think it has been around for a number of years. I rather like it as one can take it up at any time, any where. I first started using it ten years ago I think.

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  8. Amanda, I had never heard the term “mindfulness” until an old boss used it and used it often back in the 1980s. I like it now, but when I first heard it, I did feel like Confucious, saying should we not know what we are thinking? Yet, Aristotle said we are creatures of habit, so maybe we do so much by rote, without thinking. So, maybe that old boss was right all along, we need to be more mindful of what we are thinking. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Creatures of habit, yes. We need routine and practice to keep up from straying into unproductive time wasting pursuits, I think. I think your boss was well ahead of his time, and great for you that he was. I wonder where he heard the term. It wasn’t mainstream back then at least not in Australia.

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      1. Amanda, he started out as a reporter before he went into finance. So, he may have used words that others would not. Before word processors and micro-computers (remember that term?), he would rewrite communications to employees so that the last line would not have “widows and orphans.” He used that phrase for one or two word lines, as it was driven into him as a reporter to effectively use paper space. Keith

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        1. There is a historical ritual, saving paper space! I do remember typing out a research project on a Word processor! Big clunky things they were. Australia really embraced the personal computer. Everyone had them very early on. The Commodore 64 era!

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    1. I have used this grounding technique myself in times of extreme stress. It worked to just distract my mind from the spiral thought loop – you know where the same thought circles around and around in your mind and you can find no solution or stop it? Because when you are actively thinking of these things, you cannot worry at the same time. Finding three things or five things – if you want to challenge yourself and give your mind a longer rest. I used to find five things would occupy the thinking part of my brain and divert my attention for a longer time.
      Have you suffered with anxiety for a time?

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        1. I understand that the pandemic has its own version of anxiety it produces in the population. Change can be incredibly anxiety producing too, because we have such little control over it. Change as you would know can be good but it can also be destabilizing for some of us. I do hope it eases for you. Being mindful when you are extremely anxious is almost impossible. The only constant we have on hand is our breath. What is your breath doing when you feel really anxious. Is it high up in your chest?

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            1. It can be useful. I try to concentrate on taking my breath down into my stomach, and in this way, it assists a really deep inhalation and relaxing exhalation. When you feel your chest tighten, the breath can only be shallow, which prevents relaxation. My daughter has a similar experience to you, and I encourage her to place her hand on her stomach so she can feel the stomach expanding like a balloon with a big breath and deflating with an exhalation. It does help to increase the oxygen to your body. Chest tightness is a sign of shortness of breath – ie. your oxygen is lower.

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  9. Excellent post, Amanda. It’s a great concept and for me, not that easy to accomplish. Using the tools for Mindfulness really helps and especially in this past year of stressful days, it has helped me focus and be more positive. You have given me something to ponder. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jane, I really appreciate your visit and comment. I like that you are interested in following up mindfulness practice. It validates why I write about certain things on my blog. If you are interested in reading about a mindfulness experiment with hard, scientific evidence-based comparative measurements, you may like this link:
      https://www.shannonharvey.com/pages/my-year-of-living-mindfully-documentary
      I found Shannon’s experiment fascinating.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I love the Milton quote, and the reminder that our mind is our own, and we can choose where we place ourselves.

    There are 2 things I try to do daily: Smile, and the Daily Examen (based on Ignatian Spiritual Exercises) – to varying degrees of regularity.

    What I am referring to with Smile, is a intentional smiling, which often leads me to insert a Pause in whatever I’m doing. Whether it illicits a return response from the person I am smiling at, or lifts my mood & injects a rush of adrenaline when I am running, or reminds me to appreciate the moment I am in.

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    1. Ju-Lyn, I absolutely love your daily SMILE practice. When I had a lot of troubles in my life and felt quite down, I forced myself to smile prior to entering my workplace. There is nothing worse than a work colleague entering work with a long face, so the smile was essential. However, I noticed this effect on my body and mind when i did this and I think this is what your comment is referring to. The power of the smile! It is amazing how it can lift one’s mood and now that you have mentioned it, it must be that little shot of adrenaline/endorphin that happens when we smile, be that intentional and emotionally felt or not!
      Thank you for such a beautifully inspiring comment.

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  11. An interesting post, Amanda. Back in 2013, I completed a course on Mindfulness conducted by Swinbourne University. It changed the way I view the world and life in general. I find meditating difficult (a wandering, ADHD mind) and yet I understand the benefits meditation has on a person’s wellbeing. I bought a handpan, or meditation drum. The scale is a pentatonic scale–think Balinese music. The drum works for me and I believe it important for everyone to find a source of meditation, whether it is a Zen garden or gazing at birds in flight, to practice each day.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Interesting Aj. I am not familiar with a handpan. I will have to google it.
      What a beautiful sound, it is a bit of a mixture of a Tibetan singing bowl and the reggae percussions. How do you use it for meditation?

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  12. Loved the article.. True.. we are dwelling more in the past or future.. very less in the present..
    Have you noticed our speech consists of 70% past tense, 20% future tense and only 10% present tense 😇

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    1. I haven’t noticed that Asmi, but I think I will investigate that to see if it holds true here. People love to reminisce about the past. I assume workplace conversations would be the ones set in future tense?

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  13. A very thought-provoking post, Amanda! It is so important to find that inner peace which can help in attaining mindfulness. A very positive post! Stay blessed 🙏❤️

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    1. I hope I stay blessed, Diana. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I am. We all have our challenges, some worse than others. So this mindfulness practice is a quick technique I can use when things feel overwhelming or I can’t sleep and am worried over something. Finding and maintaining inner peace is the challenge we all seek. How do you manage it?

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      1. Hello, Amanda.. I agree..at times it is hard to manage the inner peace. For me, I really try to focus on what I have, and how lucky I am for many things. Things could have been worse.. But I’m at least alive… Writing helps me alot to look at things in a positive light. Stay blessed my dear ❤️🙏💐🌹

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  14. Oh that is so so true! I love those words of wisdom – great reminder! The other day I read about being in the moment in a book by Olivia Fox Cobain. She claims that being present is one of the key components of charisma (along with power and kindness). Seems like it’s true.

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    1. Now that is a very interesting concept, Marta. I have never dissected charisma but you could be right there. I had read that listening intently to others is often a skill in short supply in the modern world – so if we concentrate on listening better, we are also staying in the present moment concentrating on the meaning and intent behind each word. If only we all gave everyone this level of attention? Perhaps some misunderstandings may not eventuate?

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      1. That’s exactly right! Most people just try to think of what they’re going to say next instead of listening to the other person. And it’s actually can be seen through our tiny face expressions because there are so many muscles there.

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        1. There is a fear of intervals of silence or pauses in a conversation. I like to digest the words and sometimes the thoughts of reply don’t come instantly. But we hasten to fill in those pauses, and so might, at times, think about a story memory that has been triggered by the speaker. Then we are keen to get it out. I find I forget things very quickly so instead of doing this less as I get older, I occasionally do it more! Before I forget and then there is that dreadful pause in the conversation that stultifies the flow. That is not good. It is something I have to work on.
          As for the facial expressions – I had thought how the eyes lose focus, if we get distracted in a conversation, and flit about back and forth to the subject, but I hadn’t thought about how the facial muscles might actually give away the level of interest. That is so interesting.

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            1. I think that is true. If I feel very confident in the topic of conversation I will speak more deliberately. Contrast this with the slightly accelerated speech of a person unsure of what they are saying. There may be pauses but they might be filled with err, umm, ahhs!

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    1. I really like your words, Ecopoet. It is true isn’t it? The words when said or written down, keep that moment alive. This can be a positive or sometimes a negative. Fond memories are preserved through photographs and writing. It is one of the reasons we write diaries, journals or reports. Thanks Eco!

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    1. Feeling guilt for this is something we don’t have to do, but if it happens, it is okay. It is difficult to stop that thought spiral, the thought loop. Sometimes we fight so hard to halt it, that it becomes counterproductive.

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